All about tea

Tea offers a wide variety of flavors and health benefits.

All about tea

Tea, the most-consumed beverage worldwide next to water, has become more and more popular in Western countries. Many people find the tea-brewing process calming. Although the brewing techniques could be similar, the tea’s flavors, colors and even chemical content levels vary when different harvesting and processing methods are applied. If you are a tea lover like me or are interested in learning more about tea please read on.

There are some health benefits linked to drinking tea, including lowering the risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes. However, you should keep in mind that tea consumption is not a magic bullet. From the food chemistry perspective, polyphenols in tea are the key health-boosting substances, especially catechins. Research has shown that these molecules in tea have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties (Jain et al., 2014).

Green tea, for example, is widely linked to lowering the risk for cardiovascular diseases, regulating blood sugar and promoting digestion. Now, the key caveat is: researchers are still investigating the correlation between tea and its health benefits as well as its working mechanism. In addition, existing epidemiological evidence is inconsistent. Therefore, it is difficult to conclude recommendations for daily tea consumption doses and its lasting health benefits. Even so, here are some brewing options to best extract those health-boosting components from tea:

  • Brew tea with water of 176 degrees Fahrenheit (80 degrees Celsius) and let it sit for 20 minutes
  • Brew tea with water of 194 degrees F (90 degrees C) and let it sit for 15 minutes
  • Brew tea with water of 203 degrees F (95 degrees C) and let it sit for 10 minutes

Tea varieties and associated health benefits

Tea Variety

Preparation

Processing

Caffeine Content (per 8 oz cup ~ 250 ml)a

Health Benefits

Green Tea

Mature tea leaves

Non-fermented, non-oxidized

15-35 mg

Anti-cancerous; cardioprotectant; regulate body temperature, blood sugar; promote digestion

Black Tea

Mature tea leaves

Fermented, fully oxidized

50-65 mg

Decrease blood pressure; anti-mutagenic, cardioprotectant

White Tea

Tea buds (immature tea leaves)

Lightly oxidized (15-80%), non-fermented

10-25 mg

Anti-obesity; anti-mutagenic; anti-oxidative potential

Oolong Tea

Mature tea leaves

Partially fermented, semi-oxidized (15-80%)

15-50 mg

Antidiabetic; anti-obesity; anti-inflammatory

Pu-erh Tea

Tender tea leaves

Post-fermented, semi-oxidized

60-70 mg

Anti-microbial; anti-mutagenic; decrease cholesterol

(Source: Jain et al., 2013 Tea and Human Health: The Dark Shadows)

To achieve the best health outcome, you should always maintain a healthy lifestyle. Michigan State University Extension offers various educational programs for adults, families, and children that focus on lifestyle changes to promote healthy eating and food safety. For more health and nutrition tips, visit MSU Extension website.     

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