Did you know that tea is second only to water as the most widely consumed beverage in the world? Even though we Americans, as a whole, prefer coffee, tea has been growing in popularity here for quite some time now. Whether black, green, white or herbal…tea, in its many variations, can be a soothing and/or refreshing alternative to coffee.
All tea (except herbal) comes from one species of plant…Camellia sinensis. It is how the leaves are processed that produces the different types of tea. Generally speaking, the longer that tea leaves are allowed to oxidize after harvesting, the stronger and darker in color the tea will be. (Oxidation is a chemical reaction that occurs naturally when the harvested leaves are exposed to air…the longer the exposure, the more oxidation occurs.)
The four most common varieties of tea are black, green, oolong and white.
Black Tea – This is a type of tea that is more oxidized than the other varieties; therefore, it is deepest in color, with a stronger flavor and contains more caffeine.
Green Tea – Because this variety of tea undergoes minimal oxidation during processing, it is lighter in color and has less caffeine then the black variety.
Oolong Tea – This variety falls somewhere between black tea and green tea in oxidation.
White Tea – The youngest, unoxidized tea leaves are used for white tea, which makes it the lightest in color.
Herbal tea is not really a ‘tea’ since it does not come from the Camellia synensis plant. Rather, it is an “infusion” of different botanicals such as fruits, flowers and herbs. Peppermint and Chamomile are examples of herbal infusions. Herbal teas (infusions) naturally are caffeine-free.
Is Tea Healthy? Research has shown that tea contains phytochemicals called polyphenols, which act as antioxidants in the body. These antioxidants help protect and maintain healthy cells and tissues. Tea also contains vitamin C, several B vitamins, potassium and many other vitamins and minerals that have definite health benefits.
As to the caffeine issue, there has been some confusion whether there is more or less caffeine in a cup of tea than in a cup of coffee. Coffee actually contains less caffeine than tea, when measured in dry form. However, the caffeine content of a cup of prepared tea is significantly lower than the caffeine content of a cup of prepared coffee…about one-half to one-third lower. Like coffee, you can always opt for decaffeinated tea if you so desire.
Tea just might be the ‘ideal’ healthy drink…loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, lower in caffeine than coffee, no fat and virtually no calories. The many varieties of tea are a feast for the senses…colorful, aromatic, with different delicious tastes to please any palate. Do your own taste testing and enjoy! W
Tea and Health