We are kicking off the year learning about tea varieties and the wellness connections they provide us.
White tea is known to be one of the most delicate tea varieties because it is minimally processed. White tea is harvested before the tea plants leaves have fully opened and are still covered by fine white hairs. Health benefits of white tea include antioxidants, known for assisting the fight against free radicals connected to some major health conditions, including heart disease and certain cancers. White tea also contains catechins, tannins and fluoride, all beneficial for your dental health.
Yellow tea is less common in the States but is produced similarly to white & green tea with the additional step of smothering. It is packed with antioxidants beneficial for overall health. Like other tea varieties, yellow tea is calorie-free so it is known to be an excellent choice for weight loss. It has also been connected to slowing the effects of aging.
To produce green tea, leaves are picked from the plant, either steamed, baked or pan fried, and then dried. Green tea does not undergo the same withering and color-changing oxidation process as oolong and black teas, hence being categorized for its green color. Polyphenols and the amino acid L-theanine in green tea help improve mental alertness, aid in digestion, and relieve headaches.
Oolong teas present a wide variety of flavor where some have more green tea characteristics and others have more black tea characteristics. They are semi-oxidized through a process including withering the plant under strong sun before bruising the leaves by curling, rolling or twisting. Oolong teas contain small amounts of calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Oolong tea also contains L-theanine, an amino acid known to affect relaxation and cognitive performance.
Black tea, also translated to red tea in various Asian languages, is the most oxidized of all the teas. It also is known for its strong flavor compared to other varieties. Black tea can retain its flavor for several years, which is partly the reason for it being highly traded during the 19th century. Black teas contain complex polyphenols which are known to reduce blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol – all associated with reducing the risk of stroke.
Pu-erh tea leaves can be processed like green or black teas, but are then left either loose leaf or pressed into bricks. It then undergoes prolonged fermentation in a controlled, high humidity environment that can last months to years. Pu-erh tea contains antioxidants and other substances that aid in combating heart disease, high cholesterol, and headaches. In traditional Chinese medicine, pu-erh tea has been used to cleanse toxins from the body.