By Bernice Alhassan.
When the word tea is mentioned, the first thing that comes to people’s minds often is any drink that requires hot water to make it and often contains cream and sugar. Hence, you find coffee, cocoa or chocolate drinks and other beverages all being referred to as tea.
Tea however is produced from a plant called Camellia sinensis and is the second most consumed drink in the world, the first being water. The thousands of tea varieties available in the world only differ by the region it was grown, the time of year picked, and the processing method. Tea is thought to have originated in China when some tea leaves fell into the Emperor’s water. Since that time tea has been used in many different ways and at some points in history, it was so valuable that it was used as currency. It has been used by doctors to treat disease and is thought to improve longevity, vitality and general well-being.
Many tea consumers just take tea as breakfast but don’t know what the benefits and/or demerits of taking it are. They also don’t know tea can be taken at any time of the day and has particular amounts within which you can enjoy these benefits or jump into the disadvantaged zone. That said, all tea (excluding herbal infusions or tisanes, sometimes called herbal tea, which do not actually contain the Camellia sinensis plant) belong to one of the following categories of tea: white, green, oolong, puerh and black tea. What differentiates them is the cooking or preparation method carried out on the Camellia sinensis plant.
Green Tea is pan fried or steamed to prevent the leaves from oxidizing or fermenting. Oolong Teas are the most expensive because they are semi-fermented and made in a more elaborate method. The colour of this tea is usually a light yellow. Black Tea is the strongest tea of them all and is the type we are most used to drinking, take your famous Lipton tea for instance. It is fully fermented and has up to 3times as much caffeine in it as the other teas. White tea is quite rare and is made from the white buds of the tea plant as opposed to the green tea leaves. It is a clear white colour and much finer. Puerh Tea is Chinese tea that has been fermented twice and then left to grow mould on it. It is said to have strong medical qualities. Each type of tea has its own characteristics including a different taste, differing health benefits, and even different levels of caffeine.
Some of the benefits are as follows:
Tea improves heart health: This is one of the biggest reasons to consider adding some tea to your diet. Daily consumption of at least 3 cups of black tea is said to reduce the risk of heart attacks by 11 per cent. On top of that, it has even more heart-healthy benefits. For example, black tea also helps lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Green tea also has similar effect and many studies also suggest that green tea helps prevent atherosclerosis.
It helps in the prevention of cancer: Studies have shown that if you drink a lot of tea (green and white tea in particular) you are less likely to get cancer. And not just a little bit less likely, a lot! If you drink about four cups of tea a day you are up to 60% less likely to get cancer thanks to the antioxidants in tea leaves.While green tea contains polyphenols, a substance which is thought to inhibit the growth of cancer cells, white tea contains some antioxidants which have been found to help prevent lung, colon and skin cancers.
It aids weight loss: I feel like this benefit caught a little more attention. Weight loss is an issue for a majority of people but it is rather interesting to find that drinking a few cups of green tea, say 4 – 6 cups daily (without the sugar or cream) can have a really good effect on your waistline. Studies have found that green tea extract can boost metabolism to help the body burn fat. This is thought to be a result of substances called catechins, which are found in the tea. Oolong tea gives you even faster results if you drink a few cups daily for six weeks straight. So give it a try and let me know if it worked.
It helps in the prevention and treatment of diabetes: Because it can be used to control blood sugar, green tea has been used to help prevent and slow the progression of type 1 diabetes.
It protects blood vessels: Black tea contains flavonoids that are useful for protecting blood vessels from inflammation. It also helps prevent blood clotting.
It boosts the immune system:Tea is a very strong immune booster. Thus people who drink tea on a regular basis are more immune to cold or flu as well as some other minor health problems such as infections. White tea in particular has been found in some studies to have antibacterial and antiviral health benefits, so it may help you stay healthy and have a strong immune system as well.
It promotes dental health: Oolong tea contains significant levels of fluoride, which is needed to help prevent dental cavities from forming. Green tea consumption is also good for the teeth.
Tea contains antioxidants: Green, black and white teas all contain antioxidants. The antioxidants in green and black tea help fight against free radicals that lead to aging and cellular damage. White tea however has more antioxidants than green and black teas due to the fact that it is processed the least (although green teas aren’t far behind in antioxidant content).
It boosts the brain and helps fight stress:Yet another notable effect of tea is that it helps you concentrate and focus. This is important for those who mostly sit in front of a computer screen trying to stay on track with some really boring data analysis.This effect is said to be due to the amino acid L-theanine which gets absorbed in your gut and travels in the blood to your brain. The result is a more awake you! What’s really cool about this is that tea doesn’t make you get all hyper like coffee does. It is a calming drink that wakes you up without over stimulating. Besides this, a cup of tea can help you fight the physical signs of stress by reducing the stress hormone in your body.
Drinking tea is not without its disadvantages. It is however restricted to those who take it excessively. As the saying goes, too much of everything is bad. Excessive consumption of tea can result in sleep problems for folks who are very sensitive to caffeine. Also, some scientific studies have shown that the oxalates in tea can cause some kidney damage.Although there are other drawbacks linked with tea, none of them have been definitively proven by science. The main thing is to exercise moderation. All in all, just about any type of tea you drink will have some health benefits, so consider drinking at least a cup a day. You’ll find that while many of the health benefits go unseen, you’ll feel better overall and may be able to avoid some serious health conditions. Enjoy!