Tea 101

Sumi Mathai | October 4, 2019

Tea 101

Raise your hands if your day doesn’t begin unless you have a cup of tea in the morning. Also, raise your hands if your day doesn't quite feel right unless you have a few cups of this magic potion entering your system every few hours. Yes, you are a true tea lover. Wait, that’s not it. You get major brownie points for being a true lover too. Studies say tea is super beneficial for health, that its awesomeness go far beyond than just being a refreshment fluid. Tea that is made from the Camellia sinensis plant includes white, green, oolong, black and pu-erh. All of them contain antioxidants, catechins, and polyphenols, which positively impact our bodies.

Let’s see how each tea is different from the others:

It is definitely the most popular variety in the western world but also substantially preferred in other parts of the world. Black tea is made by rolling the tea leaves and bruising them, which causes rapid oxidization of the leaf. Oxidation helps increase the flavor and boldness of the tea leaf, which is then dried and turned into a powder for tea bags or used in its loose leaf form.

Before hipsters made it ‘the drink’, it has always been a popular drink in many Asian cultures. Unlike black tea, for green tea production, the tea leaves are  immediately heated or steamed to halt the aging and browning/oxidization process resulting in a more delicate tea. Some producers also pan fry or pan cook the tea leaves, which adds a nutty flavor to it.

This variety is produced by opting a state of partial or semi-oxidization. The reason why many of them don’t have much color when brewed. It is also known for its complex flavor. Oolong teas can come in green or darker varieties, their flavors will change depending on what variety and their steeping time.

It is known as one of the most delicate tea varieties thanks to its minimal processing procedures.  It is called white tea because it is harvested before the leaves open fully, ie, when the buds are still covered with white hairs. Once handpicked, the leaves are quickly dried so that the leaves don’t get oxidised. This minimal oxidation process is the secret behind white tea’s delicate taste and freshness.

Now let's understand the various benefits of tea and why we should make tea an essential part of daily lives.

1. Lowered cholesterol
Green tea was found to help lower cholesterol, both total serum cholesterol and LDL, according to a meta-study published June 2011 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Most sources suggest five cups per day will provide results, but multiple studies have shown that higher consumption leads to the biggest drop in cholesterol.

2. Blindness prevention
Drinking tea can help to prevent the blindness caused by cataracts (the clouding of the lens inside the eye), said a 2001 study.

3. Reduced cortisol levels
Cortisol is the stress hormone that contributes to belly fat and makes your skin age quicker. One recent study suggested four cups of tea per day may make your cortisol levels spike less.

4. Anti-inflammatory
Active compounds in tea can help to lower levels of inflammation and inflammatory reactions. Inflammation is connected to almost every modern ailment, including arthritis, metabolic syndrome, and depression. Inflammation can also cause you to retain water and look puffy, so a few cups of tea can help you look and feel thinner.

5. Increased memory, focus & concentration
The combination of caffeine and L-Theanine, a naturally-occurring amino acid found in tea, improves reaction time and memory, while increasing focus and concentration (think of monks meditating).

6. Anti-allergen
A 2007 Japanese study found that the tea polyphenol, EGCG, may be helpful for reducing pollen allergies. Tea may also reduce allergic response through quercetin, a flavonol naturally-occurring in tea, which is known to mitigate histamine response.

7. Decreased risk of stroke
Drinking at least three cups of green or black tea per day results in a 21% reduction in the risk of ischemic stroke.

8. Reduced risk of dementia
It is thought to lower the risk of dementia by acting through multiple pathways, including those of nerve synapses and blood sugar regulation. Another study also found that tea acts on brain theta waves to improve memory and increase attention span.

Well, that’s a lot of health benefits, isn’t it? So, drink tea, stay sharp. What’s even better is that there are countless types, blends and styles of teas to choose from, experiment and stay healthy!

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Sumi Mathai

Sumi Mathai is a writer based in Mumbai. Apart from writing she enjoys photography, travelling, watching movies, exploring music and meeting new people.

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