By Dr. Lydia
Since the time of Confucious (551-479 BC) tea has been a popular beverage consumed for enjoyment and medicinal purposes. There is an old Chinese proverb “It is better to go three days without food, than one day without tea.” Tea is the second most popular drink in the world. Only water is consumed with greater frequency. When we are talking about tea we are referring to the plant Camellia sinensis. This single plant makes a variety of teas: black, green, white, oolong, matcha and pu-erh.
The colors of tea reflect the amount of processing the camellia sinensis plant has undergone. Black tea leaves are fermented and crushed. This releases more caffeine but contains less polyphenol antioxidant molecules that promote good health. Black tea has approximately 45mg of caffeine per cup. Green tea, with about 25 mg of caffeine, is less processed and contains more antioxidants. White tea is made from young tea leaf buds. It is the least fermented type of tea and contains more antioxidants than green or black tea and has the least amount of caffeine.
EGCG is a potent antioxidant found in abundance in green and white teas. Preliminary studies show impressive results, treating a wide range of conditions. EGCG inhibits the growth of some types of cancer, like breast and prostate. This antioxidant also relaxes blood vessels and prevents atherosclerosis, the hardening of the arteries that causes heart attacks and strokes. EGCG helps regulate cholesterol levels and helps our body mobilize fat stores. For this reason, many natural weight loss supplements contain EGCG as a “fat burner.”
Oolong tea is also from the Camellia sinensis plant. This unique type of tea is partially fermented, so it is about half way between black and green tea. A tea that has recently become more popular is pu-erh. This dark, specially fermented tea has an earthy flavor and aids digestion. Pu-erh tea gets better as it ages much like a bottle of fine wine.
Special leaves from the tea plant can be used to make matcha. This powdered tea has a sweet flavor and is coveted around the world. What makes matcha tea amazing is that it contains up to three times as much EGCG as regular green tea. Matcha is made from the pulverized leaves of the dried tea plant, so instead of just consuming the water the tea has steeped in, the drinker of matcha is actually consuming the leaves themselves.
Tea is best stored in a consistent temperature, away from light. While clear containers display teas nicely, the light can destroy some of the healthy properties. Strong odors can alter the flavor of the tea. The best way to store tea is in a tin with a tight lid, ensuring your cup is always good to the last drop.