Tea and especially “wellness teas” have seen a surge in popularity since the pandemic as people become more interested in boosting their immunity and improving their health. But not all tea is equal when it comes to health benefits.
Tea is not a recent health food; for centuries it's been used for its medicinal properties. The mythical Emperor Shen Nong was first credited with recognising the detoxifying properties of tea some 4,000 years ago in ancient China. When tea first reached Europe in the 17th century it was first sold in apothecary shops as a tonic and digestive.
Today we no longer think that drinking tea is a magic tonic that will cure all health problems. What we do know thanks to modern scientific research is that "real" tea made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant (i.e. green tea, black tea, white tea and oolong tea) is loaded with antioxidants and active ingredients such as polyphenols and L-theanine that helps to strengthen the immune system. Even the caffeine in tea has benefits. Here’s how:
- Polyphenols: These nutrients act as antioxidants in the body protecting cells and body chemicals against damage from free radicals, helping to reduce the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and inhibit the growth of cancer cells. They also help to protect against the effects of ageing.
- L-theanine: This unique amino acid is found in only three plants in the world, including tea where it helps to produce a sense of clam within the body while increasing alertness. It may also strengthen the immune system and the body’s response to infection.
- Caffeine: This bitter compound found in all teas helps stimulate the nervous system. It's often considered unhealthy but it serves a good purpose: in the plant it helps to repel insect attacks and acts as a natural insecticide. Caffeine found in tea is absorbed more slowly than caffeine in coffee, and combined with L-theanine helps to keep the brain calm while the caffeine wakes it up. On average there is half the amount of caffeine in a cup of tea than a cup of coffee.
For a long time it was thought that only green tea was healthy, and a much richer source of polyphenols than other types of tea. However, recent research suggests that all teas (except decaffeinated tea which has less) have about the same amount of these active antioxidants, though in different proportions. So if you're not a big fan of green tea, the good news is that you are likely to get the similar benefits from other types of tea. The important thing is to drink what you like, and often (at least 2 to 3 cups a day) so as to reap the health benefits.
What does make a big difference is how the tea is processed once it has been harvested. Tea that has been freshly harvested, and close to its natural state will have more health benefits than tea found in industrial mass produced supermarket tea bags that are likely to have been too highly processed to contain many of the benefits and protective chemicals.
Herbal teas come from a wide range of plants other than the Camellia sinensis plant, and can include not just the leaves, but also the flowers and the roots. Most herbal teas and fruit infusions don't have the same antioxidant properties that "real" tea does, nor do they contain caffeine but they will often have other active compounds that are beneficial. Similarly, the fresher and less processed the herbs, the better.
So if you want to develop a healthy habit this year, it's very simple: drink more quality tea..!
Check out our range of freshly harvested, directly sourced tea here.