I have decided to make every Monday “Healthy Work” day here at The Daily Mind.
Today we will be looking at all things “tea”. I want to tell you about the different types of tea, where it came from, the health benefits and problems associated with tea as well as a few tricks I learned about tea in India. If you drink tea everyday but don’t really know much about the effects it has on your body then this article is for you.
I am going to structure this article like this:
- History, origins and types of tea
- Tea health benefits
- Tea health problems
- Tips for healthier tea
- My favorite teas
A bit about the history, origins and types of tea
Tea is the most popular drink in the world. It has been drunk for thousands of years and is thought to have originated in China when some tea leaves fell into the Emperors 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.
Types of tea
Many people do not realize that tea comes in five main types:
- Green Tea
- Oolong Tea
- Black Tea; and
- White Tea
- Pu Erh Tea
All of these teas come from the same plant called the Camellia sinensis and are given different names only after certain cooking or preparation methods are carried out. 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 color of this tea is usually a light yellow. Black Tea is the strongest tea of them all the the type we are most used to drinking in the west. It is fully fermented and has up to three times as much caffeine in it than 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 color and much finer. Pu Erh Tea is chinese tea that has been fermented twice and then left to grow mold on it. It is said to have strong medical properties.
There are also herbal teas like you find in a Chinese Doctors Shop but these are not really teas as they are not usually made from tea leaves but other types of plants. There are now also some infused blends of tea where other flavors have been added.
The health benefits of drinking tea
photo credit: Jeff Weston
Scientists, doctors, mystics and even our grandparents all talk about the health benefits that come from drinking tea. Many of us have the general idea that tea is good for us but don’t really know what it specifically does. It is also good to know that different types of tea have different effects on the body. Here are some health benefits of tea:
1. Tea is an anti-cancer plant
The studies are now pretty clear – if you drink a lot of tea 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. That is an amazing statistic.
The studies have really only been done with Green Tea but others are currently underway. White Tea is supposed to be even more effective from a traditional point of view and there is some scientific evidence to support this fact. I personally would love to see more studies done on Oolong Tea as it has the added benefits of the mold growing on it.
2. Tea boosts your brain
One of the notable effects of tea is that it helps you concentrate and focus. This is important for all of us who are sitting on a computer 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. This results in a more awake you! The thing that is 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.
3. Tea helps you fight off illness
Tea is supposed to be a very strong immune booster. Those people who drink tea on a regular basis are supposed to be more immune to the cold or flu that is going around at work as well a some other minor health problems such as infections.
4. Tea beats stress
If you are reading this post at work then chances are you are pretty stressed. The good news is that a cup of tea helps you fight the physical signs of stress by reducing the stress hormone in your body. For more ways to beat stress at work head over to our stress section.
5. Tea can help you lose weight
Many studies have confirmed what the Chinese doctors have been telling us for centuries – tea boosts your metabolism and helps you lose weight. Drinking a few cups of green tea at work (without the sugar) can have a really good effect on your waistline.
The health problems associated with tea
Now that we have look at all the nice things tea can do it is a good idea to take a look at whether tea will cause your body any harm. Before making any decision about your health it is important to weigh up the pros and cons of the argument and then make a decision based upon good information. To rant on about the magical qualities of tea without talking about the potential drawbacks would be irresponsible.
1. Sleep problems
Many people (myself included) are very sensitive to the effects of caffeine. If I have a tea or a coffee within four or five hours of my bed time I will have a lot of trouble getting to sleep.
If you are having sleep problems already it might be a good idea to take a look at how many teas you are drinking. Many people do not realize that tea is quite high in caffeine and too much tea can affect how well you sleep. However, your sleeplessness might be caused by other things. Take a look at this post about stressed sleep.
2. Kidney damage
Some scientific studies have shown that the oxalates in tea can cause some kidney damage. However, this has only been shown in people who drink a lot of tea – a lot more than most of us drink.
Although there other drawbacks associated with tea none of them have been definitively proven by science. The main message is that excess is not a good idea. If you are drinking more than about four cups of tea a day you are more likely to have some negative effects.
Other tips for drinking healthier tea
Here are some other tips I have picked up about how to make sure your tea works well for your health.
1. Don’t add milk
Scientists have found that adding milk to your tea actually detracts from the health benefits. The article in New Scientist is here.
2. Get your tea from a clean area
One of the best things you can do if you are serious about your health is research where your tea comes from. I learned this trick in India and I think it makes a lot of sense. Pollution in the air and soil has a massive effect on how healthy your tea is – places like China and India have a lot of air pollution. Try to source your tea from remote provinces in China and India – places higher in altitude. As a general rule Chinese Green Tea’s grow in higher areas.
3. Don’t add sugar
Sugar is like a leech. It has so many negative effects on the body and you should avoid it at all costs. If you can cut out or reduce the amount of sugar that you put in your tea you will be doing your body a big favor.
My favorite tea
I thought I would show you my favorite tea. If you haven’t ever tried it I encourage you to give it a go.
Dilmah Green Tea for ethics
I always buy Dilmah if I can because they are one of the most ethical companies on the planet. I heard a lot of good things about Dilmah when I was in India and then again when I was in business school. Dilmah is a family owned company and is run very strictly by five pillars – Quality, Tradition, Ethics, the Customer and Integrity. They never put profit making before these pillars. And… the tea tastes excellent! They also put a lot of money into the local community, their workers and the medical community.
You can buy some Dilmah green tea here.
They make all types including fusions. My favorite is the Jasmine Infused Green Tea.
How much tea do you drink?
I would love to know how much tea the readers of The Daily Mind drink. I myself usually only have one or two cups a day because I find that too many more affects how well I sleep. That being said, I am a very big advocate of tea and would encourage everyone to start drinking more. Leave us a comment and tell us how many cups you drink and what type of tea is your favorite?
Originally posted on May 19, 2008 @ 10:17 am