Those of you who know me know I’m a big coffee drinker. But what’s funny is that I also drink a lot of tea. Iced, hot, frozen, it really doesn’t matter, as long as it’s tea. And what kind? I drink black, herbal blends, and green teas. I’ll share some benefits of each type and I’ll give you a great tea recipe at the end.
Possible Benefits of Tea
Technically, “tea” is only tea if it comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. All tea, whether it’s black, white, green, oolong or pu-erh, comes form this plant. It’s the processing that distinguishes different types of tea.
Black tea, the most common, is the basis for many types of tea. Several manufacturers of iced tea use black tea. It’s made from fermented and cured tea leaves. It has the highest caffeine content of any of the teas. Along with the other teas, it contains polyphenols, antioxidants that help protect the body against free radicals – those that can cause cancer and other ailments. Black tea also helps to inhibit bacterial growth in the mouth, slowing down the formation of plaque. Drink your tea black if you’re using it for this purpose. Sugar helps bacteria grow, as well as the acid condition that lemons contribute to.
Green tea is made from steamed leaves. It is the highest in EGCG, one of the catechins (a type of antioxidant), that helps with weight loss. Green tea also helps to remove radiation from the body which makes it great for those on cancer treatment. It also contains micro nutrients that will help the body when stressed. There is still caffeine in green tea, but not as much as in black tea. I don’t care for the taste of green tea, which is kind of blah. Add lemon or stevia to perk it up, or like i did today, smash a few blackberries in it. You can also get the benefits of green tea from capsules or tinctures.
White tea is the most mild of all the teas. It is made from the uncured, unfermented tips of the camellia tea plant. Like bean sprouts, the tips contain all the enzymes, vitamins and minerals that the plant needs to survive, but in a concentrated form. It is also the most concentrated in the cancer fighting EGCG. Steep white tea for only a few minutes or it will become bitter.
Oolong tea is partially fermented leaves of the tea plant. It’s said to be a cross between black and green tea. Some like the taste, some don’t. It combines the benefits of both types of tea.
Pu-erh is fairly new to the Western world, but has been consumed for centuries. It is fermented and aged for a period of time, giving it a stronger flavor. It is a type of black tea that is pressed into cakes. From there it is brewed for a short time.
So if teas from the Camillia sinensis plant are the only true teas, what are herbal teas? Ok, they are not technically teas, but are often called so. Herbal teas are really tisanes, if steeped for a few minutes, or decoctions if simmered and left to rest. Herbal teas, and we’ll call them that here, have benefits all their own. Here are a few of the more popular ones:
- Chamomile is great for stomach ailments and can help you sleep.
- Passion Flower is also calming and can help you sleep.
- Hops and Lemon Balm are also great sleep aids.
- Valerian can help you sleep, but has a noxious smell. It’s recommended taking this as a capsule not as a tea.
- Ginger is anti-inflammatory, about the same as an aspirin, and can help with joints, such as with arthritis. It is also great for nausea as it help calm the stomach. It is also warming.
- Licorice root can help to regulate blood sugar and add sweetness without calories.
- Nettle tea contains antihistamines. It can help combat hay fever and allergies. It also contains many vitamins and minerals.
- Peppermint can help combat constipation. It can help improve memory and alertness. It has been used by some for nausea and headaches, like migraines. Try chocolate mint or citrus mint for a change. (See my article on mints here.)
- Lemon Balm is also antiviral and can help fight illnesses. I used it last year to help fight a respiratory tract infection.
- Ginseng is an adaptogen. It helps the body to deal with whatever life throws at it. It can also help improve circulation, which can help with sexual dysfunction.
Other Notes on Tea
We have to remember that although tea has been consumed for thousands of years in the East and has been used for many purposes, we are not doctors and should not try to diagnose or treat any serious illness. While drinking tea may not cure your ills, it certainly will help you feel better!
If you are using bagged tea and are concerned about caffeine, soak the tea bag for 30 seconds in hot water, then throw that water out. (I add it to my compost.) Over 80% of the caffeine is released in the first 30 seconds. Then, go ahead with a second cup of hot water, steeping for 3-5 minutes. You might get a reduced taste, but you’ll get much less caffeine. Ever wonder why commercially decaffeinated teas taste weaker? Now you know why!
Good news – tea is hydrating! It is now thought that the caffeine in tea is not as dehydrating as once believed. It has been found to improve kidney and liver function and help combat symptoms of bladder infections.
A Delicious Tea Drink – 3 Ways
Here is a great tea recipe. You can make it iced or hot, or as I do, frozen.
- ¼ cup holy basil, dried
- ¼ cup lemon balm or lemon grass, dried
- ¼ cup plantain or nettle leaves, dried
- 1 tsp stevia leaves, dried – use more or less to taste
Mix all of the above ingredients together, making sure all of the leaves are crushed. Store in an airtight container.
For hot tea: Using a tea ball or make your own tea bags with the mixture. Steep 1 teaspoon in a cup of hot water for 5 minutes. Remove tea ball or tea bag and drink hot.
For iced tea: Use 2 teaspoons and brew longer, until it is fairly strong. Remove tea ball or tea bag, allow to cool a bit and pour over ice.
For frozen tea: Brew strong and allow to cool. Pour into a glass cake pan. freeze for an hour or so. Take a fork and flake up the ice crystals. Freeze another 30 minutes and flake again. After repeating this a few times it should be a consistency you like. Serve in a chilled sundae cup.
Are you a tea drinker? How do you like your tea?