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Neera's Get The Dish

Tea Party
Neera's Get The Dish

No, we’re not talking political movements. We’re talking more along the lines of little girls’ make-believe-dress-up parties where high tea is in order. Grown-up tea-time has, well, really grown up! With the plethora of teas out there and the health benefits of some over others, it’s hard to keep it straight. Here’s a no-nonsense breakdown.

Green is the new black

Green (tea) is the new black (tea). Green tea is everywhere: hot, bottled, iced and even in cookies. Originating from China and made from the leaves of Camellia sinensis, green tea is the least processed of all teas, hence providing the most antioxidant polyphenols. Because of green tea’s minimal processing (its leaves are withered and steamed, not fermented) its unique antioxidants are more concentrated. Green tea has been shown to protect against coronary artery disease, cholesterol, blood clots, prostate cancer, high blood pressure and reducing the risk of stroke.

Basic black

When most of us think tea, we’re thinking black tea. The majority of the tea sold in the west is black tea – India, China and Sri Lanka being the world’s largest producers. And though all four varieties of tea (black, green, oolong and white) are made from leaves of the same plant, black tea generally has more flavour and caffeine than the others. Essentially it is further fermented green tea leaves that are dried in the manufacturing process. In terms of its health profile, black tea might be considered the cousin of green tea, meaning it contains several of the same health benefits, such as antioxidants, protecting from several forms of cancer and viruses.

Oolong ooh-la-la

Pronounced much like it’s spelled, you might think of oolong tea as being the one between the green and black tea varieties. Oolong tea undergoes only a partial degree of fermentation that consequently places it between green and black tea. Oolong tea has a taste closer to that of green tea (though it does not have the distinctive grassy tang of green tea) but is closer in colour to black tea. Though fermentation reduces the concentration of antioxidant compounds in oolong tea, it still has a variety of health benefits, including reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

White up there

White tea is made from the closed leaf buds of the tea plant, while green and black teas are made from more mature leaves. According to some research, white tea undergoes less processing than green tea does, so more of the antioxidants are preserved, which results in more polyphenols than green tea. White tea is harvested early and is dried immediately, reducing the amount of oxidation that occurs on the tea leaf. White tea also contains less caffeine than either black or green tea. A recent study showed that white tea had anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and other properties, which could potentially reduce the risks of developing rheumatoid arthritis, some cancers and heart disease. However, studies on white tea are still in their preliminary stages and lack conclusive evidence.

Red bush

Rooibos (pronounced ROY-bus) is an herbal tea derived from a South African shrub by the same name, which means “red bush” in the local language. The Koishan tribe drank rooibos tea for hundreds of year, believing in its health benefits. Gaining in popularity in the western world, rooibos tea’s high level of antioxidants, lack of caffeine and its low tannin levels (compared to fully oxidized black tea or un-oxidized green tea leaves) makes it a health-conscious fan favourite. Mostly due to its flavonoids, rooibos is known to benefit nervous tension, allergies and digestive problems. Because it contains alpha-hydroxy acid and zinc, it is considered great for the skin too. In addition to its potent antioxidant properties, this tea has high levels of potassium, magnesium, calcium, zinc, copper and manganese.

Neera Chaudhary MHSc PhD (c) RD is a registered dietitian, foodie, culinary goddess and all-around fabulous girl in the kitchen.

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