|Explore the World of Tea:|
The Camellia Sinensis plant yields the 4 staple teas- black, green, oolong, and white- that endlessly stock supermarket and restaurant shelves. A mixture of tea leaves with essences and oils results in the variety of flavors that satisfy any taste. So what, then, is the difference between the teas that we find in specialty stores and the ones that we find in everyday markets? Why do some teas offer greater health benefits than others if they are from the same source? The answers lie in the processing of the Camellia Sinensis leaves.
Black Tea: Black tea is the most heavily processed of all teas because it is exposed to oxygen for a sustained period of time. The leaves’ prolonged absorption of oxygen results in darkening of the leaves, and ultimately produce the black leaves which have become classified as black tea. Although black tea loses some health-promoting agents that other teas have, it produces high concentrations of flavonoids and lowers the risk of stroke and coronary heart disease with its regular consumption.
Green Tea: Whereas black tea leaves are fully fermented, green tea leaves undergo minimal or no fermentation and maintain their natural green color. The absence of fermentation enables green tea to retain its health-promoting properties that it would otherwise lose. Thus it is renowned for its rich antioxidants and multiple health benefits- such as lowering cholesterol levels, inhibiting the growth of cancer cells and abnormal blood clots, and alleviating headaches and depression, among the many. To date, the only proven side effect is insomnia due to caffeine in green tea. This can be circumvented by drinking decaffeinated green teas.
White Tea: White tea is derived from the best leaf of the Camellia Sinensis plant. The leaf is plucked before it has fully opened, while the bud is still covered with fine white hairs. Like green tea, white tea undergoes little processing and no fermentation. White tea produces a more subtle and sweet taste than green tea. Though studies are inconclusive, doctors have suggested that white tea is higher in antioxidants and health-promoting properties than green tea. White tea has less caffeine than green tea and may be a better alternative to individuals who prefer to limit their caffeine intake. (White tea is best enjoyed when it is steeped in water that is just below boiling point.)
Oolong Tea: Oolong tea is semi-fermented and falls somewhere between black tea and green tea. It comes from the larger, mature leaves of the Camellia Sinensis to create a full-bodied taste. After it is picked, oolong tea is dried in the shade to eliminate any moisture. The semi-fermentation of oolong tea involves great skill because fermentation must be stopped when the leaves are 30% red and 70% green so that the tea can be of highest quality. Oolong tea is mostly a Chinese tradition, but is rapidly spreading into the homes of tea drinkers around the world. Oolong’s most frequent health attributes are those of anti-aging, lowering blood pressure, aiding in digestion, and lowering risk of heart disease.