Tea – There’s Just Something About It
In our house Betty does most of the cooking, except for the brewing of a good pot of tea. That task is mine, a role I accept with enthusiasm.
Tea and health go quite well together. There’re plenty of positive reports, and in any photo of me you’re more than likely to see a cup nearby. Yet while tea is today the world’s most widely-consumed beverage, even tea drinkers may get sick and/or die early, reminding me of the need to always be on the lookout for the nuances that could account for who benefits and who might not.
Here’s what I’ve found that can help you. Let’s start with a bit of background first, so you know why it’s important.
Did you know that both green and black teas come from the same plant? It’s called Camellia sinensis, and color of the tea is determined by how it’s been harvested and processed. Green tea is non-fermented and receives the least amount of processing. Black teas undergo full fermentation and are processed the most. Yellow, white, and oolong grey teas are named according to their varying degrees of fermentation, which will always be more than green, and less than black.
Tea leaves are harvested in spring and early summer. Hand-picked teas results in limited tearing of the leaf, so will have better flavor and retain more of the gene-protecting polyphenols* that characterize their health benefit.
Teas that have been harvested and processed carefully are the ones most likely to provide the health benefits that you’ve heard about. Green teas, for instance, tend to be of greatest help in preventing cancer (partially due to its genoprotective effect), while the better black teas have been reported to be of most help in preventing arterial and vascular-related diseases. The tea that does the best job of helping to prevent both cancer and arterial disease is oolong grey**, which is stopped from further fermentation about two-thirds of the way into the process.
As with any other product, suppliers of teas that retain this higher level of quality will likely brag about it and charge a bit more. On the other hand, the more common commercial teas in individual tea bags are generally harvested by machines that tear or bruise a higher percentage of the leaves before processing. Some of the protective polyphenols are also lost in this high volume processing.
So, if you want the best results from teas you are better off getting loose leaf teas from suppliers who brag about and describe the quality of their product.
Now for the best part…how to prepare it!
The better green teas will be appear as small balls of tea leaves and may be described as gunpowder teas. The better oolong teas will be lighter in weight and greater in volume.
Use about 1 heaping tablespoon of loose leaf per 4-cup pot. Pour boiling water over the leaves and let steep 10-15 minutes before drinking, either by itself or (as I prefer) with a little cream added.
Our favorite morning tea, by the way, is 1 heaping tablespoon Ceylon black plus ½ tablespoon oolong.
During the daytime we also enjoy 1 level tablespoon of gunpowder green mixed with 1 level tablespoon of jasmine along with a pinch of peppermint. This tea is best without cream added.
Enjoy and thrive!
*ECG (epicatechin gallate)
Abib, RT, et al., J Med Food 13(5)1111-5, Oct 2010.
**A study this past month showed oolong produces a unique molecule, Theasinensins, that serves the arterial system in a completely different manner than green or regular black tea. It does this by inhibiting the genetic expression of the Cox2 gene that otherwise promotes arterial disease-causing inflammation.
Hou, DX, et al., J Agric Food Chem Nov 17, 2010.