Tea Time: Fancy a Cuppa?

Whether it’s a cuppa for breakfast or a simple beverage to enjoy in the afternoon, tea has its endless varieties and benefits that may be overlooked. Each type of tea has characteristics that make it more distinguishable amongst others. From the popular ‘English Breakfast’ to Green Tea, drinking tea provides you with hydration, offers virtually no calories (obviously depends on how much milk and sugar are added) and can help boost your immune system.

The way by which tea enhances a person’s immunity is due to the role of antioxidants, compounds that naturally occur in food and help protect the body from cell damage. The antioxidants of interest include flavonoids & polyphenols, which are all different types of these cell protecting, immune enhancing natural compounds.

Let us introduce the different popular tea candidates..

 English Breakfast Tea

One of the most popular teas around, English breakfast is a blend of Assam, Ceylon and Kenyan tealeaves. This mixture of black teas provides English breakfast with its rich, full-bodied taste which can be diluted if milk and sugar are added (also a very common way to drink the tea). English breakfast is believed to be the favoured tea of choice in the UK where a typical English high tea is just not the same without it! Such teas do contain a small amount of caffeine but nothing comparable to a cup of coffee. Flavonoids found in black teas such as English breakfast are believed to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke due to the probable anti-oxidative effect on blood vessels and possible reduction of bad cholesterol. Research studies are still inconclusive and ongoing but results could be promising. One important characteristic to remember is that black teas are a source of tannins, which are natural chemical compounds that reduce iron absorption in the body. Hence, I would recommend having about 3-4 cups of black tea per day for those who are not iron deficient and 2 cups of tea for those who are.

Green Tea

Another popular tea of choice, Green tea is one of the top contenders when it comes to promising health benefits. It is THE beverage to have in many Asian countries but has even appealed to all cultures around the world recently.  To add a kick to the norm, some green teas are scented with flowers such as jasmine or mixed with fruits to create a delicious blend. Green tea contains polyphenols (catechins in particular) which are a type of antioxidants linked to inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, however, much research is needed in that area to prove such a hypothesis. Additionally, green tea is believed to have cardio-protective characteristics such as reducing bad cholesterol and the risk of forming blood clots. Despite what the ‘diet gossip’ out there may be, there is no scientific evidence to prove that green tea speeds up metabolism to aid in weight loss. One study has demonstrated a minor spike in metabolism when green tea is consumed, however, it was only noted to be a short lived, minor spike and nothing permanent.

Rooibos Tea

Rooibos tea is becoming quite popular among the health conscious due to its perceived medicinal qualities. It originates from the South African red bush and is naturally caffeine free. Rooibos has a rich, fruity and sweet taste, which appeals to many and can also be infused with other ingredients, such as vanilla, giving it a great twist. Rooibos has a very low amount of tannins, is extremely high in antioxidants and is calorie free. The key areas of research that have gained interest in the benefits of Rooibos include diabetes prevention, protection against heart disease, and cancer. Yes, it is still unclear what the full benefits of drinking Rooibos tea are, however, given its high content of antioxidants, you are more likely to gain some benefit than any harm at all!

So in summary, drinking tea does exert health benefits due to its antioxidant characteristics and regardless of type, a calming, heart warming, guiltless feeling is guaranteed!

 Random ‘TEA’ facts:

  • Brits drink about 60 billion teas per year making them one of the biggest tea drinking cultures in the world.
  • Tea was created more than 5000 years ago, in China.
  • Tea is the biggest industrial activity in India after tourism.
  • The idea of afternoon tea is believed to have originated in the early 1800s. The idea of having tea around 4-5pm was seen as a way to keep hunger at bay between lunch and dinner.
  • There is an estimated 1500 varieties of Tea.
  • Black, Green and White tea all come from the same plant; Camellia sinensis
  • A cup of black tea contains approximately 40mg of caffeine which is about half of that in coffee.

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