It is always nice waking up to the aroma of a fresh pot of tea!
Whether you like it first thing in the morning or later in the day, a cup of tea can give you the necessary boost to get started or keep going. As a tea-lover, I appreciate a well brewed cup of tea, preferably flavored with mint, ginger, lemon grass, or a pinch of aromatic spices. The taste of a good cup of tea can vary from the tapriwali chai to the one served in a 5-star hotel.But the place of a perfect blend of homemade masala chai,enjoyed in the company of family and friends, remains sacred.
Types of teas:
Black tea, which is the most popular type of tea consumed in India, is one of the few varieties of teas processed from the evergreen plant Camellia Sinensis. Leaves of the plant, once harvested, begin to wilt and get oxidized due to enzymatic reactions, leading to changes in color and aroma of the leaves and their chemical composition. Heat is applied to dry the leaves and stop this reaction at variable stages depending on the type of tea that needs to be produced.
The most common teas are green tea, white tea, oolong, and black tea. The differential treatment of the leaves gives each tea its unique taste, color, and flavor.
- Green tea – unwilted, unoxidized.
- White – wilted, unoxidized
- Oolong – wilted, bruised, partially oxidized
- Black – wilted, bruised, fully oxidized.
Tea, whether green or black, is now enjoyed the world over, not just for its flavor and caffeine, but for its potential health benefits. Herbal teas, known as tisanes, are not derived from Camellia Sinensis. They are an infusion of certain herbs, leaves, roots, stems, or flowers, and their health benefits would depend on the main ingredient of that tisane.
Health benefits of drinking tea:
Tea contains a variety of polyphenols, a group of phytochemicals (plant chemicals) that have the potential in humans to reduce risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other diseases.
- Polyphenols act as antioxidants, fight free radicals and peroxides that are caused by oxidative stress, that could damage our cells leading to DNA changes or cell death, implicated in aging and cancer.
- They prevent oxidation of LDL cholesterol that could otherwise lead to atherosclerosis and heart disease.
- Polyphenol content varies with the type of tea, size and quality of the tea leaves, and the amount of tea used per infusion. A fresh hot infusion made with loose, large size tea leaves is packed with more polyphenols than iced teas or a concoction made with small leaves, teabags, or instant tea pouches.
- The more tea leaves you add to your brew, the more polyphenols you will get per cup.
2. Tannin (a polyphenolic compound)
- Tannin concentration increases with longer steeping time, imparting a bitter taste to the drink.
- The addition of milk to black tea may neutralize some of the tannin activity, although more data are needed to confirm and evaluate the effects.
Tea also contains alkaloids such as caffeine, and small amounts of theophylline, and theobromine, that provide the stimulant effect by increasing alertness. Caffeine content increases with the processing of tea, amount of tea leaves used, and the duration of brewing. Caffeine content of tea is usually lower than coffee.
L-theanine, another component of tea, produces general calmness by reducing mental and physical stress, and boosts mood and cognitive function.
Green tea, which originated in China, is the least processed and contains the highest amounts of polyphenols. Its caffeine content is lower than black or oolong tea, and ranges from 24 to 39 mg per cup (240 mL). As such, you can consume more cups of freshly brewed green tea a day without experiencing the symptoms of high caffeine intake, depending on your sensitivity to caffeine. However, keep in mind that caffeine and tannin content can increase with repeated brewing of leaves or brewing for longer time, and that can make the tea taste bitter.
Unsweetened or mildly sweetened tea, when consumed in moderation, offers a healthier alternative to the high calorie beverages such as colas (or sodas) and other sugary beverages. They can be refreshing and nourishing at the same time.
Excessive consumption of strong brews may cause acidity or diuresis (increased urination) in some people. It is recommended to not consume tea immediately after a meal or with a meal, as it can interfere with iron absorption.
Tea, whether green or black, should not be a replacement for a healthy diet. It is not a significant source of any nutrients. A diet comprising colorful fruits and vegetables, balanced amounts of whole grains, legumes, nuts, and healthy fats is very important to provide necessary nutrients and phytochemicals for good health. Add beverages like tea to your diet and you can ensure that you have additional protection. Tea consumption can be part of a healthy lifestyle.
Today as we celebrate International Tea day, let us raise a toast with a cup of your favorite tea!