One of the pitfalls of the tea bag industry is how it disconnects the tea drinker with the beverage itself. Open the packet, dunk in a tea bag, and go about your day. Just like our first article, it discredits tea as a healthy beverage. It takes away from the fact that tea (Camellia Sinensis) is a crop, a living organism that contains several health benefits for its drinker. Research on tea has revealed that green and black tea will become one of the most effective beverages to decrease the risk of various diseases (1). The tea plant contains high levels of flavonoids and antioxidants, but what exactly does tea contain? Below we highlight the main components that are found within your cup of tea.
Caffeine (exact amount of caffeine depends on the type of tea, steeping time, etc): Caffeine is an alkaloid that has a stimulatory effect. Drinking certain types of tea can help to alleviate drowsiness. (2)
- Amino Acids
Theanine: Theanine is an amino acid rarely found in the plant kingdom. Theanine helps to relieve stress and promotes relaxation. This amino acid is also responsible for delivering the umami (meaty) sensation when drinking tea. (2)
- Catechins (flavanols, a type of natural phenol and antioxidant)
Epigallocatechin Gallate (EPCG): EPCG is a powerful antioxidant & main catechin in green and black teas. It accounts for around 50% of the total amount of catechins and may reduce the risk of lifestyle related diseases. (2) The bitter flavour of gallated catechins adds briskness to the flavour of tea
How to Maximize the Health Benefits of Tea
- Refrain from adding sugar or milk to your tea. If you find yourself reaching for black tea bag blends that often are bitter and astringent, try to switch it up by choosing loose leaf. Loose leaf undergoes a longer manufacturing process allowing more refined aromas and flavours to develop. You may find you don’t need to add anything to enhance the flavour of your tea when you reach for multilayered and complex teas. Reach for a buttery Gyokuro (green tea), Jin Xuan Oolong or a loose leaf Earl Grey (black tea blend) if you enjoy the creaminess that dairy oftens add, without actually adding dairy!
- Reach for tea picked during the first flush or first harvest of the year (Gyokuro, Matcha, First Flush Darjeeling, etc) or tea that is shade grown (Gyokuro, Matcha). As tea plants store nutrients all winter and the cool weather prevents growth, the first flush will contain the highest amount of amino acids and polyphenols compared to later harvests. Conversion of theanine to various catechins is catalyzed by sunlight, therefore shade cultivation restricts this chemical reaction and results in leaves rich in theanine. (2)
- Consume several cups of tea a day – although tea contains caffeine, it averages around 66% less caffeine than coffee per cup. Tea is infused with water, so the more tea you drink, the more hydrated you will be.
Please note that due to the difference in production between each category of tea, the levels of caffeine, amino acids and antioxidants will vary. For example, green tea contains more catechins whereas the oxidation step in black tea production leaves black tea abundant in theaflavins (antioxidant polyphenols) and therarubigins (polymeric polyphenols)
‘Health Benefits of Green Tea – An Evidence Based Approach’ by Yukihiko Hara
‘Characteristics of Japanese Green Tea’ by Yoriyuki Nakamura