We all have heard at one time or another that green tea is healthy. Why? Black tea, green tea, white tea, and Chai. Are they all the same? Which is the best and what are the differences and definitions among these varieties?
All tea, but alas, not herbal tea, comes from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, that grows in the subtropical lands of India, China, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar. There are six basic categories of teas: Green, White, Oolong, Black, Post fermented, and Herbal.
Green tea is health and antioxidant rich (free radical quenching) because the oxidation process is halted with high heat at once after harvest. The application of high heat preserves the color as well as the fresh green picked flavor.
If the green flavor does not suit you, white tea may please your palate. White tea is from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, and may sound like a different variety, but only the processing of the leaves is different. The fresh picked leaves are naturally dried or prompted to dry with an oven or fan. There is no elaborate processing. The result is truly little oxidation. White tea is high in antioxidants and has a flavor that is often described as creamy and aromatic or floral.
We have all heard or seen the words Oolong tea, but what exactly is it? Oolong teas fall into a class of teas between white and black teas in terms of the level of oxidation. The process of making Oolong tea is different than white and black teas also. The freshly picked green leaves are withered, rolled, or pressed to partially bruise them. Then they are partially fermented. (Black tea is fully fermented.) As a result of this partial fermentation, they are more oxidized than the greens and whites but less oxidized than black tea. This category of teas offers a greater range of flavors, complexity, and body than other teas due to the variety of ways in which the processing can be customized.
Fully fermented black tea is fully oxidized until it is black in color creating a tannic base with overlying flavors of fruit and malt. It is the most popular tea in America and Europe. The production of black tea began in China. Europeans discovered black tea in China in the mid-17th century.
All teas have health benefits due to their antioxidant properties. Scientific studies show that tea can improve immunity, decrease cancer risk, and even decrease blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides. One type in particular, Oolong tea, is rich in L-theanine which decreases anxiety and promotes attention. Studies have also shown that L-theanine decreases the risk of dementia.
Green tea contains caffeine, no more than black tea, and is full of the plant compounds called catechins. Epigallocatechin, EGCG, is a catechin that boosts energy and gets the most marketing attention. It is a common ingredient in energy drinks. Catechins are known to function as anticancer and anti-inflammatory agents on the skin. Thus, helping to treat acne as well as help prevent skin cancer. Catechins belong to a group of polyphenols, which fall into a class of bioflavonoids. These polyphenols have antioxidant, anticancer, antibacterial, and antiviral properties which protect the skin and support a healthy skin environment.
Alexis M.D. Firming Peptide Lotion contains green tea leaf extract which protects the skin from the free radicals in the environment as well as those produced by diet and metabolism. It also helps protect the skin from the free radicals that cause skin cancer.
Finally, what is “Chai tea”? The word for tea in Hindi is chai. Indian tea is typically made with added spices. So here in the US, Chai tea has come to mean a type of spiced tea, even though someone from India may hear “tea tea.”