If you’re looking to overcome your coffee addiction, or just receive a health boost from indulging in a new hot drink, look no further. We’ve been investigating the myriad health benefits of tea to bring you a rundown of the best kinds on the market.
Navigating a crowded landscape of herbal teas, detox teas and organic teas, we’ve attempted to cut through the confusion and get to the bottom of the matter. We’ve been drinking tea for thousands of years, but what tea is the healthiest?
1. Green Tea
Green tea is the one most people reach for when an urge to be healthy takes hold. The mere connotations associated with the colour are enough to convince them they are getting one of the best teas for health every time they brew a cup. And they’re right, as it happens.
Like black and white tea, green tea is procured from the leaves of Camellia sinensis and is rich in antioxidants called catechins. These water-soluble polyphenols have been implicated in bringing benefit to virtually every organ system in the body. Cardioprotective, anti-carcinogenic and liver-protective, they are among the most impressive compounds in nature.
Further benefits of green tea include fat-reducing and cholesterol-lowering effects, as well as an ability to increase fat oxidation and blood flow. In Chinese medicine, meanwhile, it is used for all manner of purposes – including as a natural stimulant and digestive aid. The University of Maryland Medical Center has published an in-depth article mining the many benefits of green tea: you can read it here.
2. Chamomile Tea
Chamomile is best known as a calming tea. Made from dried chamomile flowers, it has been reported to help with insomnia, stomach upset, headaches, side effects of diabetes, ulcers, gut disorders, congestion, even nervousness. Such is its broad spectrum of uses, chamomile is a common ingredient in cosmetic products such as creams and ointments.
Like Camellia sinensis, chamomile contains a good amount of antioxidants, including flavonoids and terpenoids. This is the case for both types of chamomile used medicinally today: German and Roman. Antioxidants, of course, are useful for combating free radical damage and preventing cell mutation. The primary antioxidants in chamomile are chamazulene, acetylene, apigenin, quercetin and patuletin.
Whether you’re drinking chamomile to promote relaxation, aid digestion or benefit from its spread of antioxidants, you’re sure to enjoy the effects.
3. Black Tea
Good old black tea is one of the most commonly-consumed types in the world. One of the most naturally caffeinated teas with about 50mg
per cup, it’s an excellent alternative to coffee – although its bold, astringent flavour might not go down too well with the Costa crew!
There are many studies attesting to the benefits of black tea. In one, published in 2012, black tea consumed as part of a normal diet was said to contribute to “a decrease of independent cardiovascular risk factors and improve the overall antioxidant status in humans.” Tea drinkers experienced a significant decrease in fasting serum glucose and triglyceride levels, as well as a significant decrease in the LDL/HDL plasma cholesterol ratio.
A separate study from the University College London found that black tea also decreases the levels of stress hormone cortisol, while another – from Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute – showed drinking three cups a day cut stroke risk by 21%.
4. White Tea
White tea is known as the least-processed tea, given that its leaves are young and delicate – still in first-flush bud form, in fact. As stated, it derives from Camellia sinensis and is loaded with catechins while also being low in caffeine. As far as antioxidants are concerned, the total content is generally comparable to those in black or green tea – although cultivation and processing can influence this.
Known for its delicate, fruity taste, white tea is actually pale yellow in colour. While its flavonoids can help to improve vascular health – and thus aid in preventing conditions such as heart disease, it has also been studied for its effects on weight management and shown to effectively reduce the deposition of triglycerides in adipocytes (fat cells). One of the best teas for weight loss? Absolutely. All in all, it’s a good alternative to the other teas in this list if you’re seeking a healthful hot drink or change of flavour.
Be warned though – white tea isn’t cheap!
5. Matcha Green Tea
Matcha green tea became something of a cult phenomenon a few years back, triggering a wave of matcha lattes, brownies and smoothie bowls among the hip and trendy wellness set. But what’s all the fuss about?
Green matcha is the most revered tea in Japan. Stone-ground and powdered, it contains trace amounts of vitamins and minerals and is also rich in – you guessed it – catechins. Because it’s made from ground and compacted whole tea leaves, it is thought to be a more fertile source of these catechins than green or white tea, which is sipped as an infusion and the leaves discarded.
The majority of catechins in matcha are EGCg (epigallocatechin gallate), widely-studied antioxidants known to have profound effects on cardiovascular and metabolic health. One study determined that matcha actually contains three times as much EGCg as other types of regular green tea.
Used in the Far East to enhance calm (due to the presence of L-Theanine), increase metabolism and detoxify the body, matcha is best consumed in its highest grade, i.e. from tea grown in rural locales. This is because plants exposed to high levels of pollution can absorb lead. Our Organic Matcha Tea from WHC is perfect: it is derived from only the finest leaves grown in covered areas and thereafter steamed, dried and stone-ground.
What About Herbal Teas?
If you’re still craving a new flavour – and a health-promoting tea that few others have tried – Organic Instant Basica Tea deserves an honourable mention. Like the best herbal teas, it is a blend of botanical herbs chosen for their ability to address the acid-base balance. It contains catechins from ingredients such as Common Horsetail, Birch Leaf, Rosemary, Dandelion, Blueberry Leaf, Milk Thistle and Wild Thyme. Available in powder form, each tub provides enough for 400 cups. Although it tastes pleasant enough, a little organic/Manuka honey can enhance the flavour.
There you have it: five (actually six!) powerful pick-me-ups well worth boiling the kettle for. Much better than a milk n’ two!