Many tea drinkers would agree that a cup of tea may do wonders for your health. However, how much you can actually benefit from the tea you are drinking will depend on many factors. Learn more about potential benefits of tea and how to maximize them.
Why is drinking tea so healthy?
Tea is considered the healthiest drink in the world and the second most consumed drink right after water. It may provide a whole range of benefits, from boosting metabolism and aiding weight loss to improve immunity and offering protection from cancer and brain diseases. But, if tea is the second most consumed drink in the world and if it’s so healthy, shouldn’t more people be healthier? Yes, and no. There are several reasons tea may not provide as many benefits as you would hope for.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. It’s not intended to replace medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Every person is different and may react to different herbs and teas differently. Never use teas or herbs to treat serious medical conditions on your own. Always seek professional medical advice before choosing home remedies.
1. Benefits depend on the tea plant
All real tea is made from the same plant – Camellia sinensis. However, that plant can have different varieties and cultivars. The most common varieties used for making tea are var. sinensis and var. assamica. Both of them will provide similar, but slightly different benefits. For example, assamica is naturally higher in caffeine and will provide a stronger energy boost than sinensis tea plant. But there are hundreds, if not thousands, of different tea cultivars too. They will all have a slightly different chemical composition that will influence potential benefits.
2. Benefits depend on how tea was grown
How the tea is grown will make a very big difference too. For example, some teas are grown under a shade. Gyokuro, matcha and kabusecha are all great examples of shaded tea. Shading will increase the amounts of L-theanine, chlorophyll and caffeine, but decrease the amount of catechins. Gyokuro is shaded longer than kabusecha, and that’s why it will provide a stronger energy boost together with a more calming effect.
3. Benefits depend on processing methods
Processing will make a tremendous difference on benefits. There are six main types of tea – white, yellow, green, oolong, black and dark. Each of them may come from the same tea plant, (theoretically) even the same variety and cultivar, but will undergo different processing methods. Green tea will contain more catechins, especially EGCG than oolong tea, and in black tea, those catechins will be transformed into theaflavins. Although they are different compounds. both may provide an antioxidant activity.
4. Benefits depend on the tea grade
Benefits will depend on the quality of the tea too. However, what’s interesting is that most of the times, medium to high-quality teas, but not necessarily the most exclusive ones, will provide the most benefits. This means that many tea drinkers can get the most benefits by simply choosing good quality teas. What does good quality mean? It means opting for tea that comes from a known source, that’s preferably in loose leaf style, unsweetened and unadulterated, stored properly and fresh.
5. Benefits depend on how you brew your tea
How you brew your tea will have an enormous impact on the benefits too. Different compounds will need a specific water temperature and steep time to be extracted into your cup.
6. Benefits depend on how you store your tea
If you want to preserve the benefits, always store your tea leaves away from direct sunlight, source of heat, moisture and mold. You could easily ruin tea leaves within a matter of seconds, if you expose them to direct sunlight, high temperature, water or mold. Many studies showed that high temperatures and humidity may cause a fast catechin degradation. Since catechins are responsible for many health benefits in green tea, you may end up with a cup that won’t only taste bad, but won’t provide much benefits at all. Tea powders will degrade faster than loose leaf tea, and green and white tea will degrade faster than darker oolong or black tea. Always store your tea properly.
If you want to maximize the potential benefits, you should:
- Always brew tea with freshly boiled spring water.
- Always use fresh tea leaves.
- Drink tea regularly and a few cups a day. For example, studies suggest.
- Drink different types of tea to enjoy the benefits from all types.
- Buy high-quality tea leaves from reliable sources.
- Follow brewing suggestions and don’t under steep or over steep your tea.
- Store your tea properly and drink it within recommended time.
Potential Health Benefits of Tea
A cup of tea may provide many potential health benefits. Tea has been a subject of thousands of studies and is still attracting attention of scientists around the world. As we already learned, benefits of tea will depend on many factors, but most of them will be common among all types of tea.
1. Antioxidant activity
Even though different types of teas contain different compounds, they will all provide an antioxidant activity. In white and green tea, antioxidant activity comes from catechins, in black tea, from theaflavins . Interestingly, studies show that even though they are different, they may both be very successful at reducing oxidative stress  and fighting free radicals. EGCG is considered the best antioxidant in tea, and it’s found in unoxidized teas.
2. Anti inflammatory activity
All teas may provide anti inflammatory activity. Inflammation happens when body tries to fight off viruses or bacteria or reacts to external injuries . In green tea, anti inflammatory activity comes from EGCG, which may be more potent in reducing inflammation that black tea . Find out what are the best teas for inflammation here.
3. Anticancer activity
One of the most researched benefits of tea is the potential anticancer activity. Tea may help both reduce the risk of developing a cancer and help fight it. Green tea is currently considered one of the most promising types of teas  in cancer prevention and treatments, although a lot more research is needed to explain how to use and maximise its potential. Some studies suggest that tea may help increase the effect of some drugs used in treating cancers , and well as help improve immune system and overall reduce the risk of developing a cancer , and may help with side-effects of some cancer treatments like radiation .
4. Aiding weight loss
Drinking tea may help with your weight loss goals. All types of tea may help, but some, like pu’erh or oolong tea, may have shown exceptional potential , . Tea may help reduce bad cholesterol , blood sugar and blood lipids , boost fat metabolism and provide an energy for exercise.
5. Providing energy boost
All real teas contain caffeine. Caffeine may provide an energy boost and enhance mood and alertness . Although there is a general opinion that black tea will provide the strongest caffeine boost, that’s not always the case. Shaded green tea such as gyokuro may offer you exactly the same, or even stronger caffeine boost. Why? Because this shaded tea naturally contains more caffeine than unshaded teas, and it’s brewed with a very high leaf to water ratio – sometimes even more than 3 grams of leaves per 30 ml of water. Each gram may contain about 30 mg of caffeine. Theoretically, 6 grams of gyokuro tea leaves may provide 180 mg of caffeine.
Let’s compare it to Assam tea, a popular black tea that’s often very high in caffeine. Assam may have the same amount of caffeine as gyokuro – even though it’s a black tea. But to make a cup of Assam tea you would usually need about 2-3 grams of tea, rather than 6 grams or more. This means it will theoretically be able to provide at most 90 mg of caffeine per cup. Keep in mind though, to extract the most caffeine you will need to brew tea at a high temperature.