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Different Types of Tea and Your Health

August 2, 2016 by Adrienne Ngai, Registered Dietitian

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Different Types of Tea and Your Health

Tea is one hot beverage…it is the second most consumed beverage in the world, after water. Why is tea so popular? Get ready to be tea-educated!

One interesting fact you may not know is that black and green teas come from the same evergreen plant, Camellia sinensis. From just one plant, there are over 1500 different varieties of teas that are categorized into three groups: black, green and oolong. Teas are grouped based on how much processing they go through and the amount of time they are in contact with oxygen.

  • Black tea is processed the longest and has the most exposure to oxygen, making it dark and rich.
  • Oolong tea tastes like a combination of green and black teas, creating a nice blend of flavours.
  • Green tea is heated and dried, producing a delicate taste and a lighter colour. White tea is similar to green tea, except that it’s made from tea buds and young leaves that are processed the least. White tea gives a mild and sweet flavour.

Herbal teas like chamomile, rooibos and peppermint are not made from the Camellia sinensis plant, but from the leaves, roots, barks, seeds or flowers of other plants.

How much caffeine is in tea?

Caffeine affects people in different ways and it can make you feel awake and alert. Caffeine is found naturally in foods such as tea leaves, coffee and cocoa beans.

Here is the approximate caffeine content per 250 mL (8 ounce) cup of tea:

  • Black tea: 45 to 60 mg
  • Green, white or oolong tea: 25 to 45 mg
  • Herbal tea: 0 mg
  • Decaffeinated tea: 0 mg

The caffeine content varies depending on the type of tea, how much tea and the temperature of the hot water you use and how long you steep the leaves. Using hotter water, more leaves and having a longer steeping time increases the caffeine content in tea. There is no difference in caffeine content between loose leaf teas and tea bags.

Health Canada recommends that adults over the age of 19 do not have more than 400 mg per day of caffeine (that’s like drinking seven cups of black tea or nine cups of green, white or oolong tea!). Pregnant and breastfeeding women are advised to have no more than 300 mg per day. Having more caffeine than recommended can cause jitteriness, nervousness, anxiety, gastrointestinal upset, rapid heartbeat and insomnia in some people.

Are there health benefits to drinking tea?

White, green, black and herbal teas contain antioxidants known as flavonoids. Antioxidants (also found in vegetables, fruits, grain products and nuts) can help keep you healthy and may help prevent some chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. However, there is currently not enough evidence to guarantee that drinking a specific type or amount of any one tea will protect you against disease.

If you are pregnant, use caution with herbal teas. Some herbal teas (including chamomile and Rooibos) are not considered safe to drink. Choose herbal teas that list the ingredients. The following herbal teas are thought to be safe to drink during pregnancy, in moderation (two to three cups per day): ginger, bitter orange/orange peel, echinachea, peppermint, rose hip and rosemary.

Bottom line: Tea in all its forms is a great way to wake-up, relax or connect with friends but the evidence doesn’t link one type over another to specific health benefits. No matter what variety you choose remember to limit the amount of sugar or sugar syrups you add. Too much sugar can contribute to weight gain as well as harm your teeth.

For more information on teas, call 8-1-1, toll free, Monday to Friday, from 9 am to 5 pm to speak with a registered dietitian at HealthLink BC or send us an email.


Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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