Tea Time 101: A Primer

On cold winter days, there’s nothing more comforting than curling up with a cup of hot tea. But, tea isn’t just good for warming your insides. Tea also has proven health and wellness benefits from weight loss, to cancer prevention, to increased relaxation.

And, while differing opinions circulate regarding the safety and/or risk of consuming diet beverages (namely the artificial sweetener aspartame used in them) we think tea makes the perfect low-to-no-calorie alternative. Plus, tea is equally delicious served cold, over ice—which means it can be your beverage of choice all year long.

Did you know? Sugary soft drinks may raise the risk of depression – with diet versions causing the most harm (Daily Mail, UK)

A Tea Primer

With so many flavours and types of teas available, how do you navigate the tea section of your local grocery store or make sense of the dozens of choices available at specialty tea shops? To help get you started, we’ve searched the web and put together a simple tea primer that outlines some of the known benefits of various types of tea.

(photo: DAVIDsTEA)

There are four ‘official’ types of tea that all come from the same plant (Camellia sinensis): white tea, green tea, oolong tea, and black tea. Anything that does not come from the traditional tea plant is called herbal tea (think: mint, camomile, and rooibos). There are also many fruits, herbs, and plants that are combined with the four-main types of tea to make delicious and healthful combinations (i.e. jasmine green tea, pomegranate white tea, and chai black tea). The process of oxidation (or fermentation) is what differentiates the four types of tea. According to the Octavia Tea Company black tea is fully oxidized, oolong tea is partially oxidized, and green and white teas are un-oxidized.

White Tea
White tea is said to have strong antibacterial and antiviral healthy heart meals benefits. It has high levels of flavonoids (plant derived compounds that are antioxidants) which have been linked to the prevention of cancer and heart disease. Interestingly, white tea has even been shown to have anti-aging potential (meaning, it might just keep your skin looking young!) Finally, white tea is processed less than any other tea. According to the Mighty Leaf tea website, loose white teas are made from buds that are simply picked and steamed or air dried. (More on white tea’s health benefits: http://www.livestrong.com/article/376732-how-white-tea-is-good-for-you/)

Green Tea
Green tea continues to gain popularity in the Western world and has received tons of media attention for its health benefits.  It contains epigallocatechin-3-gallate, EGCG, a potent antioxidant and has been linked to cancer prevention, reduced risk of heart disease, improved artery function, and even weight loss. It is suggested that to realize the maximum health benefits of green tea, you should drink 3 to 4 cups a day.
(More on green tea’s health benefits: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/green-tea-000255.htm)

Oolong Tea
Oolong tea is similar to black tea, but is fermented for a shorter time. There are many different types of oolong tea and each possesses different flavours and characteristics. You can read more about oolong tea here. Similar to green tea, oolong tea has been said to assist with weight loss, boost metabolism, and even reduce cholesterol and lower blood sugar.

Black Tea
Black tea is the most commonly consumed type of tea in the Western world. Black tea undergoes an oxidation process that gives it it’s dark colour and robust flavour, and also accounts for its higher levels of caffeine. Recently, a study in the British Medical Journal, linked consumption of black tea with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

*Note: The longer you steep your tea, the more health benefits it will have. But, adding milk to tea may reduce some of those health benefits.

Herbal Teas
There are also many herbal teas (which are actually just a combination of leaves, seeds, roots, and/or bark) which possess health and wellness benefits. This article from Best Health Magazine entitled, 7 herbal teas that will make you healthier, provides a useful starting point.

Here are some of our favourites & just a few of their health/wellness benefits:
Cinnamon: balances blood sugar, lowers cholesterol
Peppermint: aids digestion
Ginger: boosts immunity, relieves stress, aids digestion
Chamomile: promotes relaxation/restfulness

If you’re looking for more news related to the health benefits of tea and tips for brewing and pairing teas, check out the Bigelow Tea’s UniversiTea!


as all this tea talk made you thirsty? To celebrate the end of January (and just a few more months until spring!) we’re giving away 3 fabulous Tea Prize Packs all of which include some yummy tea + a 16 oz travel Bodum Press to help you make the perfect cup of tea—on the go!

To win, all you have to do is like us on Facebook and then leave us a note on our wall telling us what your favourite type of tea is (brand and flavour) and how you best like to enjoy your tea (i.e. with friends, while reading a good book, as a mid-afternoon break.) Three winners will be selected on February 8.


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