We love tea for its antioxidant super powers. Tea contains polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that have the ability to destroy cell-damaging free radicals. The potential for tea to be an effective player in the fight against cancer, heart disease, and other diseases is being widely studied, with some good results. I’ll take that over leaping tall buildings in a single bound any day!
Types of Tea
Look in the tea aisle of any market, and you’ll see an enormous variety available. Which ones do we want to drink to recognize the benefits? Dr. Andrew Weil offers a great explanation in his book Healthy Aging, summarized here.
There are five recognized forms of tea, all coming from the same plant species (Camellia sinensis). Their main difference are how they are processed. As you might have guessed the more processed a tea is, the weaker its antioxidant super powers likely are.
- White tea: the least processed and the strongest Super Hero, can be expensive
- Green tea: stronger in color and flavor, easily found in stores
- Oolong tea: antioxidant powers fall in between green and black
- Black tea: the most common to Westerners, it’s what we get in ordinary tea bags
- Pu-erh tea: the least amount of antioxidant powers, similar in appearance to coffee
Other “teas” you might see such as herbal and rooibos are not actually tea, but have some health benefits of their own.
Ways To Enjoy Tea
Different tea leaves prefer different steeping (sitting around in the hot, not boiling, water) times. Most tea packages will have instructions, but here are some guidelines: The more delicate white teas like about a minute. Green teas can go for about 2 – 3 minutes. Hardier oolong and black teas are good for 3 – 5 minutes. Experiment to see what tastes best for you, making the taste stronger by adding more tea to the water rather than steeping one bag for a longer period of time.
The most obvious way to drink tea is to steep a tea bag in some hot water and drink. Quick & easy. I personally like cold tea. Here’s how I make a large batch of iced tea:
- In a soup pot, I heat 4 quarts of water until it just starts to steam and tiny bubbles are forming around the edges. Once I see this, I immediately remove the pot from the heat.
- I add in 8 tea bags (use more or less for your taste) and steep for a few minutes. I discard the tea bags, add ice cubes and I have a pitcher of iced tea that lasts for a few days. Since I have it on-hand, I drink much more of it than I would if I brewed it one cup at a time.
Once the tea is cold, you can freeze it in ice cube trays to liven up plain water. Or pour into ice pop molds for a frozen treat on a hot day.
Tea is a liquid Super Hero Food if there ever was one. As is typically the case, it’s not enough to isolate one compound and take that in pill form. Give Mother Nature the credit she’s due and drink your tea to get the full benefits.