You probably know about the health benefits of tea but what else do you know about it? Did you know that green, black and white tea all can come from the same plant? Or that herbal tea is an herbal infusion? Or that most Americans (up to 80 percent) prefer iced tea vs. hot tea? To learn more about tea, we turned to the expert, Miriam Novalle. She is the founder of T Salon in Kingston, New York. Founded in 1992, T-Salon sells specialty white-label tea and herbal infusions all over the world. Novalle earned the nickname “Tea Guru” in a New York Times story that called her an entrepreneur with a self-taught nose to create hundreds of harmonious natural blends. Today, T-Salon’s bulk or wholesale tea show up in restaurants, hotels, spas, grocery stores, specialty retailers, museums, and more. Its mission is to create gourmet blends of organic, sustainable tea that are both healthy and delicious. (See below for all the health benefits of tea.)
All tea comes from one of two plants
Tea comes from one of two plants: Camellia sinensis sinensis and Camellia sinensis assamica. The tree trees’ shiny green leaves and leaf buds are harvested for tea. Black, white and green tea all have different flavors because of how they are harvested and processed. Think of coffee that takes on a different taste depending on how it is roasted. The leaves of the tea plant are oxidized or fermented and then dried to make black tea. Meanwhile, green tea is created by steaming and blanching the leaves for a few minutes. Meanwhile, white tea, is made from the new growth buds and young leaves of the plant, and then processed like green tea.
Not a Lifelong tea lover
Interestingly, Novalle says she grew up only drinking tea when she was sick. Her tea career was happenstance. She says thirty years ago, her sister Lola was about to marry a man from Liverpool, England. She traveled to England to meet her future in-laws over a “very proper afternoon tea.” “It was my first scones with Devon crème, sandwiches and small desserts and, of course, tea,” she recalls. “Everything was lovely, but the teas tasted terrible.” Her sister’s future mother-in-law told that she’d heard Novalle was a great entrepreneur and said, “I bet you could create some exciting teas.” The rest is history. So after all these years, what does she like about selling tea so much? “It’s an ancient beverage with so much history,” she says. “I love the value it gives to folks, second after water!”
How to make a perfect cup of tea
Making a good cup of tea is fairly simple. Novalle recommends filtered water for tea. She also says to be sure to use boiling water, as it’s necessary to release the flavors. To get the true benefits of tea and save money, steep your own from tea bags or loose leaf tea. Pre-made bottled teas of Sweet Tea can contain tons of sugar or artificial sweeteners. If you make your own, you can control the amount of sugar. With so many teas from which to choose, T-Salon has a webpage with Novalle’s favorites. They include Organic Queen of Earl – Black Tea, a Ceylon Tea with elegant notes of Bergamot and Molasses. She also has iced teas mixes and Zoom teas to help kids with anxiety from online learning. If you’ve checked the tea aisle at your local grocery story aisle lately, you’ll also be wowed with the selection and flavors.
Health Benefits of Tea
To better understand the health benefits of tea, we turned to Lisa R. Young, PhD, RDN. She found that while coffee does contain some health benefits, tea—whether black tea, green tea, olive leaf tea, or herbal tea—appears to be the healthier beverage option. Sipping a glass of tea on a regular basis may improve your overall health. Therefore, you may want to make it part of your regular routine. Here are some if its top health benefits.
1.Reduce risk of chronic diseases
Teas, including green tea and black tea, contain medicinal properties and are rich in polyphenols, antioxidants shown to fight free radicals and ward off diseases like heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer. Matcha, often considered one of the healthiest green teas because the whole tea leaf which is ground into a powder contains a higher antioxidant level than traditional green tea. Green tea and matcha are rich in a polyphenol called EGCG, with the matcha containing nearly 140 times more than regular green tea. Matcha is particularly known for its anti-cancer properties.
2. Support immune health/bolster immunity
Studies show that tea can support immune health and reduce inflammation. Olive leaf tea is rich in the antioxidant vitamin C which contains properties that promote immune health and reduce inflammation. This study shows athletes who took olive leaf supplements for 2 months had fewer sick days when compared to those who took a placebo. Meanwhile, green tea contains antibacterial properties and may reduce bacteria in your mouth that can cause cavities and reduce immunity.
3. Improve brain function
Research shows that drinking tea on a regular basis may be protective against cognitive decline and a reduction in brain function due to aging. Catechins, found in green tea and oolong tea, are antioxidants that can delay cellular aging and help to reduce the progression of cognitive impairment. L-theanine found in green tea elevate neurotransmitter levels in the brain that may improve concentration, mood, and cognitive skills.
4. Promote weight loss and reduce blood sugar levels
Tea is naturally low in calories and can be a great addition to your day. Drinking caffeine-free tea helps with hydration and contributes to your water intake. Some flavored teas like herbal cinnamon apple or berry tea have a sweet taste without added calories. They can be a great way to end a meal. It is important to read food labels of sweetened iced teas and limit them due to their added sugar content. For instance, Arizona Iced Tea contains 24 grams of sugar per 8 oz. But consider a 16.9 oz. bottle of Arizona iced tea (called one serving size) contains 43 grams of sugar! Tea is not the culprit–it’s the added sugar. Consider by themselves, some teas can also reduce blood sugar levels. Black tea, for example, helps control your blood sugar and may even reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes.
5. Helps you relax
Herbal teas, including chamomile and lavender, do not contain caffeine. Therefore, they can have a calming effect and help you relax. They are great to include as part of your nighttime routine. Chamomile tea contains antioxidants and calming properties that may help you get a better night’s sleep. I enjoy a cup of chamomile tea after dinner most evenings to help me relax and get a good night sleep.
So, now you have another reason to kick back and enjoy a freshly steeped cup or glass of tea!
–Patty Yeager and Lisa R. Young, PhD, RDN (drlisayoung.com)