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   Green Tea

Young leaves of the Camellia sinensis—the same plant that white, oolong and black tea is gleaned from—are often air dried to prevent oxidative leaf darkening and then heat-treated to further remove moisture. In Japan, green tea is generally steamed rather than pan-fired or oven-dried to lend a more vegetal taste.

Taste Slightly astringent with grassy undertones. The astringency or “bite” can vary greatly among types and brands of green tea.

A Healthy Sip Name the ailment, from sleep apnea and psoriasis to leukemia and breast and lung cancer, there’s research suggesting that green tea might protect against it. Much of green’s rock star status is chalked up to sky-high levels of the antioxidant epigallocatechin-3-gallate, called EGCG. An 11-year study of more than 40,000 Japanese adults found all cause mortality to be 16 percent lower in those with the highest daily green tea intake (5 cups or more).

Those who struggle to maintain a healthy weight should take heed of recent studies demonstrating the ability of green tea and its EGCG to promote body fat loss and prevent its accumulation, especially when combined with exercise. Other data suggests green tea’s antioxidants reduce harmful LDL cholesterol levels and improve blood vessel functioning, providing protection against heart disease. Where else can you find a food that tackles so many maladies, all for zero calories?

Common Types Gunpowder, Sencha, Jasmine, Dragon Well, Pi Lo Chun, Green Pekoe.

Worth a Try Traditionally served to emperors, Japanese green Matcha tea is produced when green tea leaves are ground into a powder. Because the whole leaf is consumed, it delivers more EGCG than an infusion brewed from the leaves using water. Add it to smoothies, frozen desserts and gluten-free baked goods. 

  White Tea

Less oxidized than green or black tea and predating any other tea manufacture, immature leaves (buds) of the Chinese Camellia sinensis evergreen are picked in early spring at daybreak while still covered in a silvery white “down,” hence the name white tea. They are simply air withered to evaporate natural moisture and then shade dried. It’s estimated that some 10,000 handpicked buds are required to produce just 1 kilogram of authentic Fujian Province silver needle Chinese white tea. Hence, its higher than average price tag. Some modern white teas use the first leaves of the tea plant rather than the buds with a slight application of external heat for drying. This intensifies the flavor while increasing supply at a reduced cost. Often, white teas come as a mixture of buds and leaves. 

Taste When steeped, youthful white tea has a golden hue yielding a delicate floral flavor with disappearing sweetness. Those who find green tea too “grassy” will likely find sipping white more agreeable.

A Healthy Sip As the least-processed tea, this paler side of tea likely brews up the most tea polyphenols, called catechins, a group of powerful antioxidant compounds that may protect against chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Oregon State University researchers found white tea more effective than green at halting cell mutation, the early form of cancer. Similarly, scientists reported in the journal Nutrition and Cancer that exposure to white tea may stymie cancerous cell expansion in the colon. One catechin in particular, epicatechin, improved memory retention in a recent animal study. Unlike its green brethren, however, research surrounding white tea is still in its infancy.

Common Types Silver Needle/Tip (just buds), White Peony (Bai Mu Dan), White Cloud, Eyebrow, Snow Bud.

   Black Tea

Largely the Western tea du jour, black tea is produced from withering, rolling, crushing, fully oxidizing and heat-drying the Camellia sinensis leaves. This process changes the leaves from green to coppery-red.

Taste An amber brew with bold, rich flavor.

A Healthy Sip While oxidation lays waste to most catechins present in black’s green and white kin, two new sets of flavonoid antioxidants, called thearubigins and theflavins, are created. These compounds may be responsible for the fact that black tea consumption may slash the risk of Parkinson’s disease by up to 71 percent. It is also the most effective tea at keeping blood sugar in check by limiting alpha-glucosidase, an enzyme responsible for bringing sugars from food into the bloodstream. Thearubigins and theflavins may further cut diabetes risk by mimicking the action of insulin, a hormone that helps blood sugar enter cells.

In fact, enjoying just a single cup of black tea daily can reduce diabetes risk by 14 percent, according to a 2008 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Harvard researchers add that daily indulgence may keep the sniffles at bay by stimulating immune cells to release interferon, a chemical that protects against infection. What’s more, a 2009 study in the International Journal of Cancer suggests drinking more than two cups of black tea every day cuts endometrial cancer risk in women.

Common Types Early Grey (infused with bergamont oil), Assam, Darjeeling, Lapsang Souchong, Ceylon.

   Oolong Tea

Produced predominantly in China and Taiwan and the most challenging tea to manufacture, oolongs come from larger Camellia sinensis leaves. Using the sun, they’re semi-oxidized to varying degrees, falling between green and black in this respect. There are taste and color nuances, as well. Oolongs are always whole-leaf teas—twisted, ball-rolled or loosely folded but never broken.

Taste Lightly floral to brisk and heavy, depending on how long the leaves are allowed to oxidize in the sun. Multiple steeping is encouraged.

A Healthy Sip Oolong is rich in theanine, an amino acid that crosses the blood-brain barrier where it exhibits psychoactive properties, including a calming and an improvement in focus and memory. In addition, theanine lessens caffeine’s stimulatory effect on the central nervous system. Studies suggest that oolong and its healthful compounds boost metabolism and reduce cognitive decline, blood pressure, harmful bacterial, blood triglycerides, blood sugar and dangerous LDL cholesterol levels. In the battle of the bulge, Japanese researchers found drinking three cups with a meal limited the absorption of fat from food.

Common Types Pouchong, Tung Ting, Formosa, Jade, Black Dragon.

   Pu-erh Tea

Pu-erh tea, known as black tea, is post-fermented, which means that the tea leaves go through a microbial fermentation process after they have been dried and rolled, causing the leaves to darken and change in flavor.  The process allows the teas to not only improve with age like a fine wine, but many pu-erhs are able to retain their freshness for up to fifty years! Pu-erh teas can be found in compressed brick form or in loose leaf form and can be made from both green and black tea leaves

Taste Various conditions and environmental factors can impact the flavor profile of pu-erh, resulting in a rich experience for the tea drinker's palate of this bold tea that can be smooth, fruity, peaty, grassy, musky, herbal and earthy.

A Healthy Sip Pu-erh tea goes through a special fermentation process that makes it very beneficial to the digestive system.  Many people in our culture have very weak digestion and excess weight and it has everything to do with food and drink that create "internal dampness" in the body. In Chinese medicine, "dampness" refers to the build up of negative, sluggish energy in the body that results from consuming excessive processed foods, sugars, dairy, alcohol and other substances that slow down digestion and nutrient assimilation. Pu-erh tea has the ability to reduce this internal dampness by invigorating the spleen and the stomach to work in harmony, aiding proper digestion and elimination. It is often used medicinally to lower cholesterol, remove toxins from the body, cure dysentery, induce weight loss, improve eyesight and promote blood circulation.

Worth a Try An acupuncturist in Mill Valley, CA said that she has found Pu-erh tea to be of the highest quality and smoothest taste, and this is why she carries it in her clinics. Her many patients introduced to Pu-erh tea all agree they have never felt better and don't even miss their coffee!



Rooibos is an herbal tea from the Aspalathus Lineaires or Red Bush. It is usually grown in a small are in the region of the Western Cape province of South Africa.  Generally, the leaves are oxidized, a process referred to as fermentation.  This process produces the distinctive reddish-brown color of Rooibos and enhances the flavor.

Taste Rooibos has a refreshing taste, almost nutty but full bodied and very delicious.

A Healthy Sip The health benefits of Rooibos Herbal Tea seem to be mostly due to the flavonoids aspalathin and nothofagin, although other compounds in Rooibos may also play a part.Here is a summary of the possible know benefits which may be experienced by adding Rooibos Herbal Tea to your daily diet.

  • Acts as an antioxidant and increases SOD levels
  • Prevents DNA damage
  • Cardiovascular protection through ACE inhibition
  • Suppresses fasting glucose levels
  • Improves glucose uptake and insulin secretion after a meal
  • Aids in liver tissue regeneration
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Acts as a bronchodilator and antispasmodic
  • Inhibits lipid peroxidation and brain aging
  • Rooibos extract improves immune defects such as HIV

Worth a Try Since nothofagin and especially asalathin are not really found in any other plant, Rooibos Herbal Tea looks like a valuable addition to one's health regimen. Even people who are not fans of green tea usually like the taste of Rooibos. It can be a nice addition to your nightly routine as it is naturally caffeine free.