What are the health benefits of tea?
Tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world. Most people drink tea for its health benefits. Some well-known benefits of drinking tea are: making people feel calm and relaxed, anti-aging, detoxifying the body and improving the immune system. In fact, these health benefits are arbitrary. The crafting, and the terroir, the varietals, and aging of tea all together would impact the strength of health benefits of tea.
Different crafting techniques give rise to the six (seven) categories of Chinese teas, making them all taste differently as well as doing different good on one’s body. Terroir, as a main indicator of the quality of a tea, also impacts the nutrition and health benefits of a tea. Varietals also play a role in the potential health benefits since they all have different concentration of chemical compounds. For example, there’s a varietal of rock tea called purple peony, which is known for having a high concentration of anthocyanidin. Anthocyanidin, which is also found in purple yam, has plenty of well-known health benefits, one of them is to clear the oxygen radicals.
Before we take a close look at different benefits of the main categories of Chinese tea, let’s discuss the main “ingredients” contributing to better health in tea: amino acids, polyphenols, and flavonoids, theine, vitamins and minerals. No matter how a cup of tea tastes in one’s mouth, all of the tea comes from Camellia Sinensis. Different craftings on the plant give rise to the six categories of Chinese tea, each with its unique aromas and tastes, alongside with the various percentages of biochemical compounds from the extraction.
Between 1999 - 2000, professor Yang Weili from School of Food Scientific Technology of Hunan Agricultural University, with her colleagues, did an experiment on the impacts of crafting on the compounds formed in tea. Following the same picking grade, the researchers pick fresh leaves of the varietal of Mao Xie, making them into 6 categories of Chinese tea in Hunan (Crafing’s).
Main Biochemical Compounds Contents (Percentages)
|Category of tea||Amino-acids||Tea-polyphenol||Flavonoid||Theine|
The data from this study shows that, generally speaking, green tea has the highest concentration of polyphenols. Green tea is most well known for its detoxifying function for people who suffer from the side-effects of the medicine to cure cancer. Research has also shown that people drinking green tea have a lower risk developing cancer (Healthline). The reason behind that is that green tea is high on a kind of polyphenol called EGCG, which could clear the free radicals as well.
While the potential for phenolic compounds is highest in green tea, higher water temperatures are responsible for their extraction. Therefore, Rock or Cliff Teas from Wuyishan have the highest levels of phenolic compounds of all Chinese teas.
Polyphenols are said to help offset chronic diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease and decrease body fat and inflammation.
Studies show that polyphenols present in Cliff Tea induced weight loss, anti-inflammatory and angiogenic effects. In epididymal fat, consistent with an anti-inflammatory effect, adiponectin gene expression was significantly increased by polyphenols present in Cliff Tea. Angiogenesis during adipose tissue expansion is anti-inflammatory by maintaining adipocyte perfusion.
Studies observed significantly increased gene expression of vascular endothelial growth and vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 and decrease in pigment epithelium-derived factor gene expression.
The major phenolic compounds in cliff tea belong to the catechin family, also known as flavan-3-ols, which constitute up to 30% of the tea solids by weight. The catechin monomers structures chlorogenic acid, 5-O-caffeoylquinic acid (5-CQA) are also found in high levels in oolong teas.
The table also shows that white tea contains the highest amount of amino acids and flavonoids, because of its unique crafting - long period of withering. Good for the liver, and the brain and heart (cardiovascular system), flavonoids are also known for their antioxidizing effects, improving the immune system, preventing radiation, etc.
The specific amino acids in tea can help transfer dopamine in the brain and improve memory. Amino acids in tea can also help people calm down and relax, which makes white tea the tea to drink before bed. In addition, they can help prevent stroke, hemorrhage and alzheimers. All these health benefits together make white tea one of the most popular tea gifts and teas purchased in China.
Though there is much research showing the benefits of final biochemical compounds of tea people consumed, they don’t constitute medicines for people who’ve been diagnosed by specialists. Tea, as one of the healthiest drinks in the world, can only have these positive effects on people if they consume it consistently. “By following these groups for long periods, researchers determined that tea drinkers are less likely over time to develop diabetes, compared with people who drink less tea”
Aside from all its health benefits, personally speaking, the biggest reason to drink tea is for its palpable tastes and aromas, which can really bright up a day in just one sip.
Crafting’s Impacts on the Biochemical Compounds of Categories of Tea, Hunan Agricultural University Scientific Nature Newspaper, 2001, Vol. 27, 5th period, Yang Wei Li, Xiao Wen Jun, Deng Ke Ni.
White Tea of China (中国白茶), Dishun Yuan, Amoy University, 2005.
10-Evidence Based Benefits of Green Tea, digital, Nutrition, Healthline, April 6, 2020.
Tea, A Cup of Good Health? August, 2014, Harvard Health Publishing.