Tea has been enjoyed for centuries and is widely consumed the world over. Its many health benefits are routinely cited, and it’s built into the essence of many cultures — think English afternoon tea or a Japanese tea ceremony. The process of producing tea is also rich and varied. Explore the different tea types and their unique properties below.
Tea Varieties: True Tea Vs. Herbal Tea
While you can most likely name at least a handful of different tea types, they all stem from basically two camps: true teas and herbal teas.
True teas, including black tea, white tea, green tea, yellow tea, and oolong tea, all begin with the brewing of leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant — also known simply as the tea plant.1 So, what makes true tea white vs. yellow or black vs. green? It all comes down to how the leaves are harvested and processed — but more on that later.
Herbal teas, alternatively, are made from herbs, spices, flowers, and fruits. Their flavor profiles are far-reaching due to the endless varieties and combinations of ingredients possible with herbal teas. However, some of the most common are the simplest, including chamomile tea, ginger tea, and rose hip tea. Herbal teas are particularly noted for being naturally caffeine-free.2,3
Flavored tea or scented tea, in its purest form, is a combination of true tea and herbs, spices, flowers, or fruit. A popular example of this is chai tea or masala chai, which is black tea with a combination of spices and herbs, commonly including ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and black pepper.4
The Health Benefits Of Black, Green, And White Tea
- How it’s made: Camellia sinensis tea leaves are rolled up and left to oxidize until they are black. The dried leaves can be used loose to steep or crushed to be used in a tea bag.
- What it tastes like: Its flavor profile is robust and earthy.5
- Why it’s good for you: Due to its high caffeine level and amino acid profile, evidence suggests that black tea may support focus.6 Additionally, multiple studies have reported that black tea may also support a healthy heart and circulation.7,8
- How it’s made: Coming from the same tea plant, green tea leaves are not oxidized like those used to make black tea. Instead, they are heated right after being harvested — this allows the tea leaves to keep their distinct green color.
Like black tea, the tea leaves can be steeped loose or crushed, as found in tea bags. Matcha green tea, alternatively, is green tea leaves ground into a fine powder and whisked into hot water.
- What it tastes like: Depending on the particular plant and harvest, green tea can be very light in taste to quite grassy.9
- Why it’s good for you: Green tea is noted for a range of health benefits, including supporting a healthy metabolism, immunity, and blood sugar levels.10,11,12
- How it’s made: The leaves and buds of the tea plant — at this stage having tiny, white hairs — are picked just before they are fully opened. These whitish leaves and buds are steamed to prevent discoloration and then dried. White tea can be served loose or crushed in a bag, like black and green tea.13
- What it tastes like: White tea has a refreshing, subtle earthy flavor.14
- Why it’s good for you: Studies have linked white tea to supported immune, heart and skin health.15,16,17
Naturally Caffeine-Free Herbal Teas
- How it’s made: Chamomile is a flowering herb that resembles a petite daisy. Chamomile plant flowers are dried and then infused with hot water to make tea.
- What it tastes like: Its flavor profile can best be described as an aromatic earthy floral.18
- Why it’s good for you: Long cited for its calming properties, there is evidence that chamomile tea might help support a positive mood and good sleep.19
- How it’s made: While this tea can be made with dried ginger root, you may choose to enjoy it made fresh. Slices of ginger root are added to boiling water and left to steep. That’s it — ginger tea.
- What it tastes like: Words like spicy, flavorful, and invigorating come to mind.20
- Why it’s good for you: Multiple studies have shown ginger may help support digestive and heart health.21,22,23
Rose Hip Tea
- How it’s made: A rose hip is the fruit of the rose plant which develops after the flowers are pollinated. They are often bulbous in shape and red in color. Tea is made by steeping dried or crushed rose hips in hot water.24
- What it tastes like: Begins with a slightly sweet floral flavor and ends with a notably tart taste.25
- Why it’s good for you: Evidence supports rose hips as not only helping to relieve joint ache but aid in weight management. Additionally, it’s a good source of vitamin C.26,27,28
Not Just To Drink: The Non-Beverage Benefits Of Tea
There are many benefits to drinking tea, but here are a few suggestions for those steeped tea bags.
Help with puffy eyes. Placing warm tea bags over your eyes can not only be relaxing, but the caffeine in the tea may help reduce puffy or swollen eyes by constricting the blood vessels in the area.29
Use as a toner. The astringency level of tea might help with oily zones. Just a quick wipe on your face with a tea bag, and you’re good to go.30
Many Tea Varieties, Many Health Benefits
With your new in-depth knowledge on tea and all its unique varieties and benefits, hopefully you’re inspired to share your wealth of information and, of course, indulge in a cup of tea.
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