Nourished Living by Dietician Kelly Hamlin MA, RD, CDN

Three cheers for the green, white and black…tea, that is

Do you remember years ago when the selection of tea on the grocery store shelves was limited pretty much to English Breakfast, Chamomile and good ol’ Lipton?

Now there are SO many choices and many of us have NO clue what the differences are. Personally, I only started drinking tea in the last few years. I just wasn’t a big fan.

But the more I read, the more I felt I should—and now I love it!

However, I was curious as to the million different teas that are now available, so I decided to do some research.

So, what is the difference between green, white, and black tea, etc? Let’s explore…

Green tea, black tea and white tea all come from the same tea plant, Camellia sinensis. The difference liesin the ways the leaves are processed.

Green tea leaves are not fermented, they are withered and steamed. Black tea and oolong tea leaves undergo a crushing and fermenting process.

Tea leaves destined to be sold as white tea undergo even less processing than green tea leaves. Instead of air-drying, the unwithered leaves are merely steamed.

All teas from the camellia tea plant are rich in polyphenols, which are a type of antioxidant. These antioxidants scavenge for cell-damaging free radicals in the body and detoxify them. 

Whether it’s green, black or white, tea has about eight to 10 times the polyphenols found in fruits and vegetables. How cool is that?!

Yes, tea does contain caffeine, but the caffeine in tea acts as more of a subtle stimulant, taking more than a few minutes to take effect, rather than hitting your system as quickly as coffee or cola.

This effect is assisted by another compound found in tea, theophylline. While caffeine chiefly targets the brain and muscles, theophylline stimulates the respiratory system, heart and kidneys.

As stated above, if the leaves are immediately dried and then heated (steamed) or fired, the tea leaves remain green, retaining the distinctive flavors and health benefits green teas are known for.

Health benefits of green tea include: boosting the immune system, may lower the risk of heart disease, may help fight cancer, may boost functioning as we age, may help decrease blood pressure, and may aid in weight loss.

Please take note of “may.” No one thing is going to be a quick-fix or cure all.

Regarding the benefit of weight loss, remember that there is no “super diet food.” If there was, we’d all be skinny!  You will always need to eat sensibly and be active to lose weight and be in shape.

Continued next week…

If left to wither, the leaves are transformed through a process known as oxidation (also known as fermentation) into black tea, of which there are hundreds of varieties.

The longer the leaves are left to wither, the more oxygen they absorb and the darker their color becomes. Hence, black tea is fully oxidized.

Some benefits of black tea are: may aid in bone, connective tissue, skin, hair and oral health.

Black tea contains Fluoride, thus it may improve oral and bone health. Black tea, contains flavonoids which are also found in apples.

Unlike green tea, black tea, once processed, eliminates all antioxidants existing in it. Black tea not only helps to fight bacteria but also strengthens the immune system.

Black tea may also help balance hormone levels, which may help fight stress.

Not only does black tea have anti-inflammatory qualities, it also keeps a check on the digestive tract’s functioning. It can help reduce stroke risks as it balances the cholesterol level.

And here’s something for the ladies. To reduce puffiness of the eyes, just store black tea bags in the fridge and apply it to the eye area. (No, I’m not being sexist. How many of you men care if you have bags under your eyes? If you do, this will work for you too!)

White tea is a type of tea with a fruity, delicate flavor. It is known for being high in antioxidants and low in caffeine.

Whereas most green and black teas are made from mature tea leaves, white tea is made entirely or mostly from the buds (immature) unopened tea leaves, of the tea plant.

The buds should look white and fuzzy. This appearance is often referred to as looking “downy’ because it resembles the appearance of fine down feathers.

The “hairs” on the tea buds are a natural mechanism the white tea plant uses to protect its new tea buds from insects. White tea is very different from both of these tea types.

It has a delicate, fruity taste. Some white teas are very floral, while others have notes of hay (Yes, I know. Seems odd, but I’m just reporting my findings!) or milk chocolate.

Flavored white teas are also available, and are commonly blended or flavored with fruit, flowers and herbs, such as mint.

The benefits of white tea are very similar to those of black tea.

It may protect against cancer, heart disease, and stroke, as well as numerous other conditions. It may ease the symptoms of illness and promote recovery.

White tea may also strengthen the circulatory and immune systems as well as bones and teeth, and build healthy skin.

So, it appears that all three kinds of tea have very similar benefits. When it comes to iced vs. hot tea, there are the same amount of antioxidants, catechins and flavonoids in both.

However, instant iced tea contains negligible amounts of catechins. Personally, I’d say skip the sweet tea and stick with unsweetened iced tea with some lemon, or try some of the different flavored teas.

I myself love the flavored teas with current favorites pomegranate and citrus. They are both great as iced tea too!

For maximum tea benefits, three to four cups per day are recommended.

With all of the different flavored teas out there, you are bound to find one that you like! Enjoy!

Share Button