Tea has been known to be a healthy beverage for many centuries. What are the differences between the different types of teas? Should you be drinking black, oolong, green or white tea for maximum health benefits?

Different Types of Tea

All teas are made from leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant. The main difference between these teas lies in the way the tea leaves are processed.

White vs Green Tea

The way tea leaves are processed determines the types of tea produced.

White tea is made from the buds and young leaves while green tea is made from mature leaves. To prevent oxidation (which causes browning), white and green tea leaves are steamed before drying. This process helps in the retention of the naturally occurring phytochemicals (e.g. catechins) of the tea leaf.

Oolong vs Black Tea

Oolong tea and black tea are healthy, hot beverages.

Oolong tea and black tea are made from mature leaves. To enhance the tea’s flavour, oolong and black tea leaves are bruised and broken into bits respectively, before they are left to oxidise. Oolong tea is less oxidised as compared to black tea. The oxidation process also converts catechins into other beneficial phytochemicals (e.g. theaflavins and thearubigins). Hence, the content and type of phytochemicals present in oolong and black teas generally differ from those of white and green teas.

Benefits of Drinking Tea

Phytochemicals in tea have antioxidant properties.

For a refreshing change from drinking plain water, try drinking a cup of tea instead. Teas are rich in beneficial phytochemicals such as those mentioned above. Freshly brewed tea generally contains more phytochemicals as compared to instant preparations and ready-to-drink teas. The phytochemicals present in teas have antioxidant properties that have health-promoting benefits. You should consume a variety of freshly brewed tea given that the amount and variety of antioxidants vary from tea to tea.

Remember to add less sugar or omit it completely when preparing tea to experience the original tea’s flavour, or choose ready-to-drink teas that are unsweetened or sweetened with less sugar for a healthier beverage.

Regular tea consumption has been shown to improve the function of the blood vessels. It may also help with weight loss by reducing visceral fat (fat that lies deeper inside the abdomen, surrounding the abdominal organs). Regular tea drinking may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease too.

Does Tea Contain Caffeine?

Tea contains caffeine, but generally at a lower concentration as compared to coffee. An average cup of tea contains 50 mg of caffeine while coffee contains 100 mg of caffeine, respectively. Limit your tea intake to no more than 3 to 4 cups per day to avoid the adverse effects of caffeine.

Due to the caffeine content in tea, people with insomnia, gastric ulcer, high blood pressure, heart disease or incontinence should limit their intake of tea. Some medicines may interact with tea. If you are on medication, seek advice from your doctor or pharmacist.

Also, it is advisable for individuals with iron deficiency anaemia to consume tea between meals instead of during meals as tea contains tannins (substances that can inhibit iron absorption).

So Remember...

  • Drink a variety of tea as they contain different antioxidant properties that may be beneficial for health.
  • Choose teas that are unsweetened or sweetened with less sugar for a healthier beverage.
  • As with all foods and drinks, tea should be consumed in moderation (3 to 4 cups per day).

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