I categorise tea into four types: black, green, white and herbal tea. Black, green and white tea actually all come from the same plant; Camellia sinensis. They have just been picked or processed differently. Black has been dried and fermented the longest, whilst white tea has been the least processed, and all of these teas contain a small amount of caffeine. The traditional processing of teas creates a slightly different range of antioxidants for each variety.
Green tea has been the most extensively studied, and as a result the most health benefits have been linked to it. However, black and oolong varieties are also very good sources of antioxidants, and white tea has actually been shown to have the highest levels of antioxidants. The variety and high levels of antioxidants contained within tea are what provide it with its incredible health benefits.
Whilst each antioxidant has been studied separately for its health benefits, we can say that in general these antioxidants are helpful for heart disease, diabetes, eye disease and the signs and effects of ageing, including wrinkles. Interestingly, tea has more antioxidant activity than red wine – but without the resulting hangover.
Herbal tea, unlike white, black and green tea, has no caffeine. It not only provides high levels of antioxidants, but can also assist with various health attributes – from calming the nervous system, promoting digestion, balancing hormones and reducing inflammation.
I often recommend drinking tea according to its desired action. For instance, if you would like your tea to provide a boost (eg. No.8 Energise Me blend) I would recommend drinking a couple of cups of green or black tea in the morning and before lunch. If you would like to just benefit from the high levels of anthocyanins and blood sugar balancing effects of a herbal tea, for instance our No.10 Balancing Butterfly Blue tea, I would recommend drinking it throughout the day, particularly in the afternoon when you are susceptible to those blood sugar swings and cravings. If you are a fan of Chai, I recommend it drinking it with meals to benefit from the digestive herbs and aromatics in the tea. They will help to stimulate digestive juices and reduce bloating.
Fermented black teas such as Puerrh have been traditionally used to reduce the absorption of fat from meals so work wonderfully consumed just after a meal, especially rich and heavy food. Sleeping and calmness promoting teas such as Chamomile are best had about half to one hour from bedtime to help you unwind.
Anna Mitsios is a naturopath, nutritionist and founder of Edible Beauty.