Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Boosting Your Immune System with Tea

Research has shown for years that drinking tea has many health benefits. Most people are aware that teas – specifically those that are green, oolong, white and black – supply antioxidants to the body, but what antioxidants are we referring to? Well, for the most part, these previously mentioned teas contain flavonoids (a class of water-soluble plant pigments), and they contain one in particular called catechins. So now you’re probably thinking, “what the heck is a catechin?” Well, catechins are one of the most powerful in the polyphenol family. Tea contains four main catechin substances, one of which is about 25-100 times more potent than vitamins C and E. In fact, research has stated that one cup of green tea provides 10-40 mg of polyphenols and has antioxidant effects greater than a serving of broccoli, spinach, carrots, or strawberries. The high antioxidant activity of these teas makes it beneficial for protecting the body from oxidative damage due to free radicals which helps the body ward off dis-ease (heart disease, cancers, inflammation, etc.).

Another consideration is quality. It is quite possible for store bought tea to be good. If a customer chooses loose leaf over tea bags, they greatly improve their chances of getting quality. Tea bags are generally bad because the quality of the tea in the bag is generally poor - having a significant impact on taste (flat, bitter). Shelf life is another matter of importance. If kept properly, tea leaves can be kept fresh for a long time - but quality does diminish - how long has that tea been sitting on the shelf? That's why I will use places likeAsbury Park Roastery who works with tea suppliers who are passionate about what they do - in turn, they are able to provide fine quality loose leaf organic teas to their customers. They handle and store the tea properly to maintain that quality and they also know how long it has been sitting on the shelf. Equally important is they are available to assist and guide - can't buy that at the store. Oh, and one more thing, organic is more significant when it comes to tea versus coffee. The image of someone spraying pesticide on a leaf, then saying, 'here, go put this in hot water for a few minutes and drink it.'

Here is a quick description of the four teas mentioned here in the article:

White Tea - buds are plucked before they are open, allowed to wither, then they are dried
Green Tea (unfermented) - leaves are dried, and then heat-treated to stop fermentation
Oolong Tea (semi-fermented) - leaves are wilted, then allowed to go through brief period of fermentation
Black Tea (fermented) - leaves are withered, rolled, fermented and then dried