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Posts Tagged ‘loose leaf tea’

Health Benefits of White Tea

Posted by Susan Lutfallah on June 7, 2009

Overall, white tea has a great range of effects on the body and a tremendous number of benefits to your health – its supreme power are in preventing disease and disorder. Briefly, white tea helps protect against cancer, heart disease, and stroke – the leading causes of death in the industrial world. Moreover, white tea strengthens the circulatory and immune systems, reinforces your bones and teeth, builds healthier skin, and eases the symptoms of illness.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants are nutrients that protect the body from damage by free radicals. Free radicals are nasty chemicals and metabolic by-products that go around wreaking havoc on your body by damaging DNA, structural proteins (e.g. muscle, skin), bones, and they can even accelerating aging!

Antioxidants can ‘scavenge’ the free-radicals and render them harmless – that is, they neutralize them. Fortunately, white tea is loaded with these protective antioxidants, more so than any other variety of tea! For example, studies have shown that white tea has a concentration of antioxidants that is three times higher than in green tea.  For another comparison, just one cup of white tea contains approximately twelve times as much antioxidants as fresh orange juice!

Here’s a list of all the wonderful things antioxidants do for your body:

– Helps inhibit growth of cancer cells
– Reduce high blood pressure.
– Protection against getting a stroke.
– Improved blood flow to the heart.
– Reduce cholesterol.
– Helps inhibit the formation of blood clots in artery walls.
– Maintains even blood sugar levels.
– Lowers the risk for osteoporosis.
– Enhances immune function and helps fight infections.
– Inhibits the growth of bacteria that can cause gum disease, cavities, and bad breath.

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White Tea: History

Posted by Susan Lutfallah on June 7, 2009

Unlike most other varieties, white tea is an uncured and unoxidized tea leaf. Historically, white tea is a specialty of the Chinese province Fujian – in fact, white tea dates back as far as the T’ang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.) and quickly became the tea of choice for the Chinese Royal Courts.

Until 1885, white tea did not undergo many changes – however, specific varietals of tea bushes were selected afterwards to make Silver Needle and other specialty white teas. Globally, Chinese exportation of these fine teas began in 1891 – however, the leaves now come from a number of varieties of tea cultivars, including those in Sri Lanka.

Like green, oolong and black tea, white tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. However, oolong and black teas are oxidized before curing – again, white tea leaves are completely unoxidized. Some actually regard white tea as a slightly modified version of green tea since they both undergo very little processing – however, the main difference between these two types of tea is that the white tea leaves are harvested at a younger age than the green tea leaves. During the processing stage, white tea is not fermented at all while green tea is partly fermented – on the other hand, black tea is fully fermented.

Because they are so gently treated, white tea and green tea both retain a large proportion of their beneficial antioxidants. Essentially, as we’ll see in the next section, the health benefits of white tea are simply staggering – leaving tea leaves so close to their natural state means that white tea contains more polyphenols, the powerful anti-oxidant that fights and kills cancer-causing cells, than any other type of tea!

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Oolong Tea and Weight Loss

Posted by Susan Lutfallah on June 7, 2009

Even in traditional tea drinking countries like China and Japan, oolong tea has a well-known and lasting reputation for helping people to keep slim. Overall, oolong tea promotes weight loss through three different mechanisms, as seen below:

–         Increasing basal metabolic rate

–         Burning fat (through a process called lipolysis)

–         Blocking dietary fat absorption

Again, the Chinese have long believed that oolong tea is beneficial in reducing and maintaining weight. In fact, a 1998 Chinese study involving 102 females showed that continuous consumption of oolong tea for six weeks resulted in a reduction of body weight – of course, this study spurred further research.

Subsequently, Dr. William Rumpler, a physiologist at the US Agriculture Research Services’ Diet and Human Laboratory, investigated the ancient Chinese belief that oolong tea is effective in controlling body weight. The 2001 study measured how oolong tea influences energy expenditure (EE) and included 12 male volunteers who were given 4 separate beverage formulas over three consecutive days. The four beverage formulas were:  1) full strength oolong tea, 2) caffeinated water with caffeine equal to full strength oolong tea, 3) half strength oolong tea and 4) non caffeinated water.

After twenty-four hours, the energy expenditure (EE) of the participants was measured and resulted in:

EE levels of about 3% higher when they drank either the full strength oolong tea or the caffeinated water versus the non caffeinated water.
Participants burned an average of 67 more calories per day when drinking the full strength oolong tea.
Participants increased fat oxidation (‘lipolysis’ or fat burning) by a whopping 12% after consuming the full strength oolong tea versus the caffeinated water.
This data confirms that a component other than caffeine is responsible for promoting the preferential use of fat as an energy source.

The increase in fat oxidation in this study is amazing! Drinking oolong tea can actually tell your body to burn fat as an energy source!

Moreover, a 2003 Japanese study went one step further by comparing the benefits of oolong tea and green tea regarding weight reduction. In this well controlled study, eleven healthy young female student participants received three different beverage formulas: 1) oolong tea, 2) powdered green tea leaves and 3) water.

After all of the measurements were taken, the results determined that:

Oolong tea had higher energy expenditure (EE) levels from beginning to end and at intervals of 30, 60, 90 and 120 minutes.
EE levels peaked at 90 minutes for both oolong and green tea and remained at their respective levels until 120 minutes.
These results indicate that for up to two hours after consuming oolong tea, you will expend more energy than if you were to drink green tea or water.

Additionally, the concentrations of caffeine, catechins, and other polyphenols were measured producing these intriguing findings;

The caffeine content was much higher in the green tea versus the oolong tea.
The concentration of polymerized polyphenols was significantly higher in the oolong tea versus the green tea.

These findings show that it’s the polymerized polyphenols that link tea to burning fat, not just the caffeine – again, the concentrations of polymerized polyphenols are highest in oolong tea. Furthermore, the rest of the chemical compounds compared in the oolong and green teas were similar or equal to one another with no marked differences – this reinforces the result that the polymerized polyphenols principally contributed to the lipolytic effect of oolong tea.

Finally, oolong tea’s effect on blocking the absorption of fats and carbohydrates is thought to play a key role in its weight reducing benefits – in fact, oolong tea is a popular accompaniment for greasy food in Asia for that very same reason. Now, scientists have proven that it is an effective fat blocker. A study conducted by the University of Tokushima found that drinking oolong tea can double the amount of fat being excreted. During the study, tweleve young Japanese adults participated in the 17-day program, consisting of 10 days of washout (drinking nothing but water) and 7 days of treatment (drinking oolong tea). The scientists found that fat excretion was twice as high for those who consumed oolong tea compared to the placebo.

Overall, oolong tea promotes weight loss through increasing basal metabolic rate (energy expenditure), increasing lipolysis, and blocking the dietary absorption of fat. Just by drinking this tasty brew, you can help yourself on the way to a healthier, slimmer you!

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Oolong Tea: Origin of the Name and History

Posted by Susan Lutfallah on June 7, 2009

Oolong Tea is a traditional Chinese tea that’s also known as ‘Wulong’ Tea. The name Oolong (or Wulong) means black dragon in Chinese, where Wu means black, and Long means dragon. Oolong tea is also known as Qing Cha, is a semi fermented tea, and it is named after the person who discovered this tea.  The Chinese province most noted for its oolong tea production is Fujian.

According to Fujian tea folklore, Oolong tea was discovered by a tea farmer who lived in Fujian Province during the Qing Dynasty – his name was “Su Long”. However, because he had a dark complexion, the local farmers all called him “Wu Long” – of course, this is how the name ‘Wulong’ Tea was derived.

All tea comes from the plant Camellia Sinensis – actually, if it doesn’t come from that plant it is not considered proper ‘tea’. Over time, Camellia Sinensis has protected itself from photosynthetic stressors by forming chemical compounds known as polyphenols. Polyphenols, which include flavonoids, have the same beneficial class of compounds – known as antioxidants – that make fruits and vegetables good for you.

Green Tea is treated or boiled following picking to prevent the leaves from oxidizing and retaining their natural colour. Black Tea is left to oxidize following picking, that’s how it gets their distinctive colour. For Oolong Tea, the raw leaves are sun-wilted and then bruised, which exposes their juices to the air, so the leaves oxidise and start to turn brown like a cut fruit. They are allowed to oxidise only partially, giving them a rich, floral flavour. The tea is then dried fully – this locks in the rich flavours that oolong tea is known to offer.

Unbeknownst to many, oolong tea can range from bright green and slightly fermented to dark-leafed and hearty – a rule of thumb is that the greener varieties are less fermented. Oolong tea therefore comes in a wide range of tastes and aromas – these include teas very close in taste to green tea to those very close to black tea.

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Health Benefits of Matcha

Posted by Susan Lutfallah on June 6, 2009

Put bluntly, the health benefits of Matcha are extensive – by and large, Matcha is disproportionately healthier than all teas, including regular green teas. Intriguingly, the amazing health benefits of matcha are derived by the virtue of how it is consumed; unlike steeped teas, where the nutrients are dissolved into the water and then the leaves are removed, drinking matcha tea requires that one consumes the ground leaves whole. Overall, when it comes to steeped teas, only between 5% and 15% of its original dry weight in nutrients is consumed – however, when drinking matcha tea, one consumes 100% of it.

tea cupsOne cup of matcha tea is the equivalent of 10 to 15 cups of green tea in terms of both its nutritional value and antioxidant content (depending on quality). I’m sure that you’re familiar with the antioxidant properties of many different foods, including orange juice – however, by comparison, matcha contains approximately 70 times the antioxidants found in orange juice!

In addition to being loaded with antioxidants, matcha tea is also extremely nutritious – it contains iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and a host of other minerals. As for vitamins, the matcha contains Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Vitamin U (S-Methylmethionine), Vitamin P (Bioflavonoids) as well as others like thiamine (Vitamin B1) and folate (Vitamin B9).

I’m sure you’ve at least heard about the amazing health benefits of green tea – this includes its apparent ability to mitigate some symptoms of cancer, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, and the role of its antioxidants in preventative medicine. However, the vast majority of these studies are predicated on subjects consuming between 5 to 10 cups of fresh green tea a day! For most North Americans, this amount is unfeasible to achieve at best – on the other hand, given that one cup of matcha equals roughly between 10 to 15 cups of regular green tea, this condition is satisfied in one cup!

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Production of Matcha

Posted by Susan Lutfallah on June 6, 2009

Traditionally, matcha tea is made with only the highest quality Japanese green tea leaves available in the market – however, there are different grades of green tea, and the highest is known as ‘gyokuro’.

About 4 weeks before the harvest, the entire tea plantation is covered with bamboo to allow for shading – essentially, this causes the tea plants’ physiology to recognize that there is not enough light to continue the process of photosynthesis. As a result, the tea plant takes natural countermeasures – namely, the base of the plant begins to synthesize much greater concentrations of chlorophyll and deposits them in the leaves. Indeed, this physiological response is to help absorb and convert into energy the little light that comes through the shading. Of course, this is all part of the tea farmer’s strategy – by taking advantage of this natural mechanism, the tea farmers immediately harvest these now highly chlorophyll-rich tea leaves and steam, dry and sift them.

From there, the dried tea leaves are ground using granite grinding wheels – this produces a very fine powder, known as matcha powder. Subsequently, the matcha powder is inspected by laboratories for quality, packed in air tight containers, and flown across the globe to consumers world-wide. Actually, upon opening the tin of matcha, one can immediately assess the freshness and fineness of the tea – if the tea is fresh and was packaged and prepared properly, the green powder will “puff” into the air upon opening.

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Black Tea vs. Green Tea

Posted by Susan Lutfallah on June 6, 2009

Antioxidant Showdown

Until recently, medicinal research regarding tea has focused on green tea – actually, this is understandable, given that green tea is loaded with the compound epigallocatechin gallate (EGCg), a powerful and easily detected anti-oxidant.

Generally speaking, since the fermentation process used to make black tea converts EGCg into other compounds, researchers in the past assumed black tea had less health benefits than green tea.

However, recent studies indicate the compounds contained in black tea – theaflavins and thearubigens – do more than contribute to its dark color and rich flavour – that is, theaflavins and thearubigens also provide health benefits which were originally attributed solely to green tea!

A recent article by Dr. Leung at the Chinese University of Hong Kong reported that drinking black tea has benefits equal to those of drinking green tea in terms of their antioxidant capacities – briefly, this is because theaflavins present in black tea possess at least the same antioxidant potency as catechins present in green tea.

As reported in related studies, it is clear that a group of theaflavins (TF) in black tea, specifically theaflavin-3,3′-digallate (TF3), has strong antioxidant activity similar to (-)-epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which is a major antioxidant in green tea.

However, the concentration of diverse antioxidants in the different teas should be first considered before drawing any conclusions about overall health benefits of teas.

In several studies, the total concentration of antioxidants in green tea and black tea were tested – for example, in a study from Cornell University, black and green teas contained total phenols equal to 124 and 165 mg gallic acid (an antioxidant measurement standard), respectively. Moreover, those same researchers found that the antioxidant capacity per serving of green tea (436 mg vitamin C equivalents) was much higher than that of black tea (239 mg).

Therefore, we must conclude that green tea has more health benefits than an equal volume of black tea in terms of antioxidant capacity.

Ok ok, but what about the TASTE?!

Let’s be honest – the recent surge of health food products may help lengthen our lifespan, but they don’t do much in terms of stimulating our taste buds. Put plainly, the taste of green tea for some folks is a major turn off – on the other hand, some don’t mind the taste of green tea initially, but then find the ‘grassy’ aftertaste to be unpleasant.

On the contrary, black tea tasting ‘sweeter’ and it being more pleasantly smelling is commonly accepted, at least in Western culture – conversely, in China and many Eastern countries, the taste of green tea is preferred to black tea. However, black tea is the most consumed type of tea world-wide – therefore, if it is a consumption numbers match-up, black tea wins it.

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Black Tea and Cancer Prevention

Posted by Susan Lutfallah on June 6, 2009

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently conducted a study which adds to the growing body of evidence that compounds found in both green and black tea have strong anticancer properties on tumours. In fact, the results, which are published in the Journal of the Agricultural and Food Chemistry, suggest that consumers may benefit more by drinking both green and black tea together!

During the study, nine green tea catechins, three black tea theaflavins, and theanine – extracted using either water or a water/ethanol mix – were used on human cancer cells and normal cells.

The majority of the compounds, and all general tea extracts, reduced human breast, colon, liver and prostate cancer cells.

The water/ethanol extracts were found to contain higher levels of flavonoids and kill more cancer cells – because all of the compounds were most effective when used together (a phenomenon known as ‘synergism’), the researchers recommended that consumers drink both green and black teas mixed together!

Moreover, studies done at Rutgers University reveal that black tea may help prevent stomach, prostate, and breast cancer – again, the scientists confirmed that it is the compounds known as thearubigins and theaflavins which may slow down cancer growth. Dr. Kuang Yu Chen and his team at Rutgers argued that some of the cancer cells were undergoing programmed cell death (apoptosis), which seemed to be induced by the thearubigins and theaflavins found in black tea.

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Black Tea and Stroke Prevention

Posted by Susan Lutfallah on June 6, 2009

A long-term study by the Netherlands National Institute of Public Health and the Environment found a correlation between regular consumption of black tea and reduced risk of stroke. Researchers concluded that the flavonoids in black tea helped reduce the production of LDL – the “bad” cholesterol that can lead to stroke and heart attacks. Furthermore, men who drank over four cups of black tea per day had a significantly lower risk of stroke than men who drank only two to three cups per day.

Moreover, investigators at UCLA’s School of Medicine sought to identify and summarize all human clinical and observational data on tea in general and stroke – therefore, they conducted a meta-analysis of several scientific experiments to achieve this goal. Although a randomized clinical trial would be necessary to confirm the effect, their meta-analysis suggested that daily consumption of either green or black tea equalling 3 cups per day could prevent the onset of ischemic stroke.

Finally, a separate study by Dr. Joseph Vita at Boston’s School of Medicine supported these results. For four months, sixty-six men drank four cups of either black tea or a placebo daily. Dr. Vita concluded that drinking black tea can help reverse an abnormal functioning of the blood vessels that can contribute to stroke. Furthermore, improvement in the functioning of the blood vessels was visible within two hours of drinking just one cup of black tea!

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Black Tea, Chronic Stress, and Heart Health

Posted by Susan Lutfallah on June 6, 2009

Drinking black tea has been linked with reduced risk of heart disease in several studies – in fact, a number of these studies suggest that this benefit may be due to lowering of blood levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (bad cholesterol). Unfortunately, elevated levels of LDL cholesterol are linked with heart disease.

However, the mechanism behind the beneficial effect of black tea in lowering LDL cholesterol levels was unclear – only recently have studies began to demonstrate that it is theaflavins, one of the complex flavonoids in black tea, which is responsible for this LDL-reducing effect.

Recently, researchers at the University College London and Unilever Research Colworth conducted the first randomized clinical trial on the effects of black tea on stress – overall, their results found that drinking black tea may reduce stress hormone levels (cortisol) and ease the burden of heart disease.

During the study, the researchers recruited 75 healthy young males and put them through a four-week “washout” period during which they were not allowed to consume tea, coffee, caffeinated beverages, dietary supplements, and many other substances. Subsequently, 37 of the men were given four cups of black tea per day for six weeks while the 38 members of the placebo group were given an identical-tasting caffeinated drink, with no active tea ingredients, for the same time period.

Afterwards, both groups were asked to perform stressful tasks – these included verbally responding to threats of unemployment and accusations of shoplifting while sitting in front of a camera. During the procedure, the researchers measured the cortisol, blood pressure and blood platelet levels of the subject, and also asked them to self-rate their stress levels.

According to the results, both groups showed significant increases in blood pressure, heart rate and subjective stress levels during the tasks.

However, 50 minutes after the tasks were complete, cortisol levels in the tea-drinking group had dropped by 47 percent compared to only 27 percent in the placebo group!

Additionally, the black tea drinkers showed lower blood platelet activation — which has been linked to blood clotting and subsequent heart attack risk — and a greater degree of relaxation after the tasks.

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