What's Healthy About Tea? - Busting the Top Ten Myths of Tea
Based on the introductory material to my book, “The Everything Healthy Tea Book”
I’m quoting the original myths and responses in normal type face. Below each original “myth” is my new comment in italics. And, following the original ten myths are a few new additions as I try to call out some of the most common tea misconceptions that I hear in my teaching.
- Tea doesn’t go bad. (In reality, the compounds that produce flavor and health benefits degrade with time and exposure to light, moisture, and air.)
All true tea, Camellia sinensis, as well as herbal components such as flowers and spices are affected by environmental factors such as light, moisture and air. But I should have also mentioned aroma. In addition to flavor, the aroma of brewed tea is one of the significant sensory pleasures that tea provides. It is important that we not forget this aspect of enjoying a beautiful cup.
- Green, black, oolong, pu’erh, and white teas all come from different plants. (All true teas come from varietals of the Camellia sinensis plant. Processing creates the differences between the categories.)
Yes, all true teas come from the same plant . . . Camellia sinensis. As a correction, one of the classic categories of tea is also “yellow” tea. These definitions are based on styles of processing. White tea is the simplest form of processing true tea – the least intervention by humans. With green tea we make an effort to preserve the green color and distinctive flavors. Yellow teas are crafted with an additional step where green teas are packed so that they can “swelter” – significantly changing the color of the leaf and liquor. Black teas are fully oxidized. Oolong teas are processed with a range of oxidation from minimal – almost green – to something approaching a black tea. Another change I would like to make in this version is to change my use of pu’erh, referring to fermented teas to something more correct; dark teas or hei cha. (Watch for an entirely new section on dark teas and on Pu’er.)
- Green tea is healthier than black tea. (More research has been done on green tea than black tea, making it seem healthier.)
Tea processing does change the health benefits that each kind of tea offers. As more research is published, we may be able to discuss this more fully – especially in regards to which category of tea might be more beneficial to different individuals. But it is important to note that food and drug regulatory boards around the world do not allow tea to be advertised and sold as a drug or a treatment for specific health issues.
- All tea has equal health benefits, so buy the least expensive. (The healthiest tea is the freshest and least degraded by poor packaging or inadequate storage.)
As tea leaves are manipulated to make processing more convenient and less expensive, the health benefits are, most certainly compromised. As the cells of the leaves are broken and crushed so that they can be easily packaged into teabags, the fragile elements are lost. The care taken to preserve whole leaves actually preserves the cell structure in which elements of flavor, aroma and nutrition are stored and protected.
- Drinking tea can help you lose weight. (Drinking tea can increase metabolism and energy to encourage more activity, and can also replace high calorie beverages.)
As a personal opinion, I believe that there are many ways that incorporating tea drinking into a healthy lifestyle can be an asset in a weight loss program and hope to share some of these thoughts with you in the near future. But I would never want to promote the idea that simply drinking tea over any other beverage would lead to a significant loss of weight.
- Black tea has the most caffeine and white tea the least. (It is nearly impossible to predict the amount of caffeine in brewed tea. White tea with a high percentage of whole buds may contain more caffeine than black tea.)
The amount of caffeine in any cup of tea is not determined by the lightness or darkness of the liquor. There are many factors that we will discuss more completely in a later chapter of this re-write. The original, Everything Healthy Tea Book, explored caffeine in Chapter 4. So, as we are doing with all the original material, we will add to and update this discussion.
- Decaffeinated tea is completely free of caffeine. (It is impossible to remove all caffeine from tea. There will always be a trace amount, usually less than 5 percent.)
Not much to add to this “myth buster” except to note that there is a lot more to add to the discussion of caffeine in tea that I will share in the re-write of the original Chapter 4 focusing on this topic.
- Tea bags are filled with “dust” swept from the factory floor. (Tea “dust” is a byproduct of tea production, where the leaves that have broken or been ground into a dust-like powder are used to fill tea bags for quick infusion.)
In tea processing plants, one of the machines for sorting fresh tea leaves actually blows a puff of air to separate the dust from the larger pieces of leaf. Each various size of broken leaf represents a different grade with specific value in tea products. Even the dust!
- Green tea is bitter. (Green tea has more astringency than other teas and can be bitter if it is brewed improperly. If brewed correctly, it can be very sweet.)
Green tea can be bitter. And some tea drinkers come to crave that flavor and seek out teas with that flavor profile and brew it to maximize those properties. So, there is nothing inherently wrong with this flavor. It’s just a personal preference. On the other hand, when brewed with cooler water (not boiling) or even cold brewing, many green teas can be very sweet. And some green tea blends – blended with herbs and flowers – become even more interesting by balancing the contrast. Consider the traditional jasmine and green tea blends as well as green teas with citrus flavors like lemon grass.
- Tea causes dehydration. (An astringent green tea can sometimes leave a feeling of dryness in the mouth, but this has been shown to cause only slightly more fluid loss than water.)
The overwhelming body of research continues to find that tea does not cause significant dehydration and that it can be counted as a meaningful amount of fluid toward essential daily intake.
The Institute of Medicine recommends that “unless additional evidence becomes available indicating cumulative total water deficits in individuals with habitual intakes of significant amounts of caffeine, caffeinated beverages appear to contribute to the daily total water intake similar to that contributed by non-caffeinated beverages.” (Institute of Medicine: A nonprofit organization established in 1970 as a component of the US National Academy of Sciences)
Caffeine exerted a minor diuretic effect which was negated by exercise. Concerns regarding unwanted fluid loss associated with caffeine consumption are unwarranted particularly when ingestion precedes exercise. (J Sci Med Sport. 2015 Sep; 18(5): 569–574. Published online 2014 Aug 9. doi: [10.1016/j.jsams.2014.07.017])
What’s Healthy About Tea – INDEX
- Babette’s Personal Welcome
- Book Introduction
- Busting Ten Top Tea Myths
CHAPTER 1: WHAT IS TEA?
- A 5000 Year Old Medicine
- The Second Most Popular Beverage
- Camellia sinensis – True Tea
- Six Kinds of Tea – Only One Plant
- From The Leaf To The Cup
- Harvesting Tea