We at Terroir® get asked about the beneficial properties of our teas quite often. So what is it about tea that makes it good for you?
We’re not doctors so we won’t make any medical claims, but we will share with you what’s in the leaves and what the experts say are the health benefits of drinking tea.
The major properties of tea are polyphenols, alkaloids and protids. There are two classes of polyphenols: tannins and flavonoids. Tannins contribute to the flavour profile of tea and make it pleasant to drink. Flavonoids are a phytochemical compound that provides antioxidant activity and antioxidants fight free radicals, the cause of many diseases. Flavonoids are a class of polyphenols and these terms are often used interchangeably when discussing the health benefits of tea.
Catechins are a type of antioxidant found in flavonoids and the highest quantities are in green tea and white tea. Catechins are said to have the potential to fight cancers and heart disease. And don’t forget about oolong! Various studies conducted have revealed that the polyphenol compound found in oolong increases metabolism, burns fat, and blocks dietary fat absorption. And if that wasn’t significant enough, tea leaves have even more to offer.
EGCG is the antioxidant found in green tea and some people say it is 100 times more powerful than vitamin C or vitamin E. During black tea processing, EGCG polymerizes with ECG, EGC and EC during oxidation and creates two additional antioxidants in the form of polymeric polyphenols called theaflavins and thearubigins. Most of the antioxidants found in black teas are theaflavins and thearubigins (which are larger), while green and white teas contain primarily smaller catechins.
There are three types of alkaloids in tea leaves: Theine (caffeine), Theobromine and Theophylline. We all know that caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, but Theobromine and Theophylline are part of the methyl-xanthine family that both stimulates brain activity and relaxes the body. Theobromine is a powerful diuretic and is said to lower blood pressure because it can dilate blood vessels. It is similar to caffeine in that it has stimulant properties, but it doesn’t affect the central nervous system. Theophylline is a respiratory stimulant and is often used in asthma medication. Overall, alkaloids can enhance well being by being both stimulating and relaxing.
So tea has antioxidants that are said to help fight free radicals that cause disease and alkaloids that could enhance your general well being. What else could there possibly be in this plant? Protids, namely amino acids and proteins.
L-Theanine is a powerful amino acid that only appears in the leaves of Camellia Sinensis. It is said to boost alpha wave activity in the brain, which promotes a state of relaxed concentration. L-theanine is most highly concentrated in the newest growth of tea leaves. A high quality loose leaf tea will contain the most L-theanine, and the very highest levels are usually found in green and white teas. And when proteins breakdown they play a major role in forming how tea smells. Technically an aroma isn’t a health benefit, but we know that when we smell something pleasant it certainly makes us feel better.
FAQs about caffeine
How much caffeine is in my tea?
On average, tea leaves contain 3% caffeine by weight, although this can range from 1.4% to 4.5%. Many factors determine the caffeine content in the dry leaf, such as soil chemistry, altitude, varietal, position of the leaf on the tea bush, cultivation practices and withering.
Young bud and first leaf generally have slightly more caffeine than leaves picked from the lower part of the tea bush. Bud 6.3%; first flush 4.6%; second flush 3.6%; two leaves & a bud 4.2%; third flush 3.1%; fourth flush 2.7%; and leaf stalk 2.0%.
The leaves from Camellia Sinensis Assamica varietal have higher caffeine levels than the small leaf from Camellia Sinensis var Sinensis.
Does black tea have the most caffeine?
Oxidation does not increase the amount of caffeine in tea. The greatest impact on caffeine content is the water temperature and length of steeping time. Black, oolong, green and white tea leaves have similar caffeine content, but a tea steeped for five minutes in boiling water will transfer more caffeine to the cup than a tea steeped for two minutes at 80C:
• 57-58mg of caffeine per 7oz (white, green, oolong or black tea)
It’s actually difficult to say how much caffeine is in the various tea types as it is dependent on the plant varietals used, growing methods and leaves selected, all of which have an impact on caffeine levels.
Is it true you can make decaf tea by infusing for 30 seconds and tossing out the infusion?
No. Caffeine is released over time. Depending on the style of leaves you’re infusing you might only be getting a fraction of the caffeine, especially for semi-ball rolled oolong as the leaves that take time to unfurl. You are essentially only rinsing the leaves – which we recommend doing for 10 seconds for oolongs – but you’re certainly not making a decaffeinated tea.
For a naturally decaffeinated beverage you must switch from tea to tisane.