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Well and Good: Tea Time

You probably should be drinking more tea, and I don’t mean just the sweetened, iced kind favored by Texans (not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course.) Study after study has linked the consumption of tea to all kinds of health benefits – fighting cancer and heart disease and helping with weight loss, to name just a few.

Green tea, of course, has gotten the lion’s share of attention. But did you know that most kinds of tea have some great things going for them? Here’s a quick rundown of some of the popular varieties you can find in our bulk area:

Green tea: A longtime staple in Asian countries, mild green tea has exploded in popularity thanks to research that show it may help fight cancer, diabetes, strokes and heart disease, lower cholesterol, burn fat, and even diminish symptoms of aging like dementia. Research is still inconclusive, but the benefits seem to be associated with the antioxidants, called catechins, that are in green tea. Scientists also don’t agree on how much green tea you need to drink to obtain benefits; some think at least three cups every day are necessary.

Black tea: Black tea doesn’t have the health buzz, but it comes from the same plant as green tea; it’s just processed differently. Black tea does have fewer antioxidant properties than its green sibling. However, recent research has shown black tea may also help prevent many of the same maladies as green tea, including heart disease, stroke, and some cancers. And, it’s been associated with helping prevent such varied conditions as diarrhea, tooth decay and minor skin infections. Black tea has more caffeine than green tea, so if you’re sensitive to caffeine’s effects, or have high blood pressure, take notice.

Chai tea: This aromatic drink is largely black tea flavored with an aromatic blend of spices, which may include ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and cloves, so it’s thought to have many of the same health benefits as black tea.

White tea: This newly popular form of tea also comes from the same plant as green, black and oolong teas. However, white tea is made from immature tea leaves, plucked before the buds have opened. It is then minimally processed:  the tiny leaves are simply steamed. The flavor is more delicate than black tea and less “grassy” than some green teas, but it is associated with many of the same health benefits as green tea. In addition, it’s thought that white tea can help prevent dental decay and even fight off some infections and viruses.

Rooibus or red tea: Popular in South Africa, where it is known as Red Bush Tea, this is made from the leaves of an indigenous shrub. It has a mild taste and no caffeine, so it’s great for those with high blood pressure. In South Africa, it’s been traditionally used for health issues ranging from nervousness, headaches, indigestion, allergies and minor skin problems. It’s rich in polyphenols, a type of  antioxidant, and some studies indicate it may help modulate the immune system.