Like a has-been who makes a successful dramatic comeback, bubble tea has sprung up from the pits in Singapore, Malaysia and other Asian nations to become the “in” drink that defines one’s “coolness.” It has recently invaded the UK, Europe and it probably won’t be long before Americans buy into this trend hook, line and sinker. Bubble tea - that colorful frothy beverage combined with milk or fruit flavors and laden with little sticky balls made from tapioca - is bound to be the next caffeinated cool drink.
However, the health benefits of bubble tea aren’t guaranteed. Although it is tea-based, a 16-oz cup contains 360 calories, mostly coming from sugar, compared to the two calories of a cup of brewed green or black tea.
Among the real, honest-to-goodness teas, green tea is currently the most popular, and with good reason. It has earned bragging rights as the type of tea that offers the most health benefits and studies have shown that green tea contains more of the flavonoid catechin and the vitamins and minerals than the other types of teas. Flavonoids act as antioxidants, hunting down the free radicals that are believed to aid in the growth of carcinogenic cells, especially cancers of the bladder, lungs, breast, ovaries, colon, rectum, prostate, pancreatic and skin cancer.
As antioxidants, flavonoids also decrease the amount of LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides, reducing the risk of developing heart diseases and strokes. It possesses anti-inflammatory qualities, boosting the body’s immune system and protecting it from infections. Green tea helps prevent or delay the onset of diseases related to the aging process, such as osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, degenerative arthritis and Parkinson’s disease. The catechins in green tea also help in the prevention of tooth decay.
Teas differ from each other only by the processing procedure. Black tea is the most oxidized among the types of teas and for this reason black tea can retain its flavor for several years. Made from wilted and fully oxidized tea leaves, the processing produces another kind of antioxidant not found in green tea - theaflavin.
Initial studies have shown that theaflavins are more potent than catechins in halting HIV replication activities and holding off age-induced dementia. Black tea also helps lower blood cholesterol and simulates the action of insulin, thereby preventing diabetes. As an antioxidant that scavenges free radicals, it reduces oxidation stress after intense anaerobic exercise, helping the body fight against cancer.
Even with the emerging popularity of green tea, black tea is still the most common type of tea beverage in the US and Europe.
The difference between oolong tea from green and black teas is the semi-fermentation process that oolong teas undergo. Oolong tea comes in many varieties and the degree of processing depends on the variety used and the production method.
Oolong tea is best known for its weight loss benefits, as its fat-burning properties are 157 percent greater than that of green tea. It plays an important role in the control and inhibition of allergies, eczema and premature hair loss by enhancing the function of the enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD), which protects the skin from being damaged by the free radicals. Other benefits from oolong tea are the prevention of atherosclerosis by controlling the build-up of plaque in the arteries, promotion of metabolism and its antiviral and antibacterial properties.
Tea fanatics would say herbal tea, or tisane, does not deserve the “tea” label, and rightly so, because herbal tea is not made from the camellia sinensis plant. It is a brew that comes from fresh or dried leaves, flowers, seeds and roots from other herbs, most commonly ginger, chamomile, mint, jasmine, hibiscus, rooibos and rosehip.
The antioxidant properties of herbal tea are not as potent as those found in teas that come from the tea bush, but herbal tea is still consumed for its medicinal benefits. As aromatherapy, herbal tea leaves should be steeped in boiling water for a few minutes, after which the lid should be taken off so that the aroma of whatever type of tea leaf can permeate throughout the room. Herbal teas come from different plants and offer different benefits. Herbal tea is consumed mostly for its de-stressing, stimulating and sedative effects. Here are some of the more common herbal teas and their health benefits:
- Peppermint tea – relieves abdominal bloating, nausea, toothache, bad breath, colds and cramps; helps in asthma control and stress relief.
- Ginger tea – relieves the symptoms of motion sickness like nausea and cold sweat, acts as an aid to digestion and treats headaches and muscle pain.
- Chamomile tea – acts as a sedative to combat insomnia and has a calming effect on the mind and body; does not contain caffeine.
- Rooibos tea – rich in antioxidants and flavonoids, it is used to treat headaches, mild depression and insomnia. It has a soothing effect on the nerves and helps in maintaining healthy skin by treating eczema, acne and other types of allergic dermatoses. The calcium in rooibos tea promotes strong bones and teeth.
- Hawthorn berry tea – helps in promoting heart functions and controls cholesterol levels to maintain normal limits.
Tea also contains caffeine in lesser amounts than coffee. Caffeine taken in moderate amounts enhances cognitive function and promotes alertness, but too much of it can cause palpitations and a nervous feeling. The caffeine in a regular cup of tea is approximately 20-48 mg, compared to the 90-150 mg in a same size cup of coffee. Since caffeine is addictive, choosing tea over coffee foils caffeine overload.
With all the choices of tea and the different benefits you get from them, you can drink a stimulating cup to kick-start your morning and end it with another cup that soothes and calms you after a stressful and hectic day.