By Nancy Mehlert, MS
When I was a girl, tea was a beverage reserved for very refined people, often of British origin, to be had late in the afternoon. I hated it when my mom told me we had to go to someone’s house for tea. It was not my idea of fun because it usually meant putting on nicer clothes and good behavior. Today, it has become a very popular drink and it is one of my favorites! While the tea section at the grocery store contains all kinds of herbal infusions and botanicals, by definition, “tea” must come from the Camellia sinensis plant. All tea, whether white, green, oolong, black or pu’erh comes from this same plant.
As we address anxiety in this newsletter, I want to immediately point out that the ideal tea to promote calm and health is Chinese and Japanese Green Teas from the Camellia sinensis plant. Organic varieties are recommended and these teas contain a rich amount of theanine, an amino acid that produces a relaxed, yet alert state of calm when consumed. So if calm is what you want, green tea is your go to option. Several brand names to check out include The Republic of Tea Organic Double Green Matcha Tea, The Tea Spot, Arbor Teas, and Rishi Tea. These companies all offer a wide variety of Chinese and Japanese green teas that are organic, calming, antioxidant rich and very satisfying.
Now for those of you interested in learning a little more about teas, or getting a good dose of caffeine, here’s the rest of the story…..
Once the tender leaf has been plucked from the Camellia sinensis plant, a process of drying, withering, rolling and heat treatment takes place to make the various types of tea.
White Teas are picked as young buds enclosed in very young leaves and are the least processed and also release the least amount of caffeine of all teas (10-15 milligrams per 8 ounce cup). Their flavor is very delicate and sometimes difficult to detect.
Green tea leaves are plucked and ideal for brewing on the same day. Green tea leaves are not allowed to oxidize which helps to retain a very low caffeine content 25-35 milligrams of caffeine per 8 ounce cup), a dark natural green color, theanine, tannins, vitamin C, Chlorophyll and minerals.
Oolong teas are semi-oxidized. The leaves are withered, rolled and then partially oxidized and then fired in a pan to stop oxidation. Sometimes they are smoked to impart flavor to the tea as well. Caffeine on first steeping is 30-50 milligrams per 8 ounce cup but dramatically reduces if the same leaves are steeped a second or third time.
Black teas are fully oxidized and very popular in the western world for the caffeine punch ranging from 40-60 milligrams of caffeine per 8 ounce cup. These leaves are withered, rolled and crushed, which activates the oxidation process. Then they are oven fired to stop oxidation.
Pu’erh teas are first fermented with a semi-fermented green tea, followed by a secondary fermentation for six months where the tea is kept in a warm, humid environment allowing beneficial bacteria and fungal microflora to flourish. It is an ideal health drink and is has been suggested to improve digestion, increase saliva production, dispel the effects of alcohol and refresh the mind. These teas are very dark. It too has a caffeine punch of 60-70 miligrams of caffeine per 8 ounce cup.
All teas from the camellia sinensis plant have essential oils that provide the flavor and aroma of teas. They are rich in antioxidants and also offer small amounts of vitamins, minerals and amino acids including the rare L theanine molecule found in only three foods, two of which are teas listed here. Teas also have enzymes and the methylxanthines which are the alkaloid family that includes caffeine.
So whether you want to kick things up a bit or calm them down, enjoy a cup of tea, and by all means, relax and come as you are.
www.livestrong.com/Foods Rich in Theanine, 8/19/2010