A cupful of goodness
We all know that sitting down to drink a cup of tea is good for the soul, but what about tea’s health properties? While having a cup of tea isn’t a cure-all for ails, there are a number of benefits to drinking tea which we often overlook. There have been over 5,600 scientific studies of tea, according to the Tea Association of the USA*; here, we summarise just a few of the benefits.
Four ways that drinking a cup of tea can be good for you
Tea contains antioxidants, which protect your body’s cells from damage by neutralising free radicals. An important antioxidant is epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) which is the primary antioxidant in green tea (and in particular, in matcha green tea, in which it has the highest concentration). Research is showing us that EGCG may be linked with helping to prevent or improving cancer outcomes, boosting your immune system, supporting brain health, reducing cholesterol and supporting weight-loss. The lesser powerful, but still important theaflavins and thearubigins found in black tea also have antioxidant properties that support your immune system. Extensive research suggests the antioxidant properties of all tea types may help reduce the risk of cancer.
Tea helps balance and relax us. L-theanine, found in tea, is a particularly clever amino acid, which has been shown to help to improve cognitive performance and mental focus and induce a state of calm – so there is science behind why we feel so nicely relaxed and focused after a good cuppa.
Tea contains important vitamins and minerals. In the dried leaf, you’ll find a number of vitamins (A, B Complex, C, K, E) and minerals potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus and calcium. But only certain vitamins and minerals are transferred in a meaningful way into a brewed cup of tea. As the tea is brewed, many of the vitamins and minerals are lost, but B Complex (important for helping convert food into energy), potassium (important for muscle and nerve function) and magnesium (important for general body function) do make it into the final brew, giving additional vitamin and mineral benefits to your daily diet.
Tea helps us focus. We all know that tea has caffeine, but what most people don’t know is why we feel different after drinking a cup of tea compared with how we feel after drinking a cup of coffee. For many, coffee gives an instant hit of energy with a sharp drop soon after, whereas tea-drinkers will talk about feeling a little sharper, in a way that feels self-sustaining. Why is this the case? Whilst the amount of caffeine in tea changes depending on growing and processing conditions, the age of tea and steeping time, it is generally considered that tea has around a third of the caffeine of coffee. But it’s not just the amount that counts: where it gets interesting is that caffeine in tea attaches to the tannins in tea and then flows through your circulatory system, stimulating your nervous system. The result is a sharpened mind, increased concentration and reduced fatigue – in an even, regular way. By contrast, the caffeine in coffee goes straight into your coronary system (your heart) and acts as an ‘excitant’, quickly accelerating your heartrate.
The key thing to remember is that the health properties of tea will vary depending on where and how it is grown, which leaves are plucked and how it is processed. The beauty of tea is that every batch is unique and different to the one that came before it. This also means you can never state with absolute assurance each tea’s exact properties; but we can celebrate the general benefits that can be found in every cup of tea.
So when it’s time for your next tea-break, pour yourself a cup of premium quality loose leaf tea and sip away in quiet contentment, knowing you’re nourishing both your body and your mind.
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*Keating, B and Long, K. (2015) How to make tea: the science behind the leaf. United Kingdom: Quattro UK