Two of my favorite chemicals are coffee and tea. There is so much chemistry going on behind the scenes of a nice hot cup of tea or coffee.
Today, I want to talk more about the scientific reasons tea is good for you!
Winter is the perfect season to up your tea consumption (try one of these awesome winter teas)! It is cold outside and tea is a natural, healthy option to warm you up.
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First, where exactly does tea come from?
Aside from herbal teas, which can be infused with almost anything, there are four main types of tea: green tea, white tea, black tea, and oolong tea. These teas come from a plant called Camellia sinensis. Depending on how the tea leaves are processed, you will get different tea forms.
If you are wondering about Rooibos tea, that comes from a different plant. It is a great option for different flavor infusions, but not technically a traditional tea since it doesn’t come from a tea plant.
There is so much interesting detail that goes into harvesting tea, oxidizing the leaves, and creating the tea we all love to drink.
Today, I will just be focusing on the scientific reasons tea is good for you including all the chemical benefits since that is what we do on Chemistry Cachet 🙂
The Main Chemicals Found in Tea
There are a few chemicals that fall under this category. Caffeine is an abundant methyxanthine in tea. Theobromine and theophylline are also in this category, although much less. Theobromine being the smallest amount.
Do you remember this post we did way back about reasons why dogs can’t have chocolate? I mentioned the name theobromine in there. This is found in chocolate too! Dogs cannot break down this chemical which is why they can’t eat chocolate.
This is also found in tea (as well as coffee in small amounts).
Are there health benefits of methylxanthines?
Scientifically, these chemicals are known to be relaxants. In fact, theophylline is known to be a good treatment for asthma and respiratory diseases since it can open air ways. Which is also why when you are sick with a sore throat or congestion, tea makes you feel better almost instantly.
Polyphenols have gotten popular the last few years as far as the terminology. They are found in many plant based foods, including tea. They have been known to fight cancer cells, combat inflammation, protect skin against UV rays, promote healthy blood pressure, and even help with the aging of skin.
The main polyphenols found in tea include catechins, theaflavins, flavonoids, and tannins.
Amino acids come from the tea leaf itself and are the building blocks of life. Their benefits are endless! Everything from building a stronger immune system, better skin, to building muscles and fighting cancer.
The most common amino acids found in tea include: Arginine, L-Theanine, Aminoglutaric acid, and Asparaginic acid.
White is better: black, green, oolong or white tea?
All these teas come from the same plant. They are all processed differently which affects the nutritional aspect.
Black tea leaves are fermented which gives the dark color and results in more caffeine. Oolong is like black tea although just partially fermented. Green tea leaves are just dried or steamed, keeping the green color. White tea is made from new buds or the young leaves of the plant. These leaves are steamed, then dried.
White tea has a much milder flavor compared to the other two.
Most of my scientific research shows green tea and white tea to be the highest in catechins which is a group of antioxidants. Catechins have been proven to help with blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health.
They have also been scientifically tested to be more powerful than many minerals and vitamins. Per this article from the Harvard Health Publications, green tea is one of the best sources for catechins
Green and white tea are the least processed which is why they have the highest level of health benefits. This scientific articles explains how green tea has the highest L-theanine levels
Black tea is still good for you, it just isn’t in the most optimum state.
Chemist Tips on Drinking Tea
What about decaffeinated tea?
We have talked about the science behind decaffeinating drinks on this post. It is important to read this if you are a decaf fan. The best way to drink tea without caffeine would be to try herbal teas which come from many herbs like peppermint, chamomile, lemon grass or ginger (also this delicious sugar cookie tea is an herbal tea!)
I absolutely love coffee in the mornings! Tea is something I enjoy throughout the day for health reasons. There are just so many scientifically proven reasons to drink tea!
If you love coffee, don’t worry, it is pretty good for you too since it is a natural occurring chemical.