Types of Teas and Health
Types of Tea Bushes
Real tea as I call it, derives only from the bush named - Thea Camellia Sinensis.
Originally there were two distinctive tea Jats that were identified,
Assam jat growing wild in India - large fleshy leaf variety - Basis of the many high yielding Vegatative Plant cuttings = V.P.
China jat growing in China - small tough leaf variety - basis of the Darjeeling area and the leaves whilst small and lower yielding produce greater character in manufacture.
From these two Jats seed & cuttings taken from these original jats were transferred to different districts in China, India, Ceylon and later to other countries. these jats then adapted & mutated to different types of those jats, changed by soil, weather & elevation influences on the plants.
Other Infusions Called Teas:
Unfortunately a number of commercial names have probably confused consumers but I will list here some of the names used and the variety of products erroneously termed teas:
In France the word Tisane is used to identify what are often called Herbal teas such as Chamomile, Peppermint and Rooibos or Red bush.
The trade also invented another word - Speciality Teas - These are either teas that have pieces of fruit or flowers added to them and often in the case of tea bag teas merely have a flavour added to the leaf by mist spraying in a revolving drum.
To me Speciality teas are one that are created in very special weather periods such as 1st. flush Darjeeling or Western & Uva Seasonal quality teas.
Fruit Teas - These are created without any tea whatsoever and are merely pieces of fruit or fruits that will create an infusion with the addition of hot water.
Flavouring of Teas:
In the flavouring of a tea such as Earl Grey it is very important to understand the different qualities of flavouring used.
Artificial flavours which are the cheapest, are created from extracts taken from insects and some unrelated plants.
Nature identical flavours are more expensive and a combination of artificial and Natural flavour sources.
Natural flavours are taken from the natural fruits that they relate to such as Bergamot which is extracted from the skin of a fruit rather like a pear in Turkey.
We always use Natural flavours in all our flavoured teas.
Black teas are withered first to bring the leaf to a supple stage which will allow the leaf to be twisted in the traditional twist rollers and even if the leaf is to be rotorvaned it will normally have one charge in a twist roller first. Afyter rolling and extracting the dhools the leaf is placed on a cool surface and this maybe an area of concrete floor kept for this purpose or special fermenting (oxidising) tables in a series of shelves. The leaf is spread to a maximum of about 2 inches and the oxidisation changes the colour of the rolled leaf from green to a coppery colour which may take up to 3 hours. Once the tea-maker has achieved the correct colour he requires and state of oxidation he will send the leaf to the dryer wher it is fired at about 212 degrees F which equates to the boiling point of water. Firing stops further oxidisation and reduces the noisture level to 2 % which ensures a good keeping quality so long as the tea is not exposed to the atmosphere.
The leaf is usually brought straight into the factory and charged in a large drum with steam injected into it where the leaf is softened for the next process. the Japanese and Chinese use a special small steel roller with steel moulded ridges in teh bottom instead of teh wooden battens used in black tea production. After rolling the leaf can be part fired and sent to a balling drum for Gunpowder production. the balling drum circulates whilst adding heat at a prescribed temperature to the leaf causing it to roll into the classic shot shape. Other tpes of green teas are usually part fired to reduce the final moisture level which is slightly higher than for black teas.
White Tea - Silver Tips or Silver Needles:
The purest form of white tea is the Silver Tip. Ideally a special variant of the tea bush should be used which has slightly purple leaves instead of light green leaves. This variant has been adapted to grow excellent long fat buds and only these buds are harvested by specially skilled pluckers who are sent into the small plots where this expensive form of tea is grown early in the morning whilst the mist is still lying over the tea fields. The mist which is damp & cold makes the bud raise the long silvery hairs that lie around the bud to protect it until they are erect. The buds are then placed in special trays and usually sun dried. The caffeine level is at this stage low. Whilst the processing sounds simple, the plucking is very expensive as normally a plucker can pluck some 40 to 50 kilos of green leaf in good growing conditions and she will receive a bonus above a decreed Norm or weight. With the buds it is hard for the good pluckers to achieve 250 to 300 g of buds in a days plucking before the sun rises and therefore they have to be compensated with a bonus.
The problem that arises with the marketing of White tea is that there are different types of White and some forms of White include the first leaf below the bud such as Pai Mu. The consumer needs to understand these variants of White tea and the fact that some are cheaper than others to produce.
Furthermore we have seen the development of White Tea tea bags and when many of these are examined they are in fact some small buds with cut leaf or small grade leaf in which would reduce the price dramatically.
Even more unacceptable in my view we have seen the development of White tea liquid teas where the extract has been taken from the form of tea or bud and canned or bottled as White tea. Unless some form of authentication can be devised and required of the commercial interests who hawk these products upon the advantages declared for the real White teas, I would never touch them personally.
Health Related Research
In the first early research projects about tea and several of these were conducted in Japan, it was the green tea that was carefully looked into and green tea was found to have a high level of antioxidants known as catechins. these Catechins were over time shown to have beneficial effects on the human body eventually showing that they in some way could protect the body from developing certain cancers. this research started some 30 years ago.
At that time it was supposed that because black tea went through a different process with longer fermentation & firing, that black tea was inferior to green tea. Later researches showed that black teas did in fact have lower levels of catechins but they they had high levels of other flavanoids such as Theaflavins (TF's) & Thearubigins (TR's) which are converted from Catechins in black tea production. It was then shown by Yoshino et al (1994) & Catterall et all (1998) that these TF's & TR's were even more beneficial in certain health conditions.
The result is that to day both Green and black teas are now declared to be equally beneficial to the human system. TR's in particular reduce the damage to DNA by chemical carcinogens Lodovicci et al (2000) and Gupta et al (2001).
Whilst the press media and certain commercial interests who have access to cheaper green teas still maintain that green teas are more beneficial, the scientific community promote both teas as highly beneficial.
Just as the argument raged for many years over suggesting that people should not consume butter but consume vegetable margarins and then raged back again showing that butter was not in fact the enemy that it was at first thought to be, we shall get further areas of research showing more qualities of these two teas and each will be reported as a new flash of news until both teas are evaluated in the same area of research.
Dr. Tissa Amarakoon in his summary of 'Tea for Health' booklet gives the total Anti-oxidant capacity of teas:
Expressed as the Oxygen Radical Absorance Capacity (ORAC) as micromol of Trolox equivalent per g of dry matter:
Green tea is shown as having 800 and Black tea is shown as having just over 900.
White teas do appear to have a high antioxidant level and there is some suggestion that they have lower levels of caffeine.
Latest Comments About Milk with Tea:
A recent paper suggested evidence had been found that it was best to consume tea without the addition of milk. The research seemed to show some evidence that the fats in the milk were being deposited in the linings of arteries in some cases. As yet this is one paper and until it is researched in much greater detail the evidence will not be accepted but I have always suggested that to get the best from a quality tea it is best consumed plain and without the addition of anything including lemon. After all if you require a citrus flavour to your tea drink a Lover's Leap F.B.O.P. grade seasonal quality tea and you will find the flavour you seek.
Summary of Correspondence received from the TRI on Caffeine levels in Ceylon Teas and the Health Benefits of Black v's Green Teas
Three letters from 2002 to 2008 were received from Tissa Amarakoon (Deputy Director Research (Technology) at the tea Research Institute of Sri Lanka - Talawakelle in reply to our queries about the subjects below:
The comments below supports my advice that Orthodox large leaf tea grades such as P & O.P. or O.P.1 have much lower caffeine levels.
Grade of Tea As % wt/wt
O.P (Orange Pekoe) 1.3
B.O.P.F. (Quality Tea bags) 3.1
Dust. No. 12.9
CTC modern manufacture:
Grade of Tea Mg / 120 ml
O.P (Orange Pekoe) 33.7
B.O.P.F. (Quality Tea bags) 77.6
Dust. No. 72.8
CTC modern manufacture:
Extraction: 2.5g of tea in 120 ml boiling water for 5 minutes.
Tea leaves contain 2 - 5 % wt/wt caffeine. The caffeine content of a typical tea beverage could range from 20 - 70 mg per 170 ml of infusion, with a typical infusion being prepared from 2 to 2.5 g of tea.
Caffeine content in made tea does not depend on the method of processing or vary according to grades. It depends on the amount of caffeine in the starting material (green leaf). However the quantity of caffeine infused in a tea brew depends on particle size. Smaller particles such as the CTC method teas give a more rapid and stronger infusion, whereas larger leaves and uncut leaves lead to a weaker infusion.
Region or District: wt/wt
Nuwara Eliya (High grown) 2.7
Up Country e.g Dimbula 3.3
Mid Country e.g. Kandy 3.7
Low Country e.g. Morawak Korale 4.9
These are results taken from made tea and samples do vary.
Comments as an opinion of Robert Wilson:
Uruwala which is situated in the Low Country and the district of Morawak Korale (Ruhunu) concentrate on the big leaf O.P.'s which result in lower caffeine than a B.O.P. from this area. However recently with the interrupted supply of CTC leaf from Kenya, buyers have been encouraging Ceylon tea estates to supply smaller grades & even CTC manufacture for their commercial blended teas because the smaller grades produce thicker more malty brews.
Health Benefits of Tea:
Before answering your specific questions I would like to make a general comment on health benefits of tea. A question very often raised is whether any particular type of tea gives better health benefits than another type of tea?
Most of the health benefits attributed to tea are due to the polyphenols found in tea. However, unlike with drugs, the difference in response to different doses of polyphenols is very small (with drugs a small difference in dose could result in a very big difference in the response). Therefore, teas with higher polyphenol contents give only very slightly better benefits.
1. Black tea v's Green tea - Review of research on black and green teas shows that both types have similar benefits.
2. Addition of milk - Scientific studies carried out so far have shown that the addition of milk does not reduce the health benefits of tea except for a recent study. In this particular experiment improvement of the function of the inner lining of arteries was studied. It was found that the addition of milk reduced the magnitude of improvement.
3. Do the benefits reduce if brewed leaf is kept in the pot. The answer is no. Studies with populations who practice this habit (such as the Chinese) show that benefits are not reduced.
4. Change of benefits during the seasons - During the dry season higher concentrations of polyphenols are found. However, as mentioned above, changes in benefits due to this are small.
5. Age of the bush from last pruning - With the age of the bush from the last pruning the polyphenol concentration increases. Again the differences in benefits due to this are small.
6. VP v's Seedling and different clones - As in the above the differences are small.
7. Silver Tips (Silver Needles) - These tips contain more polyphenols than the other leaves. Again the differences due to this fact are very small.
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