So you want to start drinking tea, but how do you know which is the right tea for you?
Whether you’re drinking tea because you’re trying to reduce your caffeine intake from coffee, or because you’ve been sold on all the healthy benefits of tea, there no one “right” tea. Yes, research show some teas are better for certain wellness benefits than others, and we’ll explore that below, but the most important thing is just finding a tea you like.
Really, the best tea for you is the one you’ll drink.
Are you Drinking the Right Tea for You?
The first, and primary consideration when it comes to choosing a tea, is finding one you like the taste of; this way, you’ll be more likely to drink it and drink more of it. To find tea(s) you like can be trial and error–sometimes you may need to try a variety of origins, colors, and styles to find one you like. Another important factor to finding a tea you like is to make sure its brewed properly–not burned, not oversteeped, and not poor quality. In case you’re curious,
Lipton is poor quality. Spend a little more money and get a higher quality, fresher tea.
If you’re still struggling to find a tea you like the taste of, looking for blended or flavored teas may give you more variety of taste options. For example, tea can be blended with herbs, such as in Belight, or with fruits, flowers, spices, or dried coconut. Flavored teas may use essential oils (like Oil of Bergamot), artificial and natural flavors, or blending techniques (as with Jasmine Green), to alter or completely mask the original tea taste.
For many people, flavored and blended teas (like Belight) are a much easier way to ease into tea drinking. You, too, may be one of them.
Another important factor to consider is how much caffeine you can and do want in your tea, and this may change depending on the time of day.
Unfortunately, we can’t trust conventional charts on caffeine content–they are often gross generalizations, or just completely wrong. Very often white tea and certain types of green, in particular Japanese green teas, can have way more caffeine than darker teas. This becomes even more pronounced if the white tea has been steeped too hot or too long. For me, I’ve discovered I’m the most sensitive to the caffeine in white tea, finding my braining running on full power long past bedtime.
If you’re looking for something with less caffeine for the afternoon, try a blended tea, such as Belight that offers roughly half tea-half herbs in a tea bag, thus reducing the caffeine content for an equivalent pure tea by 50%. This may take some experimentation with different teas, but Pu-erh and Oolong my likewise offer less stimulation.
For the evening, going for a non-tea infusion such as Rooibos, or even an herbal tisane might be a wise choice. But just know, these have different properties and potential wellness benefits than tea.
If you’ve been drawn to tea by the numerous articles and studies being published touting the health benefits of tea, you’re in good company.
Tea has been shown to support wellness through its catechins, polyphenols, and well-known antioxidants like EGCG. Undoubtedly, tea also works through other unexplored compounds and pathways, including possibly affecting gut bacteria (Kemperman, et al 2013). Because tea all comes from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, there is a lot of overlap between the benefits offered by all types of tea. However, preliminary reseach has begun to suggest some teas may be more active on certain bodily systems than others.
Thus far, green tea has gotten the most attention for its ability to improve outcomes related to weight loss efforts, primarily through the catechins EGCG. In fact, all tea contains EGCG in varying amounts, though arguably the highest concentration exists in green or white tea.
Pu-erh tea has also been noted for its ability to improve weight management; researchers speculate this may be due to its effect on lipid metabolism and fat storage, or possibly through affecting gut bacteria, due to its fermentation process.
The caffeine in tea seems to improve energy expenditure, as well. Another important consideration when drinking tea for weight loss is whether you need to add milk, sugar, or honey to make the beverage enjoyable for you. If you’re adding calories to your beverage, you’re really canceling out any effects that may come from drinking tea. It comes back to choosing a tea that you like.
When it comes to preventing cancer or preventing recurrence, again, green tea has gotten all the attention, largely due to its high proportion of polyphenols. However, a research study compared the effects of green tea versus black tea and the location-specific concentration of catechins in cancerous prostate tissue (after it was removed) and found those taking black tea had as great concentration of anti-cancer catechins in the removed tissue (Henning, et al 2006).
For cardiovascular health, green tea is still getting all the press. But perhaps mistakenly so, as research in East Asia suggest regular pu-erh drinking can positively improve markers related to cholesterol, triglycerides, and lipid metabolism.
Of the benefits to wellness that tea offers, this one is perhaps the most subjective.
Nonetheless, the most commonly named tea for easing digestion, as well as my go-to, is pu-erh; in fact, it maybe particularly helpful after a heavy or greasy meal. Pu-erh-based Belight Tea also receives glowing reports in this regard.
Certain teas may optimize specific health benefits, but remember, all tea comes from the same plant, so finding a tea you like and drinking more tea in general is really the place to start.
Perhaps the most overlooked factor when choosing the right tea for you is seasonal or temperature. Do you prefer to drink tea with “warming” properties in the winter and “cooling” properties in the summer? Do you look for fresh-picked spring first flush tea, oftentimes with their more vegetal or floral notes? Those types of tea can feel like spring in the cup and really help to embrace the season, whereas a smoky dark might go better fireside in the middle of winter. There is no reason why you need to drink the same type of tea all year round, choose what works for your mood and season.
Keeping some of these factors in mind may help you while you’re exploring tea and finding ones you like. Whether you’re looking to tea for a wellness drink, full of antioxidants and all other kinds of health goodness, or just an enjoyable beverage, what really matters is finding one that you like, that suits your mood, taste, and the time of day.
Venture out, have fun, taste, try, explore.
Maybe Belight Tea should be on that list.