Tea, which has been enjoyed in China for well over 2,000 years, is available in many different forms depending on the level of fermentation. Green tea is unfermented, while yellow, white, oolong and black tea are slightly, mildly, semi- and completely fermented respectively. Dark teas, such as Pu’erh, are post-fermented.
This fermentation not only affects flavour, but also antioxidant capacity. An analysis of 30 different teas found that green and yellow teas had much higher antioxidant abilities than the other types. The fermentation process includes enzymes and microbes that break down these antioxidants. Unlike green tea, the enzymes already present in white tea at low levels are never inactivated by steaming.
Antioxidants are made by plants to protect themselves against harm and everyday wear and tear; they may aid human health in the same manner too. Some found in tea, such as EGCG, are stronger than vitamins C and E. All 30 of the tested samples contained varying levels of caffeine too, which can boost metabolism and provides a stimulant effect. If you cannot tolerate caffeine, there are plenty of herbal “teas” (properly known as tisanes) out there that taste great. It’s important to remember that some compounds in tea can reduce absorption of nutrients such as protein and minerals too, so keep tea away from meals if you’re iron deficient or underweight.
All teas regardless of antioxidant capacity can be a great substitution for sugary drinks, as long as you don’t over-sweeten it. Which type do you prefer?