Did you know that green, black, oolong and white tea are all derived from the same plant?! It's called Camellia sinensis, and it is known as the tea plant. If you have "tea" from any other plant (i.e., hibiscus flowers), it's not truly tea at all, it just gets labeled tea because of the way it's generally steeped.
So if they all come from the same plant, how are they different?
One of the main differentiating factors between these types of tea is the degree of oxidation that it undergoes. During oxidation, the tea leaves are exposed to the air and undergo enzymatic changes.
Black tea is fully oxidized, while oolong tea is semi-oxidized, and green & white tea are lightly oxidized. As a result of this processing, each has varying levels of antioxidants and caffeine.
All teas from Camellia sinensis naturally have caffeine, with black tea being the richest in caffeine. And it's commonly said that green tea is richest in antioxidants and while that is likely true, each type has some incredible benefits. Here are a few of our favorite fun tea facts:
- Green tea is a great source of epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a potent antioxidant that has been named responsible for green tea's incredible health benefits. EGCG has strong anti-proliferative effects when it comes to cancer cells, meaning that it can play a role in cancer treatment & prevention. It's could even reduce the risk of neurological damage associated with conditions like Alzheimer's disease. Green tea has even been linked with supporting a healthy gut!
- Theaflavins are a polyphenol found in black tea that have been found to fight free radical damage. This is important because excess free radicals lead to cellular damage and inflammation. Although theavflavins don't seem to have the wide range of benefits ECGC has, they are still incredible antioxidants and absolutely a health-promoting food!
- White tea is actually picked when the plant is still young and is the least processed of all.
- Like coffee, green or black tea will give you an energy boost, but often, without the jitters that frequently come with coffee. The reason for this is an amino acid in tea called L-theanine. L-theanine slows that caffeine jolt, leading to a calmer (not sleepy!), longer-term energy boost. It reduces the jitteriness that frequently comes with coffee consumption.