10 Great Health Benefits From Drinking Tea

People have been drinking tea for enjoyment for centuries. For just as long, tea drinkers have believed that tea is beneficial to one’s health. In ancient China, tea was thought to prevent liver disease and cleanse the body. Scientific studies in recent years have shown that there are true health benefits to gain from drinking tea. what can you do for yourself by drinking tea? Here are ten benefits:

1. Prevent ovarian cancer - A 15-year study of over 60,000 women in Sweden showed that drinking two cups of tea per day lowered the risk of ovarian cancer by 46%; drinking one cup of tea per day produced a 24% reduction.

2. Prevent weight gain - Every time you opt for a cup of tea instead of a sugary soft drink for your caffeine boost, you avoid up to 200 calories. Plain tea has zero calories (however, you will take in some calories if you add milk and sugar). And with a new study showing that just one to two soft drinks per day can raise your diabetes risk by 26%, choosing tea will significantly lower your risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

3. Increase metabolic rate - The caffeine and polyphenols in tea speed up your metabolism and increase efficiency of insulin uptake. There is also some evidence that drinking green tea can actually promote weight loss by increasing the rate of fat oxidation in the body. One study found that moderately obese patients who consumed a green tea extract experience a 4.6% weight loss over 3 months.

4. Strengthen bones - A study comparing tea drinkers to non-tea drinkers found that those who drank tea over 10 years or more had significantly stronger bones than the non-drinkers, even after adjusting for other risk factors.

5. Increase hydration - The rule of thumb on fluid intake used to be that caffeinated beverages didn’t count because caffeine acts as a diuretic. But recent research has found that in moderate amounts, caffeinated beverages increase your hydration too. And tea makes a tasty change from drinking nothing but water all day long.

6. Prevent stroke - A research paper presented at the 2009 Stroke Conference stated that drinking 3 or more cups of tea per day lowered the risk of stroke by 21%. This is thought to caused by the flavonoids in tea, which promote efficient dilation of blood vessels, and effective oxidation of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol.

7. Boost your immune system - Regular tea drinkers have been found to have up to five times the production of anti-bacterial proteins (T-cells) in their systems than non-tea drinkers. For this reason, tea is also thought to help boost the immune system of HIV-positive patients and other people with compromised immune systems.

8. Protect your teeth - The fluoride and tannins in tea help fight plaque in your mouth, and depresses bacteria growth, leading to sweeter breath. But beware -- adding sugar to your tea cancels this effect out.

9. Keep your mind sharp - A 2006 Japanese study showed that elderly people who drank 2 or more cups of green tea daily had a 50% lower rate of cognitive impairment than those who drank less tea, or other beverages.

10. Decrease your stress levels - The claim that a cup of tea is relaxing is not just advertising hype. Researchers at University College in London found that after doing stressful tasks, regular tea drinkers experienced a 20% faster rate of decrease in cortisol levels than those in the control group. Cortisol is a hormone produced by stress in the body, and high levels over time contribute to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and weight gain. In addition, the caffeine “buzz” from tea comes on over a period of about 15 minutes, leading to a gradual increase rather than the fast jolt one gets from coffee.

Many of the studies show that adding milk, sugar, sweeteners or lemon to the tea can inhibit some of these positive effects, so opting for unsweetened tea is the best choice. And whether you consume your tea hot or iced, make sure to brew it nice and hot to get the maximum amount of tannins (and flavor!).

It is important to note that these results all apply to either black or green tea made from the plant Camellia sinensis. Herbal teas may have other health benefits but do not contain true tea leaves. Both green and black teas have been shown to have various good effects on health, and a good option may be to mix up your intake between the two. Since green tea has a lower caffeine level than black tea, switching to green in the afternoon might be an option to prevent any interference with your sleep.

What Do Tea Grades Mean?

Tea is an evergreen plant that is indigenous to China and some regions of India. The word tea refers to both the plant itself and also to the infusion resulting from steeping in hot water. Women hand harvest the tea leaves and submit for size sorting and grading. Leaves are oxidized, fired, and sorted by passing them over vibrating screens of different mesh sizes to produce grades with even sized particles. Grading of tea refers to the leaf size and location of the leaf on the tea bush. It does not refer to flavor or quality of the tea. There are approximately fifteen hundred varieties of teas and nine grades of teas. Tea grading is not standardized between countries and the terminology may vary for green, black,and oolong teas, which are the three most popular varieties in the western world.

Following is a summary of each of the nine tea grades. Grades D and F refer to small particles and small broken leaves, remants from the sorting and crushing process, that are primarily used for tea bags. Dust and fannings make a particularly strong brew when placed in tea bags. Souchong tea is the largest leaf, closest to the bottom of the branch. It is a coarse leaf and that is why Souchong leaves are ideal for use for smoked teas, which are tea leaves processed with chemical compounds and smoke dryed that give it it's smoky aroma and flavor.

The remainder of the tea grades have to do with pekoe which is a small fine leaf found in black tea. Pekoe(P) is a small and less coarse leaf. Orange Pekoe (OP) leaves are found near the end of the branch, are the youngest, and smallest leaves on the bush. BOP, or broken orange pekoe grade refers to leaves that are purposely broken by machines to increase the infusion speed. Flowery orange pekoe (FOP) is a black tea that contains leaves and leaf buds or tips. Adding on to that is FBOP which refers to broken leaves with tips.

Some flowers on black tea plants are golden in color and tea is graded for that also. Golden flowery orange pekoe tea (GFOP) contains golden colored flowers and tips. The dark leaves have golden ends, or tips that are highly prized. An increased amount of golden tips are included in a grade called tippy golden flowery orange pekoe (TGFOP). The term tippy means an abundance of tips. The finest grade is FTGFOP, or finest tippy golden flowery orange pekoe. This grade is comprised of the very best golden flowers, leaf buds, and the youngest leaves.

Tea grading, as summarized here, represents the grading system for black teas. There are grading systems for other varieties of teas as well as for crushed teas, et al. While FTGFOP is the finest grade of black tea, that same content may be found in the dust and fannings of the common tea bag.