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Health benefits of tea

Tea is not only a delicious hydrating drink; it also contains health-promoting antioxidants. And that’s only the beginning of the good news…

One small thing: Brew and cool green tea, then add it to fruit juice or a smoothie for a refreshing, health-boosting dose of antioxidants.

Tea is one of the most ancient of drinks, discovered thousands of years ago in the Far East. Folklore has it that Shennong, the fabled Chinese emperor and sage, was drinking a bowl of freshly boiled water when a few leaves blew into his drink and changed its colour. The curious ruler took a sip of the brew and was delighted by its flavour. The cuppa was born!

Over the years the culture of drinking tea – there are as many rituals as there are types and blends of tea – spread around the world. The Japanese tea ceremony (associated with green tea) is one that truly celebrates the beverage.

Tea also has a long history in South Africa – the ancient Khoi and San people are believed to be the first to have discovered that the needle-like leaves of the rooibos plant would make a refreshing hot drink.

Different types of tea

Real tea is the aromatic drink prepared by combining the cured leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant with boiling water. (Our traditional rooibos is actually not a true tea but rather a herb, as it is made from a different plant.)

There are only four types of real tea: black, oolong, green and white. Black and oolong teas are made using similar fermenting and drying processes; green tea leaves are steamed and scalded, before being rolled and dried; and white tea is made from the plant’s new growth or young leaves, which are steamed or fried, and then dried.

Health benefits of drinking tea

No matter what type of tea you prefer to drink, they all contain a group of disease-fighting compounds called polyphenols, which act like antioxidants. Less processed teas, such as green tea, however, contain more polyphenols than black tea, which research shows could help prevent cancer and heart disease, among others.

But remember, not all teas are the same and the antioxidant content in the following types of teas is lower than you’ll find in brewed teas:

  • Decaffeinated teas
  • Flavoured brewed green teas
  • Ready-to-drink teas (plain or flavoured)
  • Iced teas
  • Instant, sweetened, flavoured and powdered teas

Although many herbal teas, including rooibos, contain antioxidants, these are not the same as those found in green, black or oolong teas as they come from different plants.

And while tea offers a good source of antioxidants, remember that the best way you can get a wide variety of antioxidants is from eating vegetables, fruits and wholegrains .

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