There are 7 myths about tea that need to be cleared up.
Over the last few years, I’ve discovered that these myths flourish for several reasons. Marketers have a story to tell to sell their stuff, people want to believe that there’s a cure for what ails them, and sometimes it’s just easier to believe things that sound good to us.
Keep reading, or watch the video here.
Here are 7 myths about tea (and the — sometimes surprising — truth).
1. Herbal teas are teas.
The first of the myths about tea is that all true teas are made from the leaves of the tea plant Camellia sinensis. They contain caffeine.
Everything referred to as “herbal teas” are tisanes (pronounced tiz-ahns). You can even call them herbal infusions. They’re (mostly) all caffeine free. Two herbs contain caffeine: yerba mate and guarana.
Bottom line: Herbal infusions are not tea. But it’s okay if you want to still call them that. I’m not the tea police.
2. Making tea right is time consuming and mysterious.
Once you know the basics about brewing the different kinds of teas, it’s much less mysterious.
Here’s an easy rule of thumb for steeping loose leaf teas:
If the tea is black/dark brown then boil your water. Steep for 30 seconds.
If the tea is lighter (white and green), let the tea boil then cool down for 5 minutes before steeping. Steep for 30 seconds.
If the tea isn’t strong enough for your liking, brew the tea a bit longer until it tastes like you want it to taste.
Bottom line: Tea isn’t as fussy as you think.
What are 5 rookie mistakes tea brewers make (and how to avoid them)? Click here to get your free guide.
3. Tea bagged teas are just as good as loose leaf teas.
There’s two parts to this myth.
First, the tea within tea bags is usually the lowest graded tea called fanning or tea dust. It’s not as flavorful as whole or partial leaf teas because they contain fewer of the healthy oils contained in higher quality teas.
If you want to drink higher grade teas, and you’re drinking them from a paper or silken/pyramid tea bag, those bags don’t always allow enough room for the tea leaves to expand fully, so you don’t get the full impact of the flavor of the tea inside.
Second, tea bags are not awesome for the environment. Old school paper bags are often bleached. New school silken tea bags (like the pyramids) aren’t made from silk – they’re made from corn plastic. It’s food safe, but it’s not easily compostable. You actually have to take them to a special compost facility.
Who has time for that?
There’s lots of easy ways to brew tea without creating unnecessary waste. My favorite is this Brew in Mug.
Bottom line: Steer away from tea bagged teas, and if you decide you want to drink out of tea bags be sure they’re not bleached and that they’re biodegradable.
4. Green tea is better for you than black tea.
Tea all comes from the same plant: Camellia sinensis. But that doesn’t mean that all tea has the same healthy stuff inside.
Each tea (there are 6 types) have hundreds of variations. Just like each wine uses grapes to create hundreds of variations of wine, but the processing of the grapes and where/how the grapes are grown determine whether the wine is a zin or a syrah.
There are some basic similarities between how a type of tea is processed. (For more details on tea processing, click here.)
For instance, green teas are processed by plucking, withering, then either firing and or rolling/shaping the leaves. These processes help create a more grassy flavor and creates a green-colored liquor when brewed.
Black teas are processed by plucking, withering, then aggressively rolling/shaping the leaf, then oxidizing and firing. (Learn more about these processes here.) These processes can create a more malty and earthy flavor and a reddish liquor when brewed.
Add on to the processes the location and soil conditions (and more factors), and you get a unique variety of green or black teas.
Bottom line: Each process brings out different characteristics from the tea leaf. They’re different, not better. Drink whatever tea you like; they’re all healthy in their own way.
5. Oolong tea is the go to diet tea.
This is one of the myths about tea that always perplexed me, so I did some research. It just didn’t make sense.
It turns out that somehow a tea marketer came across the brilliant (yet false) idea to market oolong tea as a diet tea.
You see, in 2009, there was a Chinese study in which participants drank oolong tea and lost weight. Here’s the thing: they replaced oolong tea with their usually sugary beverage and altered their diet to be healthier and exercise more.
So instead of drinking a soda, they drank oolong tea, ate healthier, and they exercised more.
What a breakthrough, right?
Bottom line: You can lose weight too if you replace a sugary beverage with any kind of tea, eat healthier, and exercise more.
What are 5 rookie mistakes tea drinkers make (and how to avoid them)? Click here to get your free guide.
6. Drinking more tea will decrease your risk of getting cancer.
As a woman diagnosed with breast cancer at 29, I wish this were one of the myths about tea that was true. There just hasn’t been enough research to tell us that the contents of tea have a real effect on cancer cells.
The National Cancer Institute acknowledges that there have been numerous studies (mostly focused on green teas), but those studies have been inconclusive.
Bottom line: Tea is healthy, but it’s not a verified miracle worker…yet.
7. Tea health benefits are all about the antioxidants.
If you’re concerned about decreasing your cancer risk, think about the benefits of taking time out for yourself.
First, the Mayo Clinic found that chronic stress increases our risk of getting just about every disease including cancer. Our bodies react to stress by treating it as a threat. Our bodies release hormones into our bodies in reaction to stress that aren’t good for us long term. If these stressors are activated long term (like from a stressful work load), our bodies’ response systems may go haywire.
Second, think about the health benefits of taking time to sit quietly each day. In 2012, Harvard University (yes, that Harvard) published a study that showed 8 weeks of meditation for 30 minutes a day increased grey matter (that part of the brain in charge of memory and learning) in study participants.
We don’t have to meditate for 30 minutes a day to see the benefits of sitting quietly (aka, meditation or a tea ritual). See for yourself what taking 5-10 minutes a day does to your sense of well being after a couple weeks. Then decide whether you think it’s making an impact.
Bottom line: We can control our bodies’ reactions to stressors which decreases the stress hormones and inflammation in our bodies. Taking time out for yourself with a cup of tea is healthier than just having a cup of tea.
8. BONUS MYTH: White tea is the fountain of youth.
I read that Antonio Banderas said that he drinks “a bucket of white tea in the morning.” Specifically he drinks silver needle white tea, which is a high end, high quality tea.
So does drinking a bunch of white tea really mean you’ll stay younger longer?
While white tea has the most antioxidants since it’s the least processed of all teas (read more on that here), but there’s not a huge difference between the antioxidant level of white tea versus other types of teas. Sorry, Antonio. Love you, though.
Bottom line: Drink whatever tea you like best to get your antioxidant fix.
What are 5 rookie mistakes tea lovers make (and how to avoid them)?