Antioxidants in Teas, Especially Red Teas (Hong Cha) 紅茶


We had a great time tasting red teas side by side last weekend, and had some great follow up questions about Red Teas. Here’s what Kristie wanted to know: “Do red teas have antioxidants?”


To answer your question let’s start by defining oxidation, antioxidants and free radicals. We won’t go too deep. Oxidation is exposure to air. Withering tea leaves after they’re picked is when oxidation first occurs in tea processing. Other forms of oxidation we’re used to seeing in daily life might be that banana in your fruit basket getting brown spots, or the iron gate in your yard rusting just a bit. Antioxidants are the substances or compounds that inhibit oxidation, or, inhibits reactions promoted by free radicals. Free radicals damage the body’s cells and can sometimes lead to disease or cancer. (For more on free radicals go here).

What does this have to do with tea? Antioxidants in tea leaves inhibit free radicals effect in the body to help keep you healthy. Teas have antioxidants just like other fruits and veggies, and tea should be part of a healthy diet.

Which teas have more antioxidants? In order of least oxidized teas to most oxidized teas:

White teas have the most anti-oxidents because they’re the least oxidized
then green tea
then oolong
then red tea
then Puerh doesn’t have many if at all.

So here’s the breakdown:
  • White and Green teas have antioxidants, and are are cooling to the body.
  • However, oolongs have high levels of EGCG which is a free-radical fighting compound too.
  • Red tea is stimulating with out the punch or crash of coffee, and is good for increasing heat in the body. It’s a great morning or cold day tea or if you’re feeling cold.
  • Puerh has “Qi” literally translated as wind, it usually refers to the life force or “energy” that a tea develops as it ages. You will experience this as increased heat flow in your body. This helps move your Qi blockages you might have. And, Puerh lowers cholesterol and high blood pressure and is a digestive aide, and body function regulator (it helps you poop).
  • All the benefits of tea are canceled out when you buy old, stale, low grade, pesticide treated or poorly processed broken leaf tea. Tea bags do not give you any benefits, neither do grocery store teas. These benefits come from fresh, seasonal, hand picked artisan, minimally processed products. And tea is not a weight loss aide. ;) Similarly, you should not drink tea with prescription medicine, as it can inhibit many of the effects of drugs. When I’m sick, I stick with Chrysanthemums or mint leaves as tea.


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