The 4 Healthiest Teas

Take a tip from the British and start drinking tea on a regular basis. Why? Tea has numerous health benefits, costs little to make, and does a superb job of warming you up on a chilly day. Plus, you can enjoy it with a small scone for a satisfying afternoon snack. But as you browse the tea aisle of your local grocery store, you may feel confused. Are certain teas better for you than others? And while all true teas are made from the leaves of a plant known as Camellia sinensis, are there differences between them? Below, a primer on the most common types of teas found in this country:

  • White tea. White tea is an unfermented tea made from immature tea leaves or buds that are steamed immediately after harvesting. Consequently, white tea has a pleasant, delicate flavor, and the lack of fermentation translates to a high level of catechins (the compounds that form polyphenols, an antioxidant largely responsible for tea's numerous health benefits). White tea also may be an immune-system booster: A study at Pace University several years ago revealed that white tea extract works to inhibit the growth of Staphylococcus and Streptococcus bacteria.
  • Green tea. For the past few years, green tea has been touted by experts as a nutritional heavyweight conferring a multitude of health benefits from prevention of conditions such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, gum disease, blood clots, and osteoporosis to achievement of optimum cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Green tea is less processed than other teas and consequently contains more polyphenols. Green tea can taste bitter, and if you find it difficult to drink several cups of green tea each day (the amount which seems to confer maximum benefits), try switching out a cup or two of your daily coffee ration for green tea.
  • Oolong tea. This tea falls somewhere between green and black tea in terms of its fermentation level, which means it also falls between green and black with respect to its levels of catechins. While perhaps not as powerful as green tea in fighting disease, oolong is a tasty and worthwhile addition to your tea pantry.
  • Black tea. Not quite the media darling that green tea is, black tea still offers numerous health benefits. The process used to make black tea allows the leaves to fully ferment, reducing the amount of catechins available. But black tea contains significant amounts of health-promoting compounds known as theaflavins and thearubigins. One study conducted at University College London found that black tea may soothe away stress. In this exercise, 75 young men were split into two groups and given beverages four times a day. One group received a tea mixture comprised of the ingredients in a typical cup of black tea, and a second group was given a caffeinated, similar-tasting placebo that lacked normal tea ingredients. After six weeks, the men who drank the brew containing real tea ingredients had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their bloodstream following challenging tasks: Fifty minutes after being exposed to a stressful situation, the tea drinkers' cortisol levels had dropped 47 percent while the placebo drinkers' were down 27 percent.


The World's Healthiest Foods,; Jane Higdon, Ph.D.,, Pace University,; University College London,