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The health benefits of tea come from its main components: stimulants and polyphenols
There are 4 stimulants in tea: caffeine, theobromnine, theophylline and L-theanine.
We have all experienced the boost on our brains given by the caffeine in coffee: it is an excitant. The caffeine in tea increases alertness over a longer period of time ; it is more slowly absorbed and released by our bodies due to the high levels of antioxidants (polyphenols) also present in tea – see Components of tea, while at the same time it reduces stress, due to the presence of L-theanine (see below). This may be why our first step in dealing with a difficult situation is often to prepare and drink a cup of tea.
They are related to caffeine but they are in small quantities in tea. They are also found in cocoa. They have a relaxing effect on muscles, a stimulating effect on the heart and improve blood flow in the body (reducing blood pressure).
The fourth substance L-theanine is unique to Camellia Sinensis. It is an amino acid. It works with caffeine in a synergistic way (counteractive way) to calm the body without reducing the alertness brought about by the caffeine. It is the element that induces the ‘calm alertness’ in our brains (more Alpha wave activity in the brain that induces relaxation). L-theanine lets us enjoy the increased-concentration effect from caffeine without the associated anxiety and restlessness. It is also known to have antioxidative effects.
In addition, L-theanine brings sweetness to the tea! It makes up 60% of the amino acids in tea, and amino acids give tea its umami and sweet flavour. L-theanine adds a unique vegetal quality to the flavour. This is demonstrated by our Kukicha, for those of you who have already tried it, that contains high levels of L-theanine, and as a result has a very pleasant sweet, biscuity taste.
Certain types of tea have more L-theanine than others. These include teas that are made to grow in the shade for the last 20- 30 days before the harvest to prevent photosynthesis from occurring. Photosynthesis reduces L-theanine and increases tannins, the compounds responsible for the astringency in teas. Teas produced from shaded tea bushes have therefore more chlorophyll and, as a result, a sweeter taste. Teas that have undergone such a production method include Gyokuro and Matcha. They are both shaded teas where the photosynthesis has been prevented from happening.
L-theanine is present mostly in green and white tea leaves. Teas made from the first harvest (or first flush with younger leaves) in the year also have more Ltheanine than older ones.
Polyphenols have antioxidant properties. Antioxidants help our body fight and repair cell damage (cancer etc). Many diseases are the result of cellular damage in our bodies. Studies have shown promising evidence that polyphenols may help us fight cardiovascular diseases, cancers, osteoporosis, diabetes mellitus, and some neurodegenerative diseases and may enhance overall bone and dental health.
Polyphenols contain flavonoids. There are different types of flavonoids, but one type is catechins. They appear in very small amounts in oxidized tea (black) and in substantial amounts in green teas and a little less in white teas. Catechins are considered potent antioxidants. They are best for fighting heart disease and cancer.
White and green teas, because they are not oxidized, usually contain higher amounts of polyphenols.
– zinc (that is known to be important for growth and immunity)
– folic acid (the vitamin B12 is known to be important for cell growth)
– potassium (that is known to maintain body fluids levels)
– natural fluoride.