The Making and Health Benefits of White, Yellow, Oolong, and Pu-erh Teas

 

Hello, friends! If you’re reading this, then it’s very likely you have enjoyed a warm, soothing cup of tea or two. Perhaps you regularly drink tea to absorb all of the wonderful antioxidants and health benefits. Or maybe it is simply to relax and be comforted by a favorite cozy and warm mug of tea.

While there are many varieties of tea to choose from, tea leaves themselves come from only one plant, the Camellia Sinensis. How can the same plant give us many different teas? Well, it’s in the magic of the processing!

The Camellia Sinensis is a small tree or shrub, whose leaf buds and leaves are harvested to produce tea.

camellia sinensis tea leaves in nature

From this lovely plant, white, yellow, green, Oolong, Pu-erh, and black tea all originate. What distinguishes each tea from the other is the way in which the leaves of the plant are processed. This difference in processing gives the leaves varying levels of oxidation, flavor and health benefits.

So what is oxidation, you ask? Oxidation is a chemical process; various chemical reactions take place and cause the leaves to turn brown and also produce the different flavors and aromas. Oxidation plays a critical part in the processing of tea. The amount of oxidation allowed or not allowed determines the resulting tea.

There are two types of oxidation;  Passive and Controlled.

The first kind, passive oxidation (or natural oxidation), refers to oxidation which occurs naturally without an outside stimulus. When harvested, the initial withering and drying of the leaves is the start of passive oxidation.

The second, controlled oxidation, is when an outside stimulus is used to encourage oxidation. High temperatures and hot water (like a steam bath), or physically breaking the leaf’s epidermis are all examples of controlled oxidation.

According to the tea that will be produced, oxidation may be manipulated. It can be started, started & controlled and then stopped, or just prevented from happening altogether.

Just click below on the type of tea you’re interested in without reading the entire article:

When looking at tea leaves, the oxidation level is evident by their coloring. The longer they are allowed to oxidize, the darker their color will be.

Green tea leaves are not left to oxidize for very long, so the leaves remain a lighter green. On the other hand, black tea leaves are allowed to oxidize completely, so the leaves turn very dark.

Let’s take a look at how various teas are processed and their resulting health benefits.

White Tea

white tea in white tea cup and saucer resting on bed of dried tea leaves

Harvested when very young, the leaves used to produce white tea go through very minimal processing. Little or no oxidation is allowed to occur in these leaves. Immature tea leaves are harvested before the leaf buds have fully opened. Leaves and buds can be left in the sun to wither and dry naturally, or they might be steamed or fired before drying.

Because the leaves are not rolled (epidermis not broken), and oxidation is minimal if any at all, white tea is lighter in flavor than green or black tea.

And since it is minimally processed, there are many health benefits to drinking white tea.

It contains anti-bacterial characteristics that fight bacterial infections. White tea can be used to combat the flu and the common cold. These anti-bacterial properties also inhibit the growth of plaque-forming bacteria, which strengthens oral health. Plus, because of its antibacterial properties, white tea extracts are often used in hand soaps.

White tea is full of antioxidants that can work to repair dull or damaged skin. It can also protect against damaging UV rays.

Yellow Tea

small silver tea pot on silver saucer surrounded by dried yellow tea leaves

Yellow tea is a rare and expensive type of tea. It is very similar to green tea and is processed in a similar fashion. However, there is one additional step; after oxidation, the leaves are steamed under a damp cloth. This steaming gives the leaves a slight yellow color.

Compared to the flavor of traditional teas and green tea, these leaves are thought to taste much less grassy.

Since yellow tea is so similar to green tea, it also has many of the same health benefits. Notably, it can improve mental clarity, help reduce inflammation in the body, and aid in weight-loss.

If you are looking to add the health benefits of green tea to your diet, but don’t care for the grassy taste, yellow tea is an excellent choice for you if you can handle the slightly higher price tag.

Oolong Tea

white ceeramic tea pot pouring tea into white cup on yellow tablecloth

Oolong tea is processed in an intricate manner. Controlled oxidation is used to wither the leaves of the tea plant under intense sunlight. Then the leaves are curled and twisted.

There is an exact process of withering, rolling, shaping and firing. This process is similar to the production of black tea but requires closer attention to timing and temperature.

There are two different ways of creating Oolong tea leaves. One involves shaping the leaves into long curly leaves. The second consists of wrapping the leaves into small beads with a little tail. While various varieties of Oolong can be processed differently, one of these two distinct methods is usually used.

The last step in the production of oolong tea (and used only for Oolong) calls for the baking or roasting of the leaves. The real art of making Oolong tea is in this final step. This is because to obtain the highest possible quality Oolong tea, the perfect combination in the level of oxidization and degree of baking needs to be achieved.

Oolong tea combines all the health benefits of both green and black tea.

Drinking oolong tea may improve heart health. It appears to reduce cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and decrease the risk of heart disease. It supplies the drinker with antioxidants, which support a healthy bone structure, improves the clarity of skin and builds stronger teeth.

Although it does contain caffeine, as you can see by all of its benefits, you should certainly enjoy a cup of super healthy, relaxing, Oolong tea!

Pu-erh Tea

brick of pu-erh tea

Pu-erh is processed differently from these other varieties of tea. After the leaves are dried, microbial fermentation is encouraged to take place. As this fermentation process continues, the taste of the tea continues to change.

After these tea leaves are picked, they are flash heated to stop the oxidation process. Not all of the moisture and bacteria is removed, however, which is how the fermentation process starts. These leaves are pressed into cakes or bricks and sold “raw.” Over time this natural product goes through the intricate process of fermentation and maturation.

Like all tea varieties, Pu-erh contains many antioxidants, but because of this unique process, it also has health benefits not found in other teas. There hasn’t been as much research done on Pu-erh as on other teas (such as green), but it has been confirmed that drinking Pu-erh tea can reduce the nasty type of cholesterol known as LDL.

It is known to activate theta brain waves (the ones that occur during light sleep or deep meditation) and so can very quickly serve to relax you by calming your nerves. Pu-erh contains a significant amount of GABA which is an excellent stress reducer.

This tea also is deemed to benefit those suffering from metabolic syndrome. Due to the cell repairing compounds that it contains, Pu-erh tea reduces heavy metal consumption in the body. It is believed that drinking Pu-erh tea can also aid in digestion, and will accelerate fat burning.

Isn’t it amazing that such completely different varieties of tea emerge from just one plant?! Each boasting its unique flavor, aroma, and antioxidants! So go ahead, it is certainly worth experimenting with different kinds to see which tea suits you best!

Click here if you’d like to read more about the wonders of Green Tea and Matcha. So much great information that it needed an article all to itself!

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