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Guayakí Yerba Mate - A Powerful Rainforest Experience

Buzz in the Press
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Buzz in the Press

Buzz in the Press

Claimed health benefits of brewed beverage are drawing many people to join the party

Sales of tea are soaring, with green teas, black teas, chais and herbals all hot options to coffee.

But determining which teas to drink —- and which ones are low in caffeine, high in antioxidants and still flavorful —- is about as difficult as, well, reading tea leaves.

Is green tea truly better for you than other teas? Does it contain caffeine? How about yerba mate, the hot drink of celebrities? What about black and red teas? And what is oolong tea, anyway?

"It's so easy to get confused about tea, " said Beverly Hernandez, a registered dietitian at Piedmont Hospital. "Americans are converting from coffee to tea because it contains half the caffeine, and that's good, but people often aren't aware of how much caffeine [various] teas contain."

So let's start at the beginning.

Tea is a warm beverage made from soaking the leaves, roots, berries or seeds of a plant in hot water.

Strictly speaking, a true tea, such as a black or green tea, is brewed from the leaves of a specific type of camellia plant. It is said to have been discovered in China 2,700 years before the birth of Jesus, when a leaf fell into a cup of boiling water that an emperor was purifying. The emperor liked the drink that resulted and believed it to have healing powers.

Yet it's only been in recent years that the drink has taken strong root in this country.

Part of the interest has been fueled by studies about the risks of caffeine —- and the afternoon jitters and nighttime tossing and turning caused by too much coffee. Also, green tea has grown in popularity in recent years because studies have shown that it may cut cancer risk.

White tea, which comes from the bud of the tea plant, has little to no processing and therefore has more antioxidants than even green tea and has less caffeine than green tea. Its popularity is growing, but it's expensive because it is harvested during a very short time in the spring.

Need an alternative to coffee? Try these.

Green

Not fermented and, therefore, generally contains more antioxidants than other teas. Less caffeine than black tea. Health claim: Vitamin C helps immune system and promotes good health. Contains fluoride that helps strengthen bones and prevents cavities.

Oolong

Not as processed as black tea but more so than green tea. Has a richer flavor than green tea but more delicate than black. Health claim: Helps with indigestion and lowers cholesterol, boosts metabolism.

Darjeeling

High-quality black tea (fully fermented, containing more caffeine than other teas but still only half as much as coffee). Health claim: Lowers risk of stroke. High concentration of flavonoids helps reduce clotting and acts as an antioxidant.

Rooibos

Natural source of antioxidants with high level of flavonoids. Caffeine-free. Health claim: Helps soothe upset stomach and diminishes hay fever symptoms. Reduces insomnia, irritability, headaches, nervous tension and hypertension.

Yerba mate

Not derived from the tea plant, but from an herb that was believed for years to contain no caffeine. Scientists recently discovered, however, that mate does have caffeine. Health claim: Energizes body, boosts immunity, tones nervous system, eliminates insomnia, aids weight loss, is a gentle diuretic and more.

Jasmine pearl

Green tea that consists of two types of leaves and unopened hand-rolled buds. The leaves in pearls unfurl when they are steeped, creating more flavor. Health claim: Jasmine is good for stress relief.

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