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Teas - Everything you wanted to know: The benefits, natural decaffeination and much more!

Teas are common in Asian culture and I know a great many Brits who can't get enough of there Earl Greys. In the last half decade, researchers have been pumping out data suggesting that teas hold many medicinal benefits - everything from immune boosting to cholesterol lowering properties. They help to combat the effects of aging and are protective against cancers. How can you not love tea?

With milk & lemon or Without?
Research has shown that milk with tea actually negates the positive effects of teas as it reduces the absorption of the good flavonoid compounds. On the other hand, lemon juice mixed with your tea helps to increase the amount of flavonoid compounds in teas. When it comes to tea, don't be afraid to spice it up with cinnamon or honey to enhance the flavour and to gain additional benefits.

Iced Teas
The iced teas that you find in the supermarket have been processed at high heat and have been sitting on the shelf for quite some time which reduces the good compounds you normally get from freshly brewed teas. So next time you're craving some iced tea, make some at home and drink it that day or in the next couple of days to keep as much of the benefits intact.

Decaffeinated teas
~50% of the good compounds are destroyed in the decaffeination process so there are both pros and cons here. In any case, they're still good to drink especially for those of you who are sensitive to caffeine or for the afternoon or evening tea drinker. Note: Decaffeinated teas may still hold some caffeine content. There are now "naturally decaffeinated" teas out there that are decaffeinated with ethyl acetate (derived from fruits) which binds to the caffeine. This process still seems to take away some of the medicinal benefits of teas.

Some experts suggest steeping the tea in hot water and discarding the liquid. The process is repeated for a second time, by the end of which the caffeine content is down by about 80%. Essentially, you're reusing your tea bags or loose leaf tea. The flavour won't be as strong, but the caffeine content won't be as great too.

Green, black, white and herbal teas. What's the difference?
Another option is to drink white tea which has the lowest caffeine content, followed by green tea and lastly black tea. White teas are the leaf buds picked at the early stage, whereas green tea are the mature leaves. Black teas are the mature leaves which have been dried and fermented. White tea tends to be the most expensive, but some researchers believe it to have the most benefits. It's still too early to say which type of tea is best, so switch it up and try different ones.

Herbal teas which aren't real teas from the Camellia sinensis plant do not contain caffeine, but also don't have the same reported benefits of green/white/black teas. Herbal teas are great for the evening tea drinkers who wish to gently end the day. Many herbal teas also have other beneficial properties.

The Chinese say that one should "taste" tea rather than just "drink" tea. Enjoy!

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