“I enjoy a variety of teas throughout the day, and love that I'm protecting my health without even trying. Here's a look at the latest trends like fermentation and infusions, and their related benefits. These are my favorite antioxidant-rich teas that are delicious and fight aging.” - Judy Joo, Chef and author of Korean Food Made Simple.
Matcha: The Antioxidant Green Tea
Matcha is a special powdered green tea usually from Japan, Korea, or China. Because it is finely ground, the whole leaf is consumed rather than strained like other traditional teas. The highest-quality matcha can be pricey, but it is more potent—filled with antioxidants that lower blood pressure and decrease the risk for stroke. It can be prepared a variety of ways: Drink matcha cold by filling a bottle with purified water, adding matcha, and giving it a good shake. You can enjoy it all day long without jitters. Or whisk it into hot water for a traditional tea or add to smoothies and baked goods for a dose of vitamins, color, and flavor
Rooibos: The Essential Minerals Tea
This naturally sweet herbal tisane is caffeine-free and loaded with antioxidants and vitamin C. You'll find important minerals that protect bone and skin health, like calcium, potassium, magnesium, and zinc too. Rooibos leaves grow on bushes in South Africa, which is why some people call rooibos "red bush tea." When I host people at home, I love to serve rooibos hot or cold for its deep gorgeous red hue that comes from the drying and natural fermentation process. It's also delicious with shortbread cookies and other sweets.
Pu-erh: The Weight-Loss Tea
This fermented tea is more than 2,000 years old and originates from the Yunnan province of southwestern China. Pu-erh is made from a sun-dried green tea called saiqing mao cha. It's becoming popular all over the world as a health tea that encourages weightloss by suppressing fatty acid synthesis and lowering cholesterol by producing natural statins. Pu-erh is a luxury item in the Chinese tea world due to its artisanal, labor-intensive production. It is sold in flat disks, wrapped in paper and is a wonderful (if expensive) gift—just be sure you buy from a reputable supplier as many imitations abound.
Kombucha: The Detoxifying Tea
Another fermented tea, kombucha is a sweetened tea processed with good bacteria and yeast to create a beverage rich in vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. Kombucha is a natural detoxifier that protects the liver thanks to glucuronic acid. It eliminates toxins from the body through the kidneys and keeps inner digestive organs healthy. Kombucha also contains glucosamine, which combats arthritis by stimulating the production of hyaluronic acid to increase cartilage and joint health. You can ferment kombucha at home, but now it is widely available sold in bottles in the refrigerated drinks section at health food and natural grocery stores. It's a live drink, so must be kept refrigerated. I love grabbing one to go after a tough yoga class.
White Tea: The Cancer-Fighting Tea
White tea is the least processed tea, followed by green and black tea, so it retains the highest level of phytochemicals. High levels of polyphenols coupled with flavonoids and tannins in the tea improve oral health and prevent tooth decay by fighting bad bacteria and reducing plaque. The antioxidants in white tea also reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. This is the tea I always serve to my parents when I'm at home. It's the perfect cup to drink multiple times a day with mild flavor and not much caffeine.
Ginseng: The Energy Herbal Tea
Ginseng, a staple of Korean herbal medicine, is often dried and boiled into an herbal tea that serves as an ultimate health tonic. You can find it in health food stores—and if you're lucky you can try to make tea with the fresh ginseng root, which I love to do. Ginseng tea increases the power of leukocytes (white blood cells) that destroy viruses and bacteria, relieves anxiety and boosts mood, and even benefits reproductive health. For menopausal women, it even decreases hot flashes. When I'm extra tired in the mornings, I'll drink ginseng tea for an energy boost without the caffeine crash later in the day.
Hibiscus: The Digestive Herbal Tea
Hibiscus is a bushy annual plant with flowers that are used to flavor food and drink, and it is also used medicinally. The fruit acids in hibiscus have a natural laxative effect for healthy digestion that encourages stomach and intestine function and even decreases high blood pressure. In the summer, I love making tacos and a Mexican hibiscus agua fresca (fresh water punch)—with an added Asian-inspired kick of fresh ginger for extra flavor and health benefits.