A cup of hot tea nourishes your soul—and your body, too.
Drink tea regularly and you could reduce your risk of heart disease, neurodegenerative disease, diabetes, and obesity. From tea cocktails to kombucha and the now-ubiquitous matcha latte, tea seems to be everyone's cup of you-know-what-these days. And according to a 2016 Mintel survey, the tea buzz is only expected to grow stronger as we continue to seek out healthful beverages that go beyond just a caffeine kick.
"True" teas, such as black, green, oolong, and white, come from the Camellia sinensis plant. And while all four teas offer myriad health benefits, studies show that black and green teas are the front-runners in heart health, packing the most powerful antioxidant punch and helping reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke by 10 to 20%, according to data published in Food & Function.
Tea leaves are particularly rich in a class of antioxidants called flavonoids. These four teas have their own army of antioxidants posing different health benefits depending on how the leaves are picked, processed, and manufactured (this also gives each type of tea its signature color and flavor profile). They also come equipped with caffeine and an amino acid called theanine, which seems to heighten mental alertness.
This is one of the most nutritious beverages you can consume:
Herbal teas (including rooibos and chamomile) are technically tisanes—caffeine-free blends of herbs, botanicals, and fruits—and have varying amounts of antioxidants, but they are still healthful brews.
To help you narrow down the ever-expanding options, our staffers sipped close to 50 bagged teas (keeping in mind accessibility and ease of brewing). These 12 get two pinkies up.
Black teas are the darkest and strongest because they are fully oxidized. You'll recognize their robust flavor in classic breakfast teas and chai. One Archives of Internal Medicine (now JAMA Internal Medicine) study found that drinking three cups of black tea a day for six months lowered blood pressure. The same amount may also help lower triglycerides and total cholesterol, as well as keep diabetics' blood sugar in check, per other research.
NUMI AGED EARL GREY
The use of real bergamot fruit (as opposed to bergamot oil) gives this tea bright notes of citrus and malty undertones. The flavor is bold, but it goes down smooth and mellow, pairing well with a light breakfast. (Get it here.)
TWININGS IRISH BREAKFAST
A full-bodied tea with a delightfully spicy aroma; deep, malty flavor; and a rounded sweetness in the finish. The robust flavor makes it a great stand-in for coffee to add a kick to your morning. (Get it here.)
RISHI MASALA CHAI
Wonderfully spiced with scents of cardamom, ginger, and cinnamon and accents of black pepper and cloves. Spices linger on the back of your tongue and offer a delightful top-of-the-morning welcome. Serve hot or iced. (Get it here.)
WISSOTZKY SIGNATURE COLLECTION ENGLISH BREAKFAST
A citric, full-bodied tea with rich, complex flavors and a honey-sweet aftertaste. Great to perk up your morning and pair with anything from buttered toast to a heartier breakfast scramble. (Get it here.)
BREW NOTES: Black teas fare well when steeped in extremely hot water (from 200 to 212°F). Steep for 3 to 5 minutes for maximum flavor.
Green tea leaves are steamed before being rolled and dried, helping lock in color and preserve their antioxidants. Green tea is rich in catechins, which are the antioxidants responsible for much of green tea's health benefits. Studies show drinking one to three cups per day could help reduce risk of heart attack by 20% and stroke by 36%, plus reduce inflammation, fasting blood sugar, and total body fat.
TAZO ZEN GREEN TEA
Zingy lemongrass and spearmint dress up the delicate green tea flavor, making it a great option for the newly converted green tea drinker. This soothing tea is widely available. (Get it here.)
BIGELOW DECAF GREEN TEA
Delicate, smooth, and mildly grassy on the front end, this tea finishes with a hint of sweetness. An excellent green tea for beginners or for those sensitive to caffeine. (Get it here.)
SMITH MAO FENG SHUI
Bright, citric, and faintly sweet, this is for the enthusiast who appreciates green tea’s inherent grassy flavor. With notes of roasted barley and apricot, this one starts lively and finishes clean. (Get it here.)
NUMI GUNPOWDER GREEN
A full-bodied green tea that is bright and brisk with a smoky backbone, this is the tea to sip on a cold day to warm you from the inside out. Doctor it up with honey to balance the smokiness. (Get it here.)
BREW NOTES: Water too hot may release tannins from the leaves, making the tea too astringent. Brew with milder water temperatures (from 160 to 180°F) for 1 to 3 minutes.
Oolong and White Tea
Oolong tea is party oxidized, making it more mellow than black but not as biting as green. A type of flavonoid in oolong called chafuroside may fight inflammation and help inhibit the development of intestinal cancers. White is the purest, least-processed tea, and it is fragrant and sweet. White tea is rich in EGCG, a catechin with protective effects against heart disease.
ALLEGRO ORGANIC TROPICAL WHITE
Delicately fruity and slightly tangy from the passion fruit, this tea starts and finishes clean with a lovely harmony of exotic, sunny flavors. A great midafternoon sipper to combat those pesky post-lunch snack cravings. (Get it here.)
TEATULIA OOLONG TEA
Pleasantly, mildly tannic and ultrasmooth with a lemony, floral aroma and full-bodied flavor. Reminiscent of traditional black tea, this tea is equally enjoyable served warm or over ice. (Get it here.)
NUMI ORANGE SPICE
Light and crisp with notes of citrus and lemongrass complemented by warm spice, this tea goes down smoothly and feels indulgent with a splash of milk. This one will perk up your afternoon and satisfy your sweet tooth. (Get it here.)
REPUBLIC OF TEA MILK OOLONG
Milky taste and creamy texture create a nuanced, less tannic cup. This tea is easy to drink and a great gateway option for new tea drinkers. The sweet flavor lends itself well to breakfast pastries or a light dessert. (Get it here.)
BREW NOTES: Oolong can handle higher water temps (from 180 to 200°F) with steeping time ranging from 1 to 5 minutes. White teas fare better at milder water temps (from 160 to 180°F) for 1 to 5 minutes.