Is White Tea Better Than Green Tea?

A question for your consideration: Are there different health benefits of drinking white tea versus drinking green tea?

Great question. Yes, there are differences between white tea and green tea. There are differences between all varieties of tea, and this seems like a good opportunity to talk about the differences in teas and their health benefits.

Black, green, white, and oolong teas are all derived from the leaves of the warm-weather evergreen tree Camellia sinensis. The more research done on tea the more profound results, no matter which variety you look at. All the teas from this phenomenal plant provide a wealth of health benefits.

Although these teas all come from the same plant, they all undergo different processing. The more processing the tea goes through, the darker the tea becomes. For this reason we can see that the common black tea undergoes the most processing. Black and oolong teas are partially dried, crushed and fermented, while green and white teas are simply steamed. White tea is subject to the least possible processing. The tea is derived from the young plant in early spring and, since they contain no chlorophyll, has silvery white leaves.

Herbal teas aren’t really teas at all, in the strict sense of the word, since they don’t come from the Camellia plant. Instead, herbal teas are infusions made with herbs, flowers, leaves, roots or seeds of any number of different plants. The actual term for the herbal tea is “tisane” although the common term “herbal tea” is generally understood to refer to something other than tea from the Camellia plant. This is not to say that certain herbal teas don’t have health benefits, but they tend not to provide the same health benefits as actual teas from the Camellia sinensis plant.

Regardless of the processing method, each tea from the Camellia sinensis plant contains polyphenols, the phytonutrient thought to be responsible for tea’s health benefits. Tea actually ranks higher than many fruits and vegetables on the ORAC scale, a measure of antioxidant potency. However, the less processing a tea undergoes, the more of these polyphenols it will have.

One particular type polyphenol that has been getting a lot of press as of late are catechins. White tea has actually been found to contain higher catechin levels than green tea due to the fact that it is fresher, less processed, and is from unbroken tea leaves. Catechins are the compounds responsible for lessening atherosclerotic plaques, reducing carcinogens, reducing risk of stroke, heart failure, cancer and diabetes and for protecting the skin from UV damage and tumor formation, benefits attributed to drinking green tea. White tea has also been found to have more anti-viral and anti-bacterial qualities than green tea.

Studies examining the levels of gallic acid (a compound that has antioxidant and tumor fighting properties) in brewed teas found levels to be higher in white tea than green tea. White tea is also said to have more of the amino acid theanine, with its relaxing and mood enhancing properties, than green or black tea, since it is made out of young leaves and buds. White tea is thought to contain less fluoride than green tea, and this is a good thing. Overexposure to fluoride can lead to a condition known as fluorosis, a mineralization disorder of the teeth characterized by ugly spotting on the tooth enamel.

Some people are concerned about drinking green or white teas due to the caffeine content, and this is a legitimate concern. The caffeine content of green and white teas are similar, although they both depend on factors such as the particular plant the tea is derived from, the size of the leaf, and the method used to steep the tea. Since green and white teas both contain the amino acid theanine which has a sedative effect that counteracts the stimulating effects of caffeine, most people find that they can drink green or white tea shortly before bed without suffering any detriment to their ability to sleep. Those particularly sensitive to caffeine may still find they are negatively influenced by green or white tea, however.