By Jean Alberti
Some distinctive differences separate Chinese white tea from Chinese green tea, yet they have much in common. This blending of common and unique traits tends to confuse new tea drinkers and leave them wondering which is better.
They both are better.
They both have health benefits superior to many other teas as well as distinguishing properties that can make each a preferred tea to the other. So, you ask, if you have to choose between them, which is better? Let’s look at it.
Most tea shoppers buy green tea for three reasons: price, habit, and health. It is marketed in many forms and is relatively inexpensive compared to some premium estate-specific teas. It is a staple, like black tea, that is sold in bulk and aimed at a mass market, with a price tag that high volume sales keep low.
A tea drinker can become a habitual buyer of a familiar tea. You go to the store, walk the same aisles as in your previous visit, and mindlessly pluck the same tea from the shelf. There are a lot of tea drinkers who buy green tea from habit and will continue to do so.
Yet many of them started the green tea habit for a very good reason: The tea is healthful. Chinese green tea contains antioxidants, the chemical compounds that have some startlingly positive impact on the body. The heart’s function is enhanced by regular consumption of green tea—as well as drinking Chinese scented teas that use green tea as a base.
The antioxidants in the tea—and they are in other foods as well, but not in such concentrations—help keep the vascular system healthy, which can reduce blood pressure. They also tend to lower cholesterol levels, which is another aid in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Green tea can bolster the immune system. What is the immune system? It is the body’s automatic defense mechanism that wards off viruses and bacteria that can suddenly invade and cripple an otherwise healthy body. The nutrients and antioxidants in the tea keep the system operating smoothly.
The tea’s chemical compounds also fight cancer. Not cure it—fight it. The antioxidants glom onto “free radicals” and eradicate many of them. The radicals are unstable cells that can encourage more cellular instability and irregular growth—i.e. cancer.
Green tea also helps a drinker lose weight. It does this by speeding metabolism, the fat-burning mechanism of the body. And let’s face, drinking a cup of low-calorie tea can satisfy hunger while piling on few calories. Studies also show that green tea can have a positive impact on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease sufferers.
Here’s the rest of the story: White tea also does all of the above. It, too, is heart-healthy, boosts the immune system, fights cancer-formation, helps with weight loss, and discourages diseases. The relative effectiveness of white and green teas varies, of course; they are not exactly the same and their impacts on a body are not exactly the same. Yet both are good.
White tea, like green tea, is minimally processed, so antioxidants are preserved. Yet white tea is processed even less than green, and the practical consequence is that white tea has a higher concentration of antioxidants. (It also has some skin healing and anti-aging properties, a whole other matter.)
The higher concentration of healthful chemical compounds would seem to give white tea an edge in the health sweepstakes—more antioxidant oomph in each cup! Yet because leaves for white tea have a short harvesting season—early buds are required—not as much of it is made by tea makers. This relative rarity means white tea costs more than green tea.
So maybe green tea is a better buy for the money…though it has fewer antioxidants! Now you see why the green tea-white tea debate goes into extra innings. They both are better.