Tea Culture 101: Green Tea vs. Red Tea

Tea exists in a range of flavors, including green and red tea. Tea must originate from the Camellia sinensis plant to be designated as such. You have undoubtedly heard about the health advantages of green tea if you are serious about health and wellbeing. Green tea has been utilized as a medicinal plant and a relaxing drink in Asia for countless generations. 

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However, several tea-like beverages, like red tea, are not made from the Camellia sinensis plant. Red tea, also known as rooibos tea, is a newcomer to the market, having just acquired prominence in the 1990s other than in South Africa. Rooibos is a herbal tea derived from the Aspalathus linearis plant that only thrives on African grounds. Its popularity has increased thanks to its excellent flavor, health advantages, and long history in recent years.

So, if you are curious about how these two different teas compare? Let's have a look at what each has to offer!

Green Tea vs. Red Tea: Origins

  • Green Tea
    Green tea is cultivated and marketed in many places worldwide, including China, Taiwan, Japan, New Zealand, and India. All Green teas produced come from the same plant species. Green tea is regarded to be discovered in China. Until today, the term "tea" in China is supposed to relate primarily to green tea rather than the entire category of tea that the modern world knows. The Camellia sinensis plant species is thought to have originated in China's Yunnan province. According to Chinese Legends, Shennong, an emperor of China and reputed founder of Chinese medicine, is said to have discovered tea as a drink in 2737 BC when some tea leaves from a surrounding tea tree dropped into his cup of newly boiled water. This beverage came to be the green tea that most people know today.

  • Red Tea
    Rooibos is a broom-like member of the plant family Fabaceae that persists by developing its root system up to 3 meters deep in the soil in the Western Region of South Africa, in a remote mountainous terrain known as the Cederberg. As a result, it develops needle-like leaves and yellow blossoms, which native Africans have been using for generations. This alpine plant survives and produces the perfect component for creating red tea because of the unique climate, which ranges from sub-zero in the wintertime to more than 40 degrees Celsius in the summer. Red tea has its origins in tea dating back to 1902. It is today enjoyed in several countries worldwide, making it a significant part of the South African culture and economy.

Green Tea vs. Red Tea: Production Process

  • Green Tea
    Depending on the sort of green tea wanted, green tea is prepared and cultivated in many ways. Nurturing settings can be divided into two categories: those planted in the sun and those produced in the shade. Green tea plants are cultivated in rows and trimmed to generate consistent shoots. They are picked three times per year on average. April or May is when the first harvesting occurs. The second collection occurs typically in June and July, with the third harvest occurring in July or August. There will occasionally be a fourth growing season. The first flush of the spring season brings the highest-quality leaves and higher pricing. Tea leaves must be dried after plucking to avoid aging or fermentation, which prevents any chemical activities that cause oxidation. Green teas are frequently pan-fired, either over a fire or in an electric pan. For even curing, the tea leaves should be regularly agitated. Withering involves spreading the tea leaves on wooden straw or bamboo racks to sit under direct sunlight or heated air. Tea leaves are rotated around once more to achieve equal drying. Tea leaves are then rolled or shaped after drying. Machines are used to roll or shape green tea leaves. High-end leaves are hand-rolled into various shapes in China, including pointed, twisted, round, curly, and more. When the tea is rolled, it gives it a characteristic appearance and controls the availability of natural components and flavor when brewed. After the final rolling phase, green tea should be left to dry for around 30 minutes before being stored. The tea is stretched out on a caterpillar-like apparatus and progressively dehydrated to moisture levels of almost 5%. The partially processed tea, Aracha, is transported to tea traders or distributors for final processing and packing. The size of Aracha varies, and it still includes stems and debris.

  • Red Tea


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    In the summertime months of March, the seeds are planted in well-prepared seedbeds to begin the creation of rooibos. Seedlings are transferred after the first rainfall in the colder winter months of July. The very first crop is harvested after one year and six months. The harvest season lasts from January through April. The branches are then trimmed about 40cm above ground level. On average, a single plantation can yield three to four crops. The bushy African shrub is chopped manually, and its leaves and stems are bundled into bunches when gathered. The bundles are separated and then sliced or crushed to stimulate oxidation. The plant's active compounds and oils are brought out by oxidation or contact with oxygen, which also assists the leaves in acquiring their rich texture and flavor. The rooibos tea gets deeper in color and tastier and fuller flavor as it oxidizes. This tea is what most refer to as crimson rooibos. Rather than being fully oxidized, a much less oxidized rooibos is heated and dehydrated quickly, leaving it somewhat green in color and leafy, mineral-like flavor. Green rooibos is the less aged variant of rooibos tea.

Green Tea vs. Red Tea: Content

  • Green Tea
    Growing the green tea leaves under shade during the cultivation process improves the production and concentration of biologically active chemicals such as caffeine, theanine, chlorophyll, and different kinds of catechins. Green tea contains four significant catechins, including (-)-epicatechin, (-)-epicatechin-3-gallate, (-)-epigallocatechin, and (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate. The latter of these four significant catechins is considered the most potent and prevalent, with green tea being its most significant concentrated source. Green tea has a lesser caffeine level per cup than some other teas, such as black tea, and far less caffeine than coffee. The exact level of caffeine per cup of green tea, like with all beverages made from caffeinated plants, is difficult to specify because it varies depending on the type of green tea and how it was handled and completed. The amount of caffeine ranged from 11 to 47 milligrams per 8 oz of green tea. However, some claim that green teas can have up to 60 milligrams per brewed cup. Green tea also contains carbs, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and other active ingredients. Green contains 3 mg sodium, 2200 mg potassium, 280 mg phosphorus, 44 mg calcium, 20 mg iron, 65 mg vitamin E, 250 mg vitamin C, 4 mg niacin, 13 mg vitamin A, and 1 mg vitamin B2.

  • Red Tea
    Ascorbic acid, or vitamin C, is abundant in rooibos as a raw leaf, but it is depleted when turned into tea. Rooibos tea contains no caffeine and has a lower tannin content than green tea or black tea. Aspalathin, flavanones, flavones, flavanols, nothofagin, luteolin, orientin, and dihydrochalcones are polyphenols found in Rooibos tea. Cinnamic and benzoic acids are present in the produced leaves and stems. Minerals such as magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron, and alpha hydroxyl acid are also found in Rooibos tea.

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Green Tea vs. Red Tea: Health Benefits

  • Green Tea
    1. Protection against cellular damage
      Green tea contains epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a powerful antioxidant that effectively prevents cellular injury and provides other advantages. Green tea's ability to treat various disorders is linked to its high EGCG levels. EGCG is known to protect cells and biomolecules from oxidative damage by decreasing the formation of harmful free radicals. These free radicals aid in the appearance of signs and symptoms of aging and various ailments.

    2. Enhances brain activity
      Green tea may assist in increasing brain function and keeping you alert. Caffeine, a well-known stimulator, is the main active component. Green tea has high levels of caffeine like that of coffee, but it is enough to provoke a reaction without generating the uncomfortable consequences of too much caffeine. Caffeine impacts the brain by inhibiting adenosine, an antagonistic neurotransmitter. This compound enhances the neuronal activity and neurotransmitter concentrations such as dopamine and norepinephrine. Several studies have proven caffeine to increase mood, vigilance, response time, and cognition, among other aspects of brain activity. In addition to caffeine, Green tea also includes the amino acid L-theanine, which can penetrate the blood-brain barrier. L-theanine stimulates GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter, which has anxiolytic properties. It also boosts dopamine release and alpha wave generation in the brain. Caffeine and L-theanine have been shown to have synergistic activity in studies. As a result, combining the two can have very potent impacts on boosting cognitive abilities.

    3. It helps reduce body fat by increasing metabolism.
      Green tea can promote fat burning and metabolic activity. Green tea contains caffeine, which can aid physical health by moving fatty acids from adipose tissue and making them accessible as tissue fuel. Green tea use has improved physical performance by about 12% in studies. Considering that green tea can temporarily increase the body's metabolism, it seems plausible that it could aid weight loss. Studies have shown that green tea also helps promote weight loss, particularly in the stomach area. Green tea drinkers showed significant reductions in body mass index, body weight, waist size, and abdominal fat in studies.

  • Red Tea
    1. Improves skin texture and appearance
      Alpha hydroxy acid, found in Red tea, is one of the primary constituents in cosmetic procedures. Clinical studies have shown that drinking red tea improves the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines by about 10%. The calming impact of Red tea reduces inflammation and redness, leading to a more even-toned complexion. Zinc, included in Red tea, has been demonstrated to help cure common skin disorders, including eczema and acne. Red tea also provides superoxide dismutase, an anti-aging enzyme that prevents wrinkles from appearing. It also collaborates with other antioxidants to combat free radical damage, which hastens the effects of aging.


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    2. Enhances bone health
      Like other teas and several herbal infusions, red tea includes minerals that promote healthy bones, such as magnesium, fluoride, and calcium. These minerals regulate the biological activity of osteoblast cells, which are essential for the formation of strong bones. While many teas include these critical minerals, red tea contains two additional chemicals that are much more advantageous to bone health and help avoid disorders like osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. The polyphenols luteolin and orientin, which are found in red tea, have improved bone mineral density and concentration.

    3. Reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease
      Red tea contains Chrysoeriol flavonoid, a bronchodilator, which helps decrease excessive blood pressure and improve blood circulation. Red tea's soothing properties aid in opening blood vessels, while antioxidants help cut down cholesterol levels and reduce plaque accumulation. Furthermore, according to studies, the Aspalathin attributed to managing diabetic symptoms may also help prevent severe conditions, including heart disease and cardiac arrest. Aspalathin works by regulating hormones to lower the risk of hypertension. This polyphenol may also aid in the prevention of inflammatory processes, which can limit blood supply to the heart.

Final thoughts:

Green tea and Red tea vary widely from their origins to their production process, chemical compositions, and health benefits. However, these drinks offer their own unique experiences that every individual can enjoy. So, if you are one of those wondering what tea to drink between the two, you should try both. Each tea has something to offer that hopefully will hook you to keep coming back for more. 

References:

  1. Canda, B D et al. “Effects of consumption of rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) and a rooibos-derived commercial supplement on hepatic tissue injury by tert-butyl hydroperoxide in Wistar rats.” Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity vol. 2014 (2014): 716832. doi:10.1155/2014/716832
  2. Chacko SM, Thambi PT, Kuttan R, Nishigaki I. Beneficial effects of green tea: a literature review. Chin Med. 2010;5:13. Published 2010 Apr 6. doi:10.1186/1749-8546-5-13
  3. Kochman J, Jakubczyk K, Antoniewicz J, Mruk H, Janda K. Health Benefits and Chemical Composition of Matcha Green Tea: A Review. Molecules. 2020 Dec 27;26(1):85. doi: 10.3390/molecules26010085. PMID: 33375458; PMCID: PMC7796401.
  4. Live Strong. 2021. Is Red Tea Better Than Green Tea?. Retrieved from: https://www.livestrong.com/article/432659-is-red-tea-better-than-green-tea/. Retrieved on 3 May 2022.
  5. Piek H, Venter I, Rautenbach F, Marnewick JL. Rooibos herbal tea: An optimal cup and its consumers. Health SA. 2019;24:1090. Published 2019 Feb 21. doi:10.4102/hsag.v24i0.1090
  6. Shape. 2011. Is Rooibos Tea Better Than Green Tea?. Retrieved from: https://www.shape.com/healthy-eating/rooibos-tea-better-green-tea. Retrieved on 3 May 2022. 
  7. Spoon University. 2021. Tea Time Showdown: Red Tea Vs. Green Tea. Retrieved from: https://spoonuniversity.com/lifestyle/what-is-the-difference-between-red-and-green-tea. Retrieved on 3 May 2022. 

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