by Rachael Link, MS, RD
Taking a stroll through the tea section of your local supermarket can be overwhelming for even the most well-versed tea aficionado. From green tea to white tea to oolong tea and beyond, it seems there are limitless options, each with a different flavor profile and a unique array of health benefits. Although often overlooked in favor of bigger brands and more familiar names, ceylon tea actually forms the base of many beloved tea blends and packs in a serious punch when it comes to nutrition.
Besides its delicious flavor, ceylon tea is also incredibly versatile, plus packed with antioxidants, polyphenols and flavonoids that can bring some serious benefits in terms of your health, making it a worthy addition to your next shopping list. But what does ceylon tea taste like, how do you use it and does ceylon tea have caffeine? Keep reading to learn more about the potential ceylon tea benefits and side effects, plus how you can incorporate this nutritious tea into your diet.
What Is Ceylon Tea?
Ceylon tea refers to any type of tea that is produced in Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon. Like other kinds of tea, ceylon tea comes from the leaves of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis, which are then dried and processed into different types of tea.
White ceylon tea, for example, is harvested early and considered the least processed type of tea, which helps it retain its impressive antioxidant and nutrient profile. Ceylon green tea is also less processed than black tea and does not undergo the same oxidation process, giving it a lighter color. Black ceylon tea is one of the most well-known and popular types of ceylon tea and is used around the world as a base for tea blends like Earl Grey and iced teas.
Ceylon tea is claimed to contain more antioxidants and, subsequently, boast more health benefits than other types of tea because of the soil, climate and processing methods that are used to produce it. (1) Not only that, but the ceylon tea taste is typically considered richer, bolder and more full-bodied, setting it apart from other common tea varieties.
Ceylon Tea Benefits
- Rich in Disease-Fighting Polyphenols
- Contains Anticancer Properties
- Stabilizes Blood Sugar
- Preserves Brain Function
- Lowers Cholesterol Levels
- Boosts Fat Burning
1. Rich in Disease-Fighting Polyphenols
Ceylon tea is loaded with polyphenols, which are a type of plant compound that act as antioxidants in the body. Antioxidants help fight free radicals to protect against oxidative stress and prevent damage to the cells. Free radical formation has been shown to play a central role in the development of several chronic conditions, including cancer and heart disease. (2)
In particular, ceylon tea is rich in several potent polyphenols, including aglycones, quercetin, myricetin and kaempferol. Multiple studies have shown that many types of ceylon tea — including green, black and white varieties — possess powerful antioxidant properties that can help promote overall health and reduce the risk of disease. (3, 4, 5)
2. Contains Anticancer Properties
Thanks to its high antioxidant content, ceylon tea tops the charts as one of the best cancer-fighting foods that you can add to your diet. Research suggests that the antioxidants and polyphenols found in ceylon tea may help protect against cancer and neutralize cancer-causing free radicals to stop the development of cancer in its tracks.
Although human studies are still limited, animal models and in vitro studies have shown that green and white tea varieties, in particular, may help block the growth and spread of tumor cells for multiple types of cancer. These types of tea have been shown to be especially effective in the prevention of skin, prostate, breast, lung, liver and stomach cancers. (6, 7)
3. Stabilizes Blood Sugar
Maintaining normal blood sugar levels is key to overall health. High blood sugar can trigger a host of adverse side effects, ranging from increased thirst to unintentional weight loss. Over time, sustaining high blood sugar levels can cause even more serious symptoms, including impaired wound healing and kidney problems.
Some research suggests that adding ceylon tea to your routine may be an effective and easy way to keep blood sugar steady. A review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, for example, compiled the results of 17 studies and concluded that green tea was effective in reducing blood sugar and improving insulin sensitivity. (8) Another 2017 study out of Thailand reported that black tea consumption was able to reduce blood sugar levels in both normal and prediabetic participants. (9)
4. Preserves Brain Function
Jam-packed with catechins, polyphenols and health-promoting properties, some studies show that regular consumption of ceylon tea could bring big benefits when it comes to brain health and the prevention of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Studies have found that drinking green tea could help improve cognitive function in elderly participants and may even reduce the risk of cognitive decline. (10, 11) Meanwhile, in vitro studies also suggest that white tea could protect brain cells against oxidative stress, toxicity and damage. (12, 13)
5. Lowers Cholesterol Levels
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that can build up in your bloodstream, hardening the arteries upping your risk of serious, life-threatening conditions like coronary heart disease and stroke. From switching up your diet to hitting the gym, there are plenty of ways to lower cholesterol naturally and fast. Interestingly, some studies have even found that adding ceylon tea to your diet can help decrease cholesterol levels quickly and easily.
One massive review of 14 studies showed that supplementing with green tea extract led to significant reductions in levels of both bad LDL cholesterol as well as triglycerides. (14) Similarly, another study published in the Journal of Nutrition also found that adding black tea to a healthy diet helped drop both total and LDL cholesterol, potentially decreasing the risk of developing heart disease. (15)
6. Boosts Fat Burning
Looking to bump up fat burning and lose weight fast? When paired with a nutritious diet and active lifestyle, adding a cup or two of ceylon tea into your routine may be an effective way to amp up metabolism and increase weight loss with minimal effort required.
One in vitro study conducted in Hamburg, Germany showed that white tea extract helped trigger fat cell breakdown while also preventing the formation of new fat cells in the body. (16) Another study published in the journal Obesity showed that taking green tea extract for 12 weeks led to a significant reduction in body fat and decreased both bad LDL cholesterol and systolic blood pressure. (17)
Ceylon Tea Side Effects
When consumed in moderation, ceylon tea can be a safe and healthy dietary addition for most. It does, however, contain caffeine, which can trigger side effects in some people. The ceylon tea caffeine content is usually around 23–110 milligrams per eight ounces. This is typically lower than a cup of coffee, which hovers around 95 milligrams of caffeine per cup, but can amount to double or triple that based on the brand and type of coffee.
While caffeine consumption can come with several benefits, including improved alertness and a lower risk of developing certain neurodegenerative disorders, it can also cause a slew of negative health effects as well. In fact, a caffeine overdose can trigger symptoms like increased thirst, a rapid heartbeat, confusion, sweating and muscle twitches. (18) For pregnant women, it’s also recommended to limit caffeine consumption to less than 200 milligrams per day to reduce the risk of negative side effects and health problems.
To cut down on the caffeine content of your ceylon tea, simply limit the amount of time you spend steeping the tea. You can also pour boiling water over the tea leaves, steep for 30 seconds, and then discard the liquid and reuse the steeped tea leaves to make a new cup of tea. This method significantly slashes the caffeine content but still allows you to take advantage of the health benefits and delicious flavor of ceylon tea.
Drinking large amounts of ceylon tea may also cause some adverse side effects. In one report, for example, black tea was found to impair iron absorption and delay recovery from iron-deficiency anemia in a 37-year-old woman who was drinking nearly two liters of black tea per day. (19) The fluoride found in ceylon tea may also contribute to fluorosis when consumed in large amounts, which is a condition characterized by the discoloration of the teeth due to fluoride exposure. (20)
That being said, sticking to one to two cups of ceylon tea per day can decrease the risk of side effects and allow you to take full advantage of the range of potential health benefits offered by this highly nutritious beverage. If you do notice any adverse side effects, cut down on your consumption, and consider consulting with your doctor if symptoms persist.
Ceylon Tea Nutrition
Much like other types of tea, ceylon tea is loaded with health-promoting polyphenols and antioxidants, as well as tannins, flavonoids and catechins. It’s virtually calorie-free but squeezes in a small amount of several important micronutrients, including fluoride and potassium.
Ceylon tea also does contain some caffeine, with about 23–110 milligrams per eight-ounce serving. This amount can vary based on several factors, including the brand, type of tea and the amount of steeping time.
Ceylon Tea in Ayurveda and TCM
Tea is a common ingredient that has been used in many forms of holistic medicine for thousands of years and was believed to naturally treat a wide array of health conditions.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, tea is often used to treat phlegm, quench thirst, fight fatigue and decrease itching. Tea is also believed to promote proper digestion, extend longevity and increase qi, which is the life force that flows through the body.
Tea fits well into an Ayurvedic diet as well. Green tea, in particular, is believed to help provide energy and enhance focus while also calming the nerves and boosting circulation. However, there is some debate about how caffeine fits into an Ayurvedic lifestyle, especially for those with a Pitta or Vata dosha. In general, though, moderating your tea intake and listening carefully to your body can help keep negative symptoms of caffeine at bay and balance your dosha.
Where to Find and How to Use Ceylon Tea
Fortunately, you don’t need to travel all the way to Sri Lanka to enjoy the unique taste, aroma and health benefits that ceylon tea has to offer. In fact, there are plenty of ceylon tea brands available at most major grocery stores as well as plenty of online retailers and specialty shops.
Look for pure ceylon tea whenever possible, and try a range of different types to find your favorite. Green, black and white ceylon teas all offer a different set of antioxidants and nutrients, making each a worthwhile addition to the diet.
Wondering how to drink ceylon tea? While many people enjoy steeping the tea leaves in hot water and enjoying as is, you can also use ceylon tea to make iced tea or use it in your favorite soup, smoothie and shake recipes. You can also try experimenting by adding some healing herbs and spices to your cup of tea to bump up both the flavor and the health benefits. From raw honey to lemon, peppermint or ceylon cinnamon tea, the possibilities are limitless.
How Is Ceylon Tea Made? Ceylon Tea Recipes
Just like regular tea, ceylon tea is made from the leaves of the tea plant, also known as Camellia sinensis. The leaves are picked, withered, oxidized and dried during processing in order to produce the final product. Different types of ceylon tea undergo different types of processing. White tea, for example, is harvested earlier and undergoes minimal processing, while black tea is heavily oxidized to achieve its darker color and distinct flavor.
Most people enjoy ceylon tea by pouring hot water over the leaves and allowing the tea to steep between two to five minutes before straining the liquid and drinking it hot. However, there are plenty of other ways to use ceylon tea as well.
Looking for a few new and interesting ways to get in your daily cup of tea? Here are a few simple recipes that can help mix up your morning routine and keep things interesting:
Ceylon Tea vs. Black Tea vs. Green Tea
Ceylon tea simply refers to any type of tea produced in Sri Lanka and comprises all types of tea, including green, black and white tea varieties. These different types of tea may vary in the way that they are processed, but those that are grown and harvested in Sri Lanka are still classified as ceylon tea.
The benefits of ceylon tea are comparable to green, white and black tea benefits. Like other types of tea, ceylon tea is high in antioxidants and can help protect against oxidative stress and free radical formation. It may also come with significant benefits to health and may be linked with a decreased risk of several chronic conditions.
In terms of flavor and aroma, ceylon tea is said to have a richer, more bold taste than tea produced in other areas. It’s also been shown to have a higher content of several important polyphenols, including myricetin, quercetin and kaempferol, all of which may contribute to its wealth of health-promoting properties.
The roots of ceylon tea can be traced back to the year 1824, when the British first brought the tea plant from China to Sri Lanka. It was then planted in the Peradeniya Royal Botanical Gardens and is still considered the first non-commercial ceylon tea plant found in Sri Lanka.
British citizen James Taylor is credited with introducing tea cultivation to Sri Lanka. After visiting India to learn about growing tea on plantations, he traveled to Sri Lanka and began the first ceylon plantation on a 19-acre estate in 1867. Just a few years later in 1872, he opened the first tea factory, which began rapidly increasing the export of ceylon tea around the globe. Soon after, ceylon tea started reaching new heights in popularity. In 1893, 1 million tea packets were sold at Chicago’s World Fair and by 1965, Sri Lanka became the world’s largest tea exporter.
Today, tea is considered the most widely consumed beverage next to water and is consumed by two-thirds of the world’s population. (21) Ceylon tea remains one of the most common types of tea, and millions of pounds are exported around the globe each year.
While ceylon tea has been associated with a long list of impressive health benefits, it’s important to pair it with a nutritious diet and healthy lifestyle to maximize the potential effects on health. Additionally, be sure to keep your consumption in moderation by limiting your intake to one to two cups per day to help sidestep negative side effects.
Keep in mind that ceylon tea contains caffeine, which can cause negative symptoms when consumed in high amounts. For women who are pregnant, in particular, it’s recommended to limit caffeine intake to less than 200 milligrams per day to avoid negative side effects. Reusing previously steeped tea leaves or limiting the amount of time the tea leaves are steeped are two effective strategies that can help cut down on the caffeine content of your tea and minimize the risk of adverse symptoms.
Finally, if you experience any negative symptoms after drinking ceylon tea, be sure to reduce your intake or discontinue use. If side effects persist, consider talking with your doctor or a trusted health care professional.
- Ceylon tea refers to any type of tea produced in Sri Lanka, which was formerly known as Ceylon. While black ceylon tea is the most common type, there are other forms of ceylon tea available as well, including white and green tea.
- The most notable ceylon tea benefit is its rich polyphenol content, which could help protect against chronic conditions such as cancer. Other potential ceylon tea benefits include increased fat burning, reduced cholesterol levels, enhanced brain function and better blood sugar control.
- Ceylon tea does contain caffeine, which can cause negative side effects. Consuming high amounts of tea may also cause adverse symptoms, such as impaired iron absorption. However, it is generally considered safe for most people.
- From iced beverage to smoothies and soups, are plenty of unique ways to add ceylon tea into your routine, allowing you to take full advantage of the multitude of benefits that it has to offer.
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