The Healthiest Tea to Enjoy Hot on a Cold Day!

Article written and reviewed by Cyrus Khambatta, PhD and Robby Barbaro, MPH
Published January 19, 2022

It's getting colder out there as winter is in the air, and there is nothing quite so satisfying as a hot cup of tea to warm your hands against the cold.

But not all teas are created equal! Some can damage your health while others are amazing natural medicines that you can (and maybe should) drink every day! In this blog post, we'll break down what to look for, and the healthiest tea for you to enjoy!

Cold Day? Hot Tea

It's an iconic image -- coming in from a cold morning, or a day outside, and nothing is as satisfying as sitting down with a hot cup of tea. And what's maybe even more impressive is how universal this is!

Almost every culture on earth has a variation of hot tea. Whether it's Masala chai in India, Earl Grey in England, or just some hot water with lemon here in the States, one thing is for sure -- we all love our hot tea on cold days!

But not all teas are created equal! And it's important to make the healthiest choice possible when you're choosing what kind of tea to enjoy on those cold days.

Good for the Body and Soul

While it's definitely true that nothing quite warms the soul like hot tea on a cold day, even better is the fact that tea is also great for your health!

Tea is one of the oldest beverages in the world and has been enjoyed by cultures all over for centuries. And that's because tea is packed with health benefits!

Some types of tea are even known to help cure diseases! So on top of being a delicious comfort drink, hot tea can also be a health elixir!

The Proven Health Power of Tea

It's actually hard to generalize the health benefits of teas because there are so many from so many different plants!

However, here are some facts that we know about tea.

Almost all teas are a great source of antioxidants. Antioxidants are important because they help protect our cells from damage, boost your immune system, help your heart function better, and can even help fight cancer.

Another fact about tea is that in almost all cases they are low in calories, but high in nutrients. Due to the simple nature of creating tea from any plant or herb, you're going to end up with a drink that distills many of the medicinal compounds of different plants and herbs, without taking on much more.

And finally, there are extensive studies about people who drink tea that show that they are healthier, live longer, and age more gracefully.

A powerful place to start.

But It's Worth Watching Out!

However, that doesn't mean that anything with the word tea in it is going to be good for you! For example, iced tea is often loaded with sugar and calories. And it's also one of the biggest culprits for health issues besides soda!

Another example, many fruit teas or bubble teas are packed with sugars and sweeteners that can be bad for your health -- especially if you're watching out for weight loss. It might seem like a healthy alternative to true teas, but it's not!

The Key Word -- Additives

The central issue here is that natural plant-based or herbal teas aren't quite as eye-catching as sweet teas or iced teas packed with sugars and topped with syrup and whipped cream. So manufacturers and coffee shops pack their teas with additives to try to get unsuspecting consumers drinking tea that's packed with sneaky sweeteners.

Here's what to look out for!

Added Sugar

As fun as it is to pack on the added sugar, it's definitely not doing your health any favors! Added sugars can lead to weight gain, heart disease, and diabetes. So if you're drinking tea, make sure it doesn't have added sugar!

Syrups and Synthetic Sweeteners

We're looking at you Starbucks! Again, as much fun (and chemically tasty!) as it can be to drink syrups and artificial sweeteners, it's not good for you! These additives can cause health problems like weight gain, increased blood sugar levels, and even heart disease.

Creams and Milk

And finally, though they're not as bad as the first two, adding cream and milk to your tea can sometimes neutralize the benefits of tea, and turn it from something that's a health powerhouse into something that's just okay. This is especially true if you're using tea in tandem with intermittent fasting!

Without cream and milk, intermittent fasting and tea are a powerful pair. With... well, they're just another drink that'll break your fast. Just something to be aware of!

For Your Health It's Hard to Go Wrong

So what should you look for when choosing a tea to drink on a cold day?

Well, we'll break them down below!

Green Tea

First and foremost is green tea, which is one of the healthiest teas you can drink and also happens to be one of the world's most popular drinks! Green tea comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant, is packed with antioxidants, which help to fight off free radicals in the body and can help to reduce the risk of cancer, high blood pressure, and other health problems.

Green tea is also a great source of caffeine, has natural fat-burning properties, and can help improve cognition.

Black Tea, Oolong Tea, and White Tea

Next up are black tea, oolong tea, and white tea -- other forms of the Camellia Sinensis plant (the same plant as green tea). The main difference between green tea, black tea, oolong tea, and white tea are the preparations of the green tea leaves, which can change the antioxidant and caffeine values (depending on your preference).

For example, white tea has higher antioxidants and less caffeine, oolong tea and green tea are balanced for both, and black tea has lower antioxidants and more caffeine.

Still, they all have the same health benefits from the Camellia Sinensis plant, and are some of the healthiest teas to drink!

Peppermint Tea

Next up is peppermint tea, which is a great herbal tea to drink. Peppermint tea is a health powerhouse, and can help with everything from weight loss (due to its appetite suppression properties) all the way up to help improve respiratory health!

Not to mention that peppermint tea has that festive flavor to it that'll make it even more enjoyable to add to a cold day during the holiday season!

Chamomile Tea

Another common favorite is chamomile tea, which has health benefits that range from stress relief to improving digestion. The key to chamomile tea is high levels of apigenin and luteolin, two flavonoids that are responsible for the health benefits of chamomile tea.

It's also a great herbal option for those who want other health and flavor benefits than just caffeine!

Rooibos Tea

Rooibos tea, also known as redbush tea, originates from South Africa and is made from the Aspalathus Linearis plant. Rooibos tea is a great choice because it's naturally caffeine-free, low in tannins (which can sometimes cause stomach problems), and high in antioxidants!

Rooibos has been shown to help with everything from energy levels to brain health, and is a great choice for those who want more health benefits than just caffeine!

Jasmine Tea

Jasmine tea is actually made from jasmine flowers and is a great choice for those who want a healthy tea with a light and refreshing flavor. That's because jasmine tea is high in antioxidants, can help to improve digestion, and has anti-inflammatory properties!

Jasmine tea has also been shown to help with everything from cardiovascular health to improving brain health, and is a great choice for anyone looking for more than just caffeine!

The Wide World of Herbal Tea

And we're just touching on some of the teas that you can drink, since there are dozens and dozens more herbal teas to try, like ginger tea, hibiscus tea, lemon tea, and more!

Each of these herbal teas has its own health benefits (for example hibiscus tea is great at lowering blood pressure, while ginger tea helps boost your immune system), so it's worth exploring and finding the ones that you enjoy the most to drink on a cold day!

But the Healthiest Tea Is... Amla Tea!

As we mentioned before, we did promise that we'd offer up the healthiest tea to drink, and when it comes to health benefits there's one that reigns supreme -- amla.

Amla Is Ridiculously Nutritious

Let's start with the nutrients. Amla is one of the most powerful antioxidants on the planet and the second most powerful natural source of vitamin C. So it blows other superfoods and all of the other healthy teas on the planet out of the water when it comes to fighting oxidative stress and related issues. But the true power of amla actually comes in its additional benefits.

And Has Amazing Health Benefits

Compared to some of the other healthiest teas on the planet, amla certainly stands out for its antioxidant properties and vitamin C. But what really is amazing is its medicinal properties.

Amla has been shown over the course of dozens of clinical studies to:

  • Lower your blood glucose
  • Lower your blood pressure
  • Lead to lower cholesterol and better overall heart health
  • Improve your skin health
  • Improve your immune system for reduced risk of the common cold
  • Promote hair growth
  • Improve liver health
  • Help with an upset stomach

And has a number of other benefits to your overall health. It may even show promise in cancer prevention!

Amla Green

So why haven't you heard of amla? Well, it’s been famous for centuries in places like India and Southeast Asia, where the fruit grows, but its earthy flavors can be an acquired taste.

That's why our friends over at Amla Green combined it with other flavors like hibiscus, green tea, and elderberries to balance out the flavor of the planet's healthiest tea and add even more health benefits!

Some Frequently Asked Questions

Do Tea Leaves or Tea Bags Matter?

We get this question a lot. The benefits of a tea plant aren't changed by being put in tea bags, but different tea brands may process them or dry them for long enough that they may lose a little bit of potency.

Overall though, whether you're drinking from tea bags or tea leaves, as long as you're enjoying true tea without any additives you'll be in a good spot!

Seriously Though... What If I Like a Little Honey or Sweetener?

This is a tricky question. Obviously, in moderation, adding a little bit of honey or agave (or other natural sweeteners) won't make or break your overall health. However, as we mentioned above with cream or milk, they will break your fast if you're intermittent fasting and can turn a drink that's incredibly good for you into something that's just decent for you.

The Final Word

Green tea, oolong tea, white tea, black tea, rooibos tea... these are definitely some of the healthiest teas on the planet! But when it comes to the king, you're looking at one tea -- amla.

And thanks to our friends at Amla Green, you can now get this incredible superfood mixed with flavors like green tea, hibiscus tea, and elderberries and delivered right to your door!

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About the author 

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD and Robby Barbaro, MPH

Cyrus Khambatta, PhD, and Robby Barbaro, MPH are the coauthors of the New York Times bestselling book Mastering Diabetes: The Revolutionary Method to Reverse Insulin Resistance Permanently in Type 1, Type 1.5, Type 2, Prediabetes, and Gestational Diabetes. They are the cofounders of Mastering Diabetes, a coaching platform that teaches people how to reverse insulin resistance via low-fat, plant-based, whole-food nutrition. Cyrus has been living with type 1 diabetes since 2002, and has an undergraduate degree from Stanford University and a PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry from UC Berkeley. Robby was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2000, and has been living a plant-based lifestyle since 2006. He worked at Forks Over Knives for 6 years, and earned a Master’s in Public Health in 2019.