The Beauty in a Cup of Tea

by Sonja on April 3, 2009

image by kanko*

I love drinking tea and have been drinking more of it than ever over the last few months, ever since I learned that it can do wonderful things for my skin. I’ve learned that most teas are a great source of antioxidants and are a tasty way to stay hydrated and flush out toxins from the body. I also discovered two lines of tea, Teavana and Sipping Beauty, that are so much more delicious than teas I had been drinking, because they make more interesting blends and the quality is better. They might even have more beauty benefits (although I can’t say for sure).

In light of what I’ve learned, I’ve got a beauty guide to tea for you with info about the beauty benefits, ways to use it directly on the skin, tips for making an excellent cup of tea, why loose leaf tea is so much better than tea in bags, and recommended teas. Even though the weather is getting warmer, take time for tea. Whether you drink it hot or ice cold, your skin will thank you.

Beauty Benefits

What we put into our body is reflected in how we look and feel.

Antioxidants

Teas generally contain lots of antioxidants, which are very good for the skin, says Dr. Christine Gonzalez, who is a health coach and integrative pharmacist. Antioxidants help prevent the aged appearance of skin that’s caused by environmental stress from things like the sun’s rays, cigarette smoke, and pollution. Studies have also shown that antioxidants may protect us from cancer, infections, toxins, and cardiovascular damage. (Teavana Kuki Matcha Green Tea shown at left.)

Green, white, black, and rooibos teas, and herbal infusions are all rich in antioxidants. Christine says that green and black teas have about eight to ten times the amount of antioxidants found in fruits and veggies. Green tea has more antioxidants than black. Rooibos has more than green. White tea has the most, because it’s the least processed, youngest tea. Personally, I don’t like caffeine so I prefer green and white teas, which both have much less caffeine than black tea, and rooibos (also known as red or red bush tea), which is naturally caffeine-free and still has lots of flavor.

Hydration

Drink up! Staying hydrated can ward off under eye circles, reduce puffiness and bloating, make eyes look brighter, and help keep skin smooth, elastic, and less prone to blemishes. Teas with no caffeine, like herbal infusions and rooibos, are hydrating and count toward those recommended eight eight-ounce glasses of water to drink each day. Like water, they flush out toxins, and improve circulation and blood flow.

However, teas with lots of caffeine, like black teas, are diuretic. That means they actually dehydrate the body so you need to drink even more water or caffeine-free tea to compensate. Black tea can have as much or more caffeine than coffee or a cola. There’s some debate about whether green and white teas are hydrating, because they contain caffeine but much less caffeine than black teas. White tea has about one percent of the caffeine in a cup of coffee. Green has about five to ten percent. (Teavana Frutto Bianco Pearls White Tea shown at left.)

Tea on the Skin

Teas can also beautify when applied directly on the skin.

  • Rooibos can be used as an all-over toner, and especially around the eyes, to reduce puffiness and redness. Green tea can also be used as a refreshing toner. These are best made in small batches and refrigerated.
  • Cool bags of teas with caffeine make good eye compresses. The caffeine in them reduce puffiness and under eye circles.
  • You can also slather yourself with tea by using some of the many great skin care products that are made with tea. Eco-friendly JUARA incorporates tea into many of their products. Some of my favorites include the Tiare Jasmine Tea Body Milk (a light-yet-rich lotion that’s made with white, black, and green tea extracts, and smells amaaaazing) and Sweet Black Tea Lip Treatment (a lightly moisturizing treatment that doubles as a lip primer).

An Excellent Cup of Tea

The way tea tastes can vary a lot due to the quality of the tea and how it’s made. Here’s how to avoid making a bitter tasting cup of tea…

  • The Tea. Start with a high-quality tea. While tea bags are convenient, loose leaf tea has the best taste. The tea in tea bags are essentially the dregs that fall to the bottom when sorting higher quality, loose leaf tea. See below for more about loose leaf tea vs. tea bags.
  • The Water. Resident tea expert at Teavana Cassandra Kimbler says it’s important to start with good water. She says freshly drawn, filtered cold water or spring water are best.
  • Temperature. Don’t overboil your water. She says that strips water of oxygen and thus produces a flat tasting tea. She recommends removing your kettle from the heat once it comes to a boil or slightly before.
  • Brew Time. She says a common mistake in brewing tea is that most people don’t pay enough attention to how long they brew their tea or realize how much it affects the flavor. Green and white teas, which only need to be steeped for a minute or two, can taste “off” when steeped too long. If you want a stronger tea, use more tea instead of brewing it longer. Definitely keep a timer on hand to avoid overbrewing. I really like that Teavana provides brew times with their teas.
  • Don’t Stir the Pot. Stirring tea while it steeps tends to produce bitter tasting tea.
  • The Right Tools. I highly recommend the Teavana Perfect Tea Maker, which makes it very easy to make a very good cup of tea. Just drop in the tea leaves, steep, set it on top of a mug, and then the tea drains down without a single leaf falling through. Check out this to see how it works. It’s quite cool.

Loose Leaf Tea vs. Tea Bags

As I mentioned above, tea bags are convenient. But the quality of the tea is inferior to loose leaf teas for many reasons. Cassandra informed me that the tea in tea bags are what’s called “dust.” It’s the waste that falls from mesh screens when sorting loose leaf tea. Sometimes the dust is from lower quality tea to begin with. The paper used for the bag can also interfere with the flavor of a tea.

Most bag teas contain leaves that are broken into small pieces, which exposes them to more air and causes them to go stale faster and lose flavor. She says that the small size of a bag doesn’t allow the leaves to diffuse and steep properly. If you really want the convenience of a bag, she recommends popping some of your favorite loose leaf tea into empty teabags, which you can buy from places like TeaVana and health food stores.

Recommended Teas

Some of the best tasting teas I’ve had are those from Teavana and Sipping Beauty.

Teavana

Teavana makes a seemingly endless array of flavorful teas. They blend wonderful ingredients that have many health and beauty benefits. I like that many of the teas contain fruit, like the Imperial Acai Blueberry White Tea, which contains blueberries, acai, and black currant, and Fruta Bomba, which is a blend of green and rooibos teas with rope papaya and pieces of peach. I also adore the spicy blends like Haute Chocolate, which is red Rooibos tea with cinnamon, cardamon, ginger, and cocoa. They’re some of the most unique blends I’ve ever tried. The company also donates one percent of their profits each year to CARE, a group that provides funds to projects that benefit the people of the countries where the teas are grown.

Sipping Beauty

Sipping Beauty only has six teas; but they’re all beauty oriented. Their antioxidant-rich Forever Young is a yummy blend of organic red bush (rooibos) tea, cocoa, vanilla, peppermint leaves and flowers. I also love Multi Beautimin, which is supposed to boost your daily vitamin C with ingredients like strawberries, kiwis, apple pulp, rose hip fruit, and hibiscus flowers. They also have teas designed to detox, help you lose weight, and sleep better (though not all at the same time).

Do Tell

So do you drink a lot of tea? Do you drink it because you know it’s good for you? What are your favorites?

P.S. Check out our regularly updated Beauty Resources page for some amazing beauty deals from companies like Benefit, beauty.com, and spalook.com.

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1 Susann April 3, 2009 at 1:23 am

Oh, i love tea. When it was winter i only drink tea in the morning, afternoon and night ;-)

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2 Amika April 3, 2009 at 6:08 am

I love love tea :)

I drink mostly Bancha during the day. Its a Japanese Green Tea and i prefer it over the Sencha because it has this softer taste. In the summer we always have a bottle in the fridge with cold tea as it is really thirst-quenching.

I really like Yogi Tea’s, they have inspiring words on their teatags! And a few months ago i had this lovely blend in a cafe in Prague http://www.harney.com/parisblend.html It was puuurfect!

Hmm as for beauty benefits i don’t know,.. I only used my tea-leafs as substitute for medicine. I don’t prefer using aspirins when i have a headache so i drink some Chamomille Tea, Rooibos really helped with some allergies, Tension Tamer-tea is brilliant when you have deadlines coming up..

All this tea writing made me thirsty.. ^_^

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3 najeema April 3, 2009 at 6:59 am

Great post. I’ve always been a tea fan, but I think I neutralize any health benefits by adding enough sugar to make mine a diabetic disaster. I’m inspired now to try and be healthy again- the white teas sound yummy and perfect for spring.

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4 tenthings April 3, 2009 at 8:48 am

What a great article!

I love tea, too.

I love the ritual as much as the flavor. I drink Yogi Tea. Love the positive affirmations.

To know that drinking tea is a good thing to do for your health and skin, makes it that much better.

So, pour yourself a cup of tea, relax and enjoy the many benefits!

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5 dapper kid April 3, 2009 at 9:22 am

I am definitely a tea addict, I got into teas through my parents and have been collecting tea tins and the like since I was little.

In terms of caffeine and the diuretic properties of black tea, I usually limit myself to one cup a day, and make sure I take some time to enjoy it properly, like my grandfather would with his cigars lol. I would definitely recommend trying Nilgiri if you ever get the chance. Unfortunately it doesn’t travel too well, so it’s rather rare and expensive outside of Southern Asia, but the first flush crop has the most amazing flavour ever.

And I love traditional loose leaf green tea, which I drink more often than black. You definitely have to make sure you heat fresh water, and I tend to only get it to around 70-80 degrees C. What you can do it pour it into a pot with the loose leaf, and leave it without stirring. Then after a minute, pour the water out without losing the leaves, and pour new water into the soaked leaves and pot for actual drinking.

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6 Sonja April 3, 2009 at 10:06 am

❤ Susann, I did the same thing. I was drinking tea constantly it seemed. Now that it’s warmer, I’m reminding myself to keep drinking it and keeping some in the fridge so I can continue to get the health and beauty benefits.
❤ Amika, you’re a fountain of tea knowledge! I didn’t know about rooibos being good for allergies. I actually only just discovered it recently but will drink even more of it now. That’s also good to know about the differences of green teas. I had no idea. I think I recall that about Yogi Teas. I love when companies include inspiring words – elevates the whole experience. Thanks for all the great tips!

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7 Sonja April 3, 2009 at 10:19 am

❤ najeema, that’s so funny. I love a sweet tea, too. But I’m sure you’re using less sugar than what’s in a typical soda or glass of juice. A soda or 12-ounce glass of OJ has around 40 grams, or about 10 teaspoons, of sugar, so amazingly, you’re probably using nothing compared to that! Check out this eye-opening chart on sugar content: http://www.hookedonjuice.com/. You might also like to try a fruitier tea, like the Teavana Imperial Acai Blueberry White Tea, which is naturally sweet but without the gobs of sugar.
❤ tenthings, absolutely! The ritual is a big bonus. I need to look into that and think about it more when I make tea.
❤ dapper kid, that’s great that you savor your black tea like that. I had a friend who drank tons of coffee and little water, not knowing that she was dehydrating herself to the point that she got a kidney stone. eek.
Thanks for the tip about green tea. It’s interesting to learn all these finer points about tea making!

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8 lisa April 3, 2009 at 11:39 am

This was a very informative post! Sad to say that even though I know tea bags are inferior, I’ll probably keep using them for the sake of convenience. My favourite brand is probably Tazo-my brother works at Starbucks and he gets a box of tea free a week, so we’ve built up quite a collection. When I want caffeine-free and sugar-free teas the Passion and Wild Sweet Orange varieties are quite nice-aromatic and naturally sweet and not in need of any sugar.

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9 Patti Lee April 3, 2009 at 1:16 pm

This is a great article - yes, tea bags are really bottom of the barrel for drinking. Please, people - throw away those Lipton Tea Bags (basement tea!). Awful! Thanks for all the info. I also absolutely love those hreat tea containers for altering.

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10 Sonja April 3, 2009 at 3:23 pm

❤ Lisa, thank you! I do enjoy Tazo tea as well. What a nice perk for you! I love the fruity stuff, too. I still have a big collection of bag tea. It’s definitely better when I need the convenience. But I’m taking the time to use loose leaf more now that I’ve learned the difference.
❤ Patti, you crack me up. “Basement tea” — love that! Glad you enjoyed the article!

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11 Laurel April 4, 2009 at 1:17 pm

I enjoyed reading this! I absolutely love rooibos- I’ll definitely try applying it to my skin.

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12 Helen April 5, 2009 at 6:35 am

I heard somewhere that if you brew green tea for about 10 minutes, then let it cool, when applied to the scalp it can help with dandruff! I’ve not tried it yet but maybe I will if head and shoulders doesn’t start working soon haha.

Green tea is my favourite, I also like Earl Grey. I have it black or with just a drop of milk, but having milk in it isn’t as good for you.

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13 Christina April 5, 2009 at 6:08 pm

Green tea is fabulous, but I love jasmine tea. Having relatives in China makes getting good tea so much easier.

I do wonder that jasmine tea hasn’t been mentioned yet, but it’s my favorite and smells delicious!

I must admit I don’t like blended teas, Teavana especially. I’m of the tea snob school that tea should simply be loose full-leaf tea. Hahaha definitely biased from drinking that type of tea my entire life! Can’t stand tea bags.

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14 szaza April 6, 2009 at 9:07 am

Hurray for tea! I love tea, and drink several cups a day of green and black teas. When I lived in SF I frequented not only Chinatown tea shops but Lupicia in the Westfield on Market. Here’s the US site: http://www.lupiciausa.com/

I highly recommend the Kaga Bocha: http://www.lupiciausa.com/product_p/12307441.htm

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15 Olyvia Anne April 6, 2009 at 10:09 am

I love tea, I drink it all the time! I usually make a pot of tea and then carry it anound my house with a small teacup and refill as often as I want to. Or I bring a thermos to college.
I’m not a coffee fan, and tea is a lovely alternative that is much healthier.
My favorite is yerba mate’

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16 Sonja April 6, 2009 at 3:29 pm

❤ Laurel, thanks so much!
❤ Helen, thanks for the green tea tip. I will definitely try that. I didn’t know that about milk. Will have to take a look at that. Do you know what milk does to the benefits of teas?
❤ Christina, I didn’t mention jasmine tea, because it’s not it’s own separate category but a product of “mating” jasmine with other teas (usually green): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jasmine
❤ szaza, I need to take a closer look at Lupicia. I do have their cooler pitcher. Need to get it out now that the weather’s getting warmer. Thanks for the reminder though and the recommendation!
❤ Olyvia Anne, I’m the same way. I usually make a big pot and drink from that. I don’t like coffee at all! Not familiar with yerba mate’. Will have to check that out.

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17 Torey April 6, 2009 at 9:25 pm

Thanks for this tea posting. I drink tea at least twice a day and highly recommend Peet’s Snow Leopard White Tea. It is loose leaf (yay!) and delicious. If they make it for you at Peet’s they use way more leaves than you would on your own so I occasionally find myself a little loopy on white tea. Seriously, I think it may have more caffeine than they claim.

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18 Sonja April 6, 2009 at 9:48 pm

❤ Torey, I had some jasmine tea at Peet’s and I barely slept that night. I normally don’t do caffeine so I’m extra sensitive but I KNOW that was the strongest jasmine tea EVER. I didn’t know Peet’s had white tea. Definitely will give it a try.

Did you know Starbuck’s sold Peet’s at their shops when they first started? Peet’s pretty much revolutionized the coffee industry in a world that had become accustomed to Folger’s and Hills Brothers. Yup, there’s my San Francisco trivia for the day. :)

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19 Caroline April 8, 2009 at 4:49 am

Great post! I drink lots of tea, both black and herbal blends (tisanes).

I’m a big-fan of Zhena’s Gypsy Tea, which is organic, Fair Trade, and woman-run! Three things that are great in my book…

http://www.gypsytea.com/

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20 Cécile/detour2mode April 9, 2009 at 4:09 am

i just love tea..right now i’m drinking tea… i can’t drink teabags anymore since i discovered leaf teas..i’m absolutely convinced this is really good for my health..and anyway i’m just addicted!

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21 Sonja April 9, 2009 at 1:03 pm

❤ Cécile/detour2mode, I feel the same way. It’s hard to use a tea bag after using loose leaf and now that I know what a big difference there is in the quality. I’m drinking white tea right now and love that it could be helping me look more youthful and healthier in general! :)

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22 Chelsea Rose April 9, 2009 at 7:37 pm

agreed. teavana is incredible, and I like your teacup :)

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23 Sonja April 11, 2009 at 3:40 pm

❤ Chelsea, so nice to find another fan! I drink TeaVana teas all the time. That isn’t actually my tea cup. I find an amazing wealth of images that people authorize for reuse in Flickr’s Creative Commons – great resource!
❤ Caroline, thanks for the tip! The Superberry and tropical teas look fabulous. Will keep an eye out for them.

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24 Patricia April 12, 2009 at 4:00 pm

I am drinking more tea and will be ordering the TeaVana pot today!
:)

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25 Sonja April 13, 2009 at 1:59 pm

❤ Patricia, I think you’ll really like the pot. The smaller one is great for a single serving. I love that none of the leaves fall through.

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