After extensive research, Buettner and his team have identified five regions of the world that they report are home to the longest-living people, which he deemed the Blue Zones (Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece; Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; and Loma Linda, California). And while every location's cuisine is unique, Buettner and his team have identified a few commonalities in what the locals in the Blue Zones eat and, more importantly, drink. “People in every Blue Zone drink tea,” Buettner says.
This comes as little surprise. After all, studies have shown time and again that drinking tea can help your bones and brain stay strong as you age. Research has also linked drinking two or more cups of black tea daily with longevity-boosting benefits.
Since all signs point to the fact that drinking tea can have a positive effect on one's longevity, we spoke with Buettner to learn more about which three types most folks in Blue Zones consume on the regular.
3 best teas for longevity based on the habits of three predominant tea-drinking Blue Zones
1. Green Tea
According to Buettner, people in the region of Okinawa, Japan, drink green tea regularly. “Okinawans prefer green varieties, which have been shown to lower the risk of heart disease and several cancers,” he says. When it comes to health-promoting attributes, green tea is basically liquid gold: It contains high amounts of flavanols, which is a type of antioxidant linked to lower levels of LDL cholesterol and improved cardiovascular health. Green teas also contains catechins, a polyphenol and antioxidant that can help protect the body against free-radicals. And as if that weren’t enough, this drink is also rich in L-theanine, an amino acid that can potentially improve mood and cognitive function.
2. Herbal Teas
In Ikaria, Greece, it's common to find teas made with herbs that were locally foraged. “Ikarians drink brews of rosemary, wild sage, and dandelion tea—all herbs known to have anti-inflammatory properties,” Buettner says. He notes that his research on the area has shown that there are very few cases of dementia and other chronic illnesses that impact the western world in Ikaria, which is partly due to their healthful dietary habits.
“In addition to their diet rich in beans, wild greens, olive oil, lemons, and potatoes, Ikarians frequently brew tea from wild herbs. Greek teas may offer specific beneficial effects: wild mint as a way to prevent gingivitis and ulcers, rosemary to treat gout, and artemisia to improve blood circulation,” Buettner says. To understand the full scope of the benefits of Ikarian herbal teas, Buettner sent samples to be laboratory tested and found that they all had antioxidant properties that also doubled as mild diuretics. “So not only do they contain powerful antioxidants, but they can also help flush waste products from the body and slightly lower blood pressure,” he says.
3. Milk Thistle Tea
According to Buettner, the preferred tea in Sardinia, Italy, is milk thistle, which is known to help break down and digest food, store essential vitamins and minerals, and remove toxins from the system, among other things. This herb has also been linked to protecting against certain types of cancer. Studies also suggest that milk thistle extracts have anti-inflammatory and cardioprotective effects and can be used to protect the liver against toxins and control chronic liver diseases.
What do people in Loma Linda, California, and Nicoya, Costa Rica, drink?
Although there may be tea drinkers in these two Blue Zones (Loma Linda, California, and Nicoya, Costa Rica), it’s not as common in these locations as it is in the others. Unlike the other four Blue Zones, Loma Linda residents are largely Seventh-day Adventist, which means caffeine—from both coffee and tea—is avoided due to religious reasons. Meanwhile, Nicoyans tend to sip coffee, not tea, throughout the day. “In Nicoya, coffee is sort of a national beverage, and it is consumed throughout the day. However, their coffee tends to be very weak compared to, say, Starbucks,” Buettner previously shared with Well+Good.
An RD explains the difference between matcha and green tea: