Cold-pressed oils, from from olive to coconut, are a key part of any healthy diet, but each oil has restrictions and best use cases. Certain oils are healthy to fry with, while others contain omega fat ratios that aren’t ideal for everyday. That said, we love to experiment with cooking oils from grapeseed to pumpkin seed and were intrigued when Naomi Whittel mentioned tea seed oil to us – an oil we’d never heard of before!
Also known as camellia oil, an ingredient you might recognize from a luxe beauty label or two, tea seed oil is actually an edible ingredient too. Here’s what anti-aging expert and author Naomi Whittel’of Glow15, told us about the oil and it’s benefits below. Catch up on our conversation with Naomi here and here.
I’ve been inspired by China’s culture for their traditional medicinal knowledge, culinary wisdom and beauty secrets for years. So when I learned the high-antioxidant tea seed oil is used in cooking, just as much as it is used to enhance beauty and a woman’s outer appearance, I had to check it out for myself. In the Southern provinces of China, such as Hunan, it is the main cooking oil.
Tea seed oil is extracted from the seeds of the mature Cameillia oleifera plant (they take seven years to mature, and another year for the seeds to become ready to be harvested). I’m amazed at how nature produces such a potent health food… years of growth cycles, rain and sun, creating a perfect balance of polyphenols and antioxidants that protect the plant from damage that, when extracted and made into the oil, we receive the benefit from.
What Are The Health Benefits? Sometimes called the “Eastern olive oil,” tea seed oil contains special antioxidants called catechins (also found in green tea), unique to this cooking oil, which olive oil and other vegetable oils do not contain. Its high ratio of monounsaturated fat and low omega-6 (remember, too much omega-6s can be pro-inflammatory) fatty acids make this a perfect, stable, cooking oil.
How Is It Used For Cooking? With a much higher smoke point than olive oil or even coconut oil at 485ºF, it makes a terrific high-temperature cooking oil that is very resilient to rancidity and therefore becoming pro-inflammatory in the body. It’s my go-to oil when I want to sauté, bake, roast or occasionally fry something. Especially in the winter, with cooler temperatures, when eating more cooked foods can be optimal for digestion. The precious polyphenols, vitamin E and beta-carotene found in tea seed oil offer protection from heat and oxidation of the fatty acids, which also lends it to storing well.
What Does It Taste Like? Unlike olive oil that has a heavy, distinctive flavor (don’t get me wrong, I love a delicious piece of artisanal bread, dipped in the pungent and slightly bitter taste of a high-quality extra-virgin olive oil), tea seed oil is light, mild and goes with anything. Tea seed oil has a texture that is similar to grapeseed oil with a slight nutty flavor. With its light and clean flavor, I love it incorporated into a citrus vinaigrette over fresh salad greens, or even to sauté broccoli and cauliflower, as it doesn’t leave a heavy, oily residue.
Where Can We Buy It? Look for it at gourmet shops or online, with a price comparable to a quality bottle of olive oil. And be sure not to confuse it with tea tree essential oil, a completely different plant with completely different properties, not suitable for cooking or ingestion. Store at room temperature and choose cold pressed and organic whenever you can.