A Beginner's Guide to Tea
For those who already drink it, tea is a delicious go-to beverage for any occasion, but for those who are new to it, tea is a complex beverage that offers millions of flavor profiles to choose from. The truth is, there’s a whole lot more to tea than simply finding your favorite flavor at the grocery store. How do you know you’re drinking the highest quality tea, or even if you’re drinking it at the right time of day? We’ve put together this beginner’s guide to tea for all the newcomers who may want to dive just a bit deeper into the types of tea available, the health benefits, the best practices for brewing, and more.
What is Tea?
At its core, tea is a beverage usually made by steeping leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant in hot water. The type of tea is determined by how the tea leaves are processed after harvesting. The term tea is also commonly used to refer to herbal infusions made from other varieties of plants, such as chamomile, hibiscus, and peppermint.
The origin of tea can be traced back to ancient China and the Chinese Emperor Shen Nong. Legend has it that tea leaves accidentally fell into his pot of boiling water, creating a very early rendition of the beverage we know today. From then on, tea became a staple of Chinese culture and spread throughout the world along the Silk Road and through trade routes during the Age of Exploration.
Types of Tea
There are hundreds of types of tea out there to choose from and they all offer a slightly different flavor profile.
To create black tea, tea leaves are picked, withered, rolled, oxidized, and dried before steeping, giving it its dark color and robust flavor. Black tea is stronger in flavor and more caffeinated than other teas because of the way it’s processed, making it a great morning beverage option.
Green tea, also known as unoxidized tea, is made from plucked, slightly withered, and then cooked tea leaves to preserve the green quality and prevent oxidation. Due to this method of preparation, green teas have higher levels of chlorophyll, polyphenols, and antioxidants than other teas and offer increased health benefits.
Read the blog: The Magic of Green Tea
Made from the youngest and most tender leaves and buds on the plant, white tea is known for being delicate and subtle in flavor. It’s the least processed of all teas and retains the natural antioxidants and nutrients in tea leaves.
Our favorite white teas: White Orchard Iced Tea
Falling between green and black on the oxidation scale, oolong tea offers a wide variety of flavors and aromas. Depending on the type of oolong and brewing method, caffeine content can vary greatly.
Rooibos tea is a caffeine-free herbal beverage with a naturally sweet and nutty flavor. Instead of using the leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant, rooibos is made from the leaves of the rooibos plant.
Fruit and herbal teas are made by infusing a variety of dried fruits, herbs, spices, flowers, or other plant-based ingredients in hot water. These teas are often caffeine-free, making them a great alternative to other traditionally caffeinated teas. They come in various flavors and combinations, allowing for a diverse range of taste options.
How to Brew the Perfect Cup
All of our tea here at My Cup of Tea is high-quality, but if you’re looking to brew the perfect cup from elsewhere, make sure you are using high-quality leaves for the best flavor profile. Once you’ve measured out the right amount of loose leaf tea or grabbed your favorite single-serve tea bag, get your fresh, cold water boiling. Each type of tea requires a different boiling temperature for that perfect brew, so follow the guidelines below.
- Black tea: Boiling water (100°C or 212°F)
- Green tea: 75–85°C (167–185°F)
- White tea: 80–85°C (176–185°F)
- Oolong tea: 85–90°C (185–194°F)
When brewing tea, always add the at-temperature water to the leaves or tea bag, not vice versa. You’ll get the strongest brew using this pour-over method. Similar to boiling temperatures, each different type of tea also has a different brewing time.
- Black tea: 3–5 minutes
- Green tea: 2–3 minutes
- White tea: 4–5 minutes
- Oolong tea: 4–7 minutes
- Herbal tea: 5–12 minutes depending on the type of tea
- Rooibos: 8-10 minutes
Once your tea is steeped, either remove the tea bag, the infuser, or strain your loose leaves as you pour it into your cup.
The Health Benefits of Tea
In addition to a delicious beverage, tea offers a ton of health benefits.
Packed with antioxidants, tea can play a crucial role in combating oxidative stress and reducing inflammation within the body. The catechins found in green tea, for instance, are known for their potential to promote heart health and support weight management. Additionally, the theanine content in tea has been linked to stress reduction and improved mental alertness, contributing to a sense of calm and focus. Various types of tea, such as black and white tea, are rich in flavonoids and polyphenols, which may have protective effects against certain cancers.
The regular consumption of tea has often been associated with enhanced immune function, a lower risk of chronic diseases, and the opportunity to combat seasonal allergies with histamine-blocking properties. Although tea is not a one-size-fits-all solution to health issues, it’s a great natural remedy to start with.
You should always check with your physician before using tea to combat or treat any illness.