The Basics of Tea

Tea is very fascinating with its complexity and diversity. One plant, many dimensions, many uses. Tea is one of the oldest natural remedies, with its origins tracing back to China and India. For some, tea is more than a hot beverage, it’s a practice, ritual, and routine. Here is a quick introduction to tea to get you started on your path to a great tea experience!

Green Tea

Green tea is an unoxidized tea. This means that the leaves are plucked, slightly withered, and immediately cooked, resulting in high concentrations of chlorophyll, polyphenols, and antioxidants. The taste of green tea ranges from sweet, delicate, grassy, and nutty. Generally, green tea is brewed at around 160-180 degree water for about 2 minutes (2).

Health benefits: Antioxidants hinder the growth of bladder, breast, lung, stomach, and pancreatic cancers, help prevent clogged arteries, burn fat, reduce stress, reduce risk of neurological disorders, reduce risk of stroke, and improve cholesterol levels (4)

Black Tea

Black tea is a completely oxidized tea. Before being cooked, the leaves are rolled and bruised until it earns it’s blackened color, increasing the strong, bold flavors of the tea leaves. Black teas are known to have the highest levels of caffeine out of all teas. The taste of black teas ranges from malty, smoky, brisk, spiced, nutty, citrus, earthy, and sweet. Black teas are brewed at around 200-212 degree water for about 3-5 minutes (2).

Health benefits: Reduce blood cholesterol levels, protect from lung damage, prevents heart disease, stroke, and cancer (4)

Oolong Tea

Oolong tea is partially oxidized. Unlike black tea where the leaves are rolled until a dark color appears, oolong tea leaves are slightly rolled, with the color ranging from a dark green to a light black. Oolong can taste sweet and robust like black teas, or can taste earthy and floral like green teas (1). Oolong tea has two different ways of brewing, depending on the taste. For a greener oolong, brew in 185 degree water for about 3-4 minutes. For a darker oolong, brew in boiling water for about 6 minutes (2).

Health benefits: Helps prevent stroke, neurological disorders, heart disease, and cancer, helps with digestion (4)

White Tea

White tea is the least prepared and unoxidized tea, meaning that instead of being exposed to artificial heat, the leaves are simply just left out to wither and dry. This calls for the leaves to be high in antioxidants. The flavor of white tea ranges can be sweet, delicate, and floral. Brew in 175 degree water for about 4-5 minutes (1).

Health benefits: Helps prevent heart disease, stroke, and cancers, helps treat diabetes, high levels of calcium and fluoride in the tea help teeth, gums, and bones (1)

Pu-erh Tea

Pu-erh tea is actually fermented tea leaves and can be aged for many years. When they are aging, the leaves are exposed to bacteria and microflora. The taste is usually dark and earthy. Brew in 212 degree water for about 3 minutes (1).

Health benefits: Help with digestion, lowers cholesterol (3)

Camellia Sinensis vs. Herbal Tea

Herbal teas, also known as tisane, are actually not “real” tea because they do not contain any tea leaves. All teas are made from the same plant, camellia sinensis, which is where green tea, black tea, oolong tea, white tea, and pu-erh tea are derived from. Herbal teas are made from herbs, flowers, spices, and dried fruit. Another difference between the two are that camellia sinensis leaves contain caffeine, where herbal teas are caffeine free (2).