Totally Tea: A Primer to Tea


Are you looking for a healthy alternative to coffee and soda this year with your new year’s resolution? Try tea! With strong teas, caffeine-laden teas, and cold-brew teas, there are teas for every type of coffee drinker. Still not convinced? Read on to learn about the different kinds of tea leaves, the health benefits of tea, and what tea you should pick based on your favorite coffee drink.

Types of Tea

Just as different types of coffee drinkers prefer different blends, iced or hot coffee, or specialty coffee drinks, so do tea drinkers. Although all kinds of tea come from one plant, the Camellia sinensis, different beverages have different methods of processing, all performed in different ways, to give them their different types of flavors and smells. There are six main types of tea: white, green, black, oolong, Pu-erh, and Tisanes.

White Tea

White tea, which undergoes the least processing of all types of tea, has the lightest, most delicate aromas and flavors. To become dried and processed like the tea leaves present in bagged teas and used by many loose-leaf tea brands requires a long, complicated process. The leaves, which until recently only grown in China, are harvested just a few days every year when they develop a fluffy, white down. The tea is then carefully picked and then allowed to wither and then dry for up to three days. The environment that tea producers process the Camellia sinensis leaves in is specially monitored conditions to avoid any oxidation. At 15-20 mg of caffeine per cup, it is significantly lower in caffeine than any other type of tea or coffee, making it a natural complement to decaf coffee.

Green Tea

One of the more well-known varieties, green tea is a commonly known and consumed drink worldwide. Green tea, which is unoxidized like white tea, undergoes a different processing method. While white tea is allowed to dry naturally, tea producers roast or pan-fire the tea leaves green to avoid oxidation. Although the liquid that comes from brewing the tea is a yellow color in comparison to the traditional green color indicated by the name of the tea, green tea found its name because of the color of the leaves. Its caffeine content is marginally higher than that of green tea– a cup of green tea brewed to manufacturer’s specifications contains only around 30 mg of caffeine per cup.

Black Tea

Black tea, the tea with the highest caffeine content (upwards of 50mg per cup,) has been allowed to oxidize, unlike white or green teas. Also unique is where black tea comes from– black tea is now being produced heavily in India as opposed to China. Producers of black teas traditionally blend types of tea, a trend that was inspired heavily by England and the British Empire. The new direction in the tea market is the idea of “estate teas,” or teas that come from one farm over the span of a year. These estate teas can sell for thousands of dollars per pound and are comparable to wines from vintage wineries.

Pu-erh Tea

Pu-erh tea, a fermented blend from China, is a darker tea with more earthy elements. Like estate black teas, Pu-erh teas from decades ago, as decadent as they are, are being sold for exorbitant amounts. It has proven healthy, though– Pu-erh teas were said to aid in the process of digestion in ancient China and are proven to reduce cholesterol.

Tisanes

Tisanes are blends of Camellia sinensis and other herbs, in mixtures that are not strictly of tea. Many people also call this group of drinks “herbal teas” because of the frequent presence of herbs among the list of ingredients. Herbal teas contain little to no caffeine, although some herbs can have caffeine-like effects.

Health Benefits of Tea

Besides having a lower caffeine content than coffee, what makes teas so much of a healthy option? Tea has been shown to help with weight loss, reduce the risk of heart attacks, and scientists have identified white tea as an anti-cancer element. All of these benefits have to do with the presence of flavonoids and antioxidants present in tea. Flavonoids, which are produced only by plants, are unique compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties. Combined with the antioxidants present in tea, tea makes for a healthy, nutrient-filled addition to a healthy diet.

Are you considering teas as a part of your healthy diet? Do you want to share any interesting facts you might have on tea? Let us know in the comments below!


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