Tired of drinking water and want variety in your drinks?
Of course, you do and don’t worry; there are many options still out there and today we’re telling you everything you need to know about tea!
At the end of this article, you’ll know all the types of tea, the benefits of drinking them, how to get the most out of it and far more…
What is tea?
A simple enough question but one you might not have answered correctly.
Tea is, in the simplest sense, leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant. This plant is indigenous to Asia and is commonly grown in Japan and China. Because of its versatility, we can unlock different tastes depending on how it was prepared.
Just like an apple turning brown when sliced, tea leaves undergo this same process known as oxidation. The level of oxidation in a leaf and other factors determine what type of tea it is and how it’ll taste.
White tea is carefully picked and sun-dried, undergoing the least amount of processing; the result is a leaf very close to the original plant. Despite being green, its name comes from the silver-white hairs found on the leaf; creating a white appearance.
The flavor is light and elegant with nutty and floral aspects to it; perfect during quieter periods where you have time to meditate and enjoy the subtleness of each brew.
Flavour Profile: Light, elegant, nutty, floral, fruity
Our Recommendation: Teavivre’s White Peony
Much like white tea, green tea is carefully picked; it’s then withered under the sun and baked to prevent further oxidation. The main difference between Japanese and Chinese green tea is the baking or stabilizing process; Chinese tea is pan-fried in large woks and the Japanese tea is steamed.
Green tea is grassy with slight sharp notes; Japnese green tea tastes fresher; having a grassier flavor than the Chinese which has a more nuttier, toasted flavor.
Paired with its high theanine and caffeine content, green tea provides relaxation and alertnesses, perfect for starting the day.
Japanese Flavour Profile: Grassy, fresh, clean, dry, slight sharpness, nutty
Chinese Flavour Profile: Nutty, toasted, dry, grassy
Our Recommendation: Premium Dragon Well Long Jing
The rarest of all tea, yellow tea was reserved for Chinese emperors as a tribute. The name is also derived from this, with yellow being the color of their emperors. The process of making this tea was lost for over 100 years ago and was rediscovered in the 1970’s with small batches being made today.
Yellow tea follows the same process as green but is steamed and covered; this softens the leaf and causes the grassier notes to lessen, bringing it between green and white tea.
Flavour Profile: Soft, pure, sweet, fresh, elegant
Our Recommendation: Huo Shan Huang Ya
Known as semi-oxidized tea, oolong is made from larger leaves that have been rolled; bruising the leaf and causing oxidation. Oolong comes in many varieties from light (15% oxidized) to dark (85%); the light variety has a creamy, floral taste and as it gets darker picks up sweeter, fruitier tones.
Light Oolong Flavour Profile: Fresh, floral, nutty, creamy
Dark Oolong Flavour Profile: Sweet, fruity, dry, roasted
Our Recommendation: Anxi Tie Guan Yin
Called red tea in China due to its color, black tea is known as fully-oxidized tea (90-95% oxidized). When picked the tea leaves are fully bruised and oxidated resulting in a robust and rich flavor.
During the oxidization process, tannins develop, altering the health benefits and making it suitable with milk.
Flavor profile: Rich, robust, sweet, dried fruit, comforting
Our Recommendation: Golden Monkey
Fermented Tea (Pu-erh tea)
As the name suggests, the process of making this tea involves fermentation and produces a dark, smooth tea.
Processed just like green tea, fermented tea is placed in small kegs and left to ferment for 20-25 years; a quicker process taking 3 months exists and is known as cooked versus the traditional raw version.
Flavour Profile: Very Earthy, Autumn leaves, occasional seaweedy notes
Our Recommendation: Ripened Mini Toucha
Matcha is stone-ground green tea traditionally used in Japanese tea ceremonies that have been around for thousands of years.
There are three grades of matcha, ceremonial, standard and cooking; missing a stage during the making of matcha affects what grade it will be, with ceremonial being the highest quality.
When drinking matcha, you’re consuming 100% of the leaf; meaning you’re gaining 10-20 times the benefits than you would’ve from regular tea. Becuase of this, matcha has the highest caffeine levels, with many people choosing a matcha shot instead of coffee.
Our Recommendation: Teavivre’s organic matcha
Any tea scented with a flower is known as scented tea, with green tea being the most common base used.
The process for making this tea is time-consuming and requires tens of thousands of flowers to bloom alongside the tea; the flowers are then removed and the process is repeated several more times.
Flavour Profile: Tea notes combined with the aroma of the flower.
Tips when buying: high quality scented tea won’t contain any of the flowers used in the making of it (avoid artificially scented tea e.g. chocolate, hazelnut, e.t.c).
Our recommendation: Jasmine Dragon Pearls
The perfect tea to entertain your guests or gift to a very special someone. Blossoming tea is made from long tea buds that are hand sewn into a ball; when brewed the leaves open up revealing a beautiful display.
Flavour Profile: Depends on the tea used.
Our recommendation: Blossoming green tea
Health Benefits of tea
Tea often gets a good rap, with many studies showing improved health benefits from drinking it.
Sadly, while studied extensively, the quality is often poor, leading to shaky evidence.
Fortunately, Cochrane has reviewed many of these studies and come up with the following:
Benefits of Antioxidants
While tea in of itself may not be the wonder drug many hope it to be, it does have antioxidants and many at that.
Antioxidants are always praised because they’re crucial in protecting our bodies from free radicals.
Free radicals are highly unstable molecules that accumulate in the body, if left unchecked, these guys can cause cancer.
No one type of tea has the most antioxidants, with levels changing based on a variety of factors such as:
- Steeping time
- Water temperature
- The region grown in
The benefit to this is, any tea you do choose will be antioxidant-rich; possibly explaining why we see a link between tea and cancer prevention.
How much Caffeine is in tea?
Just with antioxidants, the level of caffeine in tea depends on a host of factors, with higher levels resulting from:
- Buds and young leaves (green & Balck teas)
- Summer picked
- shade grown (matcha & sencha)
As a general rule, tea contains about 1-5% of its weight in caffeine.
Teas made from lower leaves of the plant tend to have lower caffeine, such as oolong.
Should I worry about Caffeine in tea?
Caffeine is the world’s most popular drug and with it begs the question, is it good for us.
For many, this drug is a crucial part of the morning routine, with others it’s a gross sickening substance.
With tea, it’s difficult to have too much caffeine, you’d need eight really strong cups before being near the limit.
||Safe Daily Limit
||Caffeine per cup
||Max num of cups
||10 – 60 mg
Caffeine in tea is different
Unlike coffee, tea contains theanine; a very powerful amino acid that’s able to cross the blood-brain barrier.
Theanine increases relaxation and when paired with caffeine works synergistically; significantly improving alertness while removing negative aspects such as anxiety and jitteriness.
Heavy metals in tea
The most common criticism of tea around is the heavy metals found in tea leaves.
Just like everything we’ve previously discussed, the amount all depends on the soil the plant is growing in.
This study compared the metals found in tea with California for toxicant (strictest standards in the world) limits and found:
- After steeping for 3-4 minutes, one two teas had “unsafe” levels of aluminum (including organic tea).
- Chinese tea had the highest chance of contamination.
- Long-brewing times increases the number of metals found.
Despite using the most stringent standards and very long brewing times, the results are quite benign.
If you’re concerned about the metal content of tea, our recommendation is:
- Find a high-quality, reputable supplier.
- Ask if the tea has been radiation and metal tested.
- Use short brewing times.
Loose leaf tea vs tea bags
Switching to loose leaf tea may seem daunting but, if you value quality then it’s a no-brainer.
While tea bags are certainly easy to use they have one severe downside; they’re a con. The tea leaves found in these bags are either industrially picked; leaving stems, twigs, and insects to be ground up in it or the tea-dust by-product of loose leaf tea.
Loose leaf tea also works out cheaper in the long run, with a single infuser lasting me all day.
How to brew tea?
Brewing loose-leaf tea needn’t be inconvenient and depending on how you do it can impact the flavor of your tea drastically. There are two schools of thought with brewing, the Gong Fu, and the Western Style.
The western style of brewing uses small amounts of tea leaves in the infuser, requiring longer brewing times; up to a minute.
Best for 1-2 infusions of tea.
Gong Fu Brew
Gong Fu, the tea ceremony brewing style, involves a lot more tea leaves reinfused over many short brews. This style provides the most flavor and allows you to appreciate the different infusions of tea. Just like wine, tea develops different flavors over time, with the first infusion being different to the second, third, e.t.c…
Best way to get the most flavor from your tea and enjoy many infusions.
Picking the right infuser
Just like picking out the right shoes or the right car, finding the right infuser is just the same; this simple device keeps your leaves separate from your drink and some are easier than others.
Tea Ball Infusers
The cheapest solution for infusing loose leaf tea and a great way to start; the infuser is dipped into a cup and infuses with the hot water. I personally prefer the temple style ball infusers as they have a flat base and look interesting; you can pick up the same one I use from Amazon here.
Pros: Easy to use, Inexpensive, great for beginners
Cons: size can be limiting, hard to share with friends
Recommendation: Tea Infuser Set
Integrating the infuser directly into the cup, cup infusers are the simplest and easiest option to start brewing with. These infusers are typically larger than the ball infusers, allowing for better penetration of the leaf. If you’re often on the go, you can pick up a great travel version here on Amazon.
Pros: Great for travel, better infusion, can make cold tea
Cons: More cumbersome than ball infusers
Recommendation: Glass travel infuser
A great solution for entertaining guests or sharing a brew with a close friend. There’s a wide variety of these out there with the Japanese inspired ones being our favorite.
pros: Great for serving friends, large capacity
Cons: Can be large and heavy
Recommendation: Traditional Japanese teapot
Gong Fu Set
The most traditional way to brew your tea, a gong fu set is a perfect way to enjoy tea with a close friend; or to have in a quiet place with your thoughts.
Pros: Traditional, Fun
Cons: Time consuming
Recommendation: Portable Japanese Set