Learning to Drink Tea: Confessions From a Former Coffee Drinker
A Brief Introduction
I started drinking tea about four years ago after several years of drinking coffee. I'm glad I made the switch. The high caffeine content of coffee was really getting to me. Drinking a hot beverage at work had pretty much become a habit – I needed a “pick-me-up” both in the first thing in the morning as well as after lunch.
That habit was getting pretty old after I started getting headaches from too much caffeine. That is when I started to try different types of the 2nd most popular drink in the world, tea (behind only water).
Tea drinking offers several benefits over coffee and other beverages. Some of the main benefits include:
- Less caffeine than coffee or soda
- Cancer fighting health benefits (especially in white & green tea)
- Great taste!
- A cool tea culture
There are several types, categories, flavors, and brands of tea - it can be very confusing (it was for me at least).
Breaking Down Tea Basics
In general, tea can be broken into two main types 1) Tea from the camellia sinensis plant and 2) Herbal tea. Although many people consider "Herbal Tea" tea, I do not. Herbal tea can be made from a variety of other plants, fruits, or herbs and does not contain anything from the camellia sinensis plant. Since I'm not really a fan of herbal tea, I'm not going to discuss them in this post.
Tea can be broken down into four main categories:
- White Tea
- Green Tea
- Oolong Tea
- Black Tea
The difference between each of them is the amount of processing that has occurred to the raw tea leaves. White tea is the least processed and black tea is the most processed. As tea leaves are processed more, the caffeine content, darkness, and strength of the drink increases and the health benefits decreases.
Green tea and black tea are the most popular types of tea. If you've ever drank straightLipton tea, you were probably drinking black tea. Green tea (as well as white tea) has been shown to have the most health benefits, but they really are a lighter type of tea with less caffeine. I normally don't drink oolong teas except when I am at an Asian restaurant – the tea you drink when you are at a Chinese restaurant is probably oolong tea.
Being a former coffee drinker, I really prefer the black tea for its extra boldness. I consider it a "coffee-lite" drink, because it still has enough caffeine to keep you awake, but it doesn't have so much that you feel like you're bouncing off the walls. Black tea has health benefits also, but not as much as green or white tea. When I'm looking for something a little lighter, or if I am feeling like I want to be a little healthier, I'll choose white or green tea.
Whichever type of tea you choose I don't think you can go wrong – most are all very good!
So Many Choices, What to Choose?
If you want to start incorporating tea into your daily routine but don't know where to start - you basically just have to jump in and start trying different types, brands, and flavors. There are many flavors and types of tea on the market, so you need to just take the plunge, buy a few types that sound good and go from there.
You can either purchase tea in standard tea bags (most common and available pretty much everywhere), as loose leaf tea that you have to infuse yourself (less common, but non-exotic brands like Lipton can still be found at most groceries stores) and in specialty loose leaf tea sachets (least common – check out Mighty Leaf Tea Company to see what I am talking about). In general, loose leaf teas provide more health benefits and taste better, but they are more expensive and harder to find. Just stick with regular tea bags until you find some teas that you like.
Some Good Tea Choices
Below are some of my favorite basic teas that I've drank over the last few years. These are all “tea bag” teas and most of them are affordable ($3-4 per 20 bags) and can be found at most grocery stores.
English Breakfast (Stash Tea Company)
Earl Grey (Stash Tea Company)
Peach Black Tea ((Stash Tea Company)
Organic Breakfast Blend (Mighty Leaf Tea Company)
Awake Tea (Tazo Tea Company)
If you have never tried tea now is the time to give it a try. It is one of the most consumed beverages in the world today, so don't miss out on it.