The Many Faces of Tea
A Traditional Tea Set
Tea: A Brief History
Tea is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world. Often associated with British culture, it actually originated in China and did not become popular in Britain until the 17th century. The tea plant, also known as Camellia sinensis is grown throughout the world, and it's consumption is thought to have many different health benefits. One of these is the high amount of catechins (a type of antioxidant) present in tea, which are thought to fight free radicals and certain types of cancer. There are many different types of tea, and various brewing methods. The most popular types of tea are white, green, black, yellow, and oolong. These types, rather than being produced from different types of plants, as is often believed, are actually a result of varying degrees of dryness. Herbal teas, though called tea, are actually not tea in the traditional sense, as they do not contain the actual tea plant. Instead, they are an infusion of fruits and herbs.
Loose White Tea
White tea is a lightly oxidized tea that is grown primarily in China. Of all types of tea, it is the least processed, and also contains the highest amount of antioxidants. This type of tea gains its name from the silvery like appearance of it's buds and leaves, not because of the color of the brew. The brew can vary in color from pale yellow to darker yellow. To make white tea, one should brew it for 1-2 minutes in water that is close to boiling. The flavor is light and similar to green tea, but can change from tea to tea. Some white teas are fruity, while others are very floral and perfumey. Some even have a hint of vanilla. White tea is delicious plain, or with a touch of honey, but is not typically taken with milk.
Green tea originated in China, but is now popular throughout Asia, as well as in the West. Green Tea is processed more than white tea, but less than black tea. There are many different varieties, all of which are high in flavanoids, which have antioxidant properties. Green tea is best if steeped for 1-3 minutes. If it is steeped for two long it can take on a bitter and astringent flavor, which is considered bad quality. If made correctly, Green tea has an earthy taste, commonly described as 'herba'l or 'grassy.' It is not as bitter as black tea, and is usually enjoyed plain. Sometimes people add lemon, agave nectar, or honey for flavor and sweetness.
Black is the most oxidized and processed type of tea, and is much stronger in flavor than green and white tea. Black teas are generally named after the region that they are produced in, such as Lapsang Souchong, Assam, Darjeeing, and Ceylon. Black is often blended as well. Popular blends include Earl Grey, English Breakfast, and Irish Breakfast. The quality of black tea is graded on a scale of how broken the tea leaves are. Loose tea is typically higher in quality than bagged tea, because the leaves in bagged tea are close to shredded. Black tea should be brewed in freshly boiled water, that is still almost boiling. It is often served with milk, sugar, and lemon.
Herbal teas are non-caffeinated beverages that are made from herbs, spices, or other types of plants steeped in hot water. Though commonly called tea, they are not technically real tea but tisanes, which are infusions. Herbal tea can be served both hot and cold. They often consist of fresh or dried flowers, leaves, seeds, or roots. Some common types are anise, burdock, chamomile, and ginger root, but there are hundreds, if not thousands other types. Herbal tea is usually served either plain or with honey.
How To Brew A Cup of Tea
- Boil a pot of water.
- As soon as it boils take water off the heat and let sit while you place the teabag in a mug, then pour hot water over it.
- Let brew for 1-2 minutes, or however long the type of tea calls for.
- Add milk and/sweetener if desired, and enjoy!
Become an Expert on Tea
Tea is a beverage worth exploring and developing a taste for, such as wine, or beer. With so many different varieties and flavors, there is something for everyone! It is a great alternative to coffee, and something that can easily add variation to your morning beverage routine. I challenge you to try some different teas in the near future and leave a comment on this hub with your favorite!