Tea Basics

If you are a newcomer to the world of tea, you may quickly learn that choosing your favorite brew is by no means an easy choice. There are in fact, hundreds of different brews available in the tea world today, and having such an immense variety of flavors to choose from can be as wonderful as it is daunting. Each type of tea is unique in taste, health benefits, and even in the way it is prepared. This helpful crash course in tea will guide individuals who are new to the tea game through the basics of preparing and drinking some of the most common teas available to us. In addition to this, we will also go over some other helpful tips that may even help seasoned tea drinkers and connoisseurs enjoy their cup of tea just a little more.


Step 1: The Method for Brewing the Best Tea


In the eyes of many, brewing the perfect cup of tea can be like perfecting a work of art, however it actually simpler than it seems. When you are ready to make yourself a cup of tea, the first and most critical step is to make sure the water you use is fresh, regardless what type of tea you have chosen. Using tap water or unfiltered water can contain hard minerals or even algae blooms that will greatly alter and disrupt the taste of your tea if used during preparation.

Once you have your water, the next step is to select your preferred method for brewing. Most tea connoisseurs will recommend that you use a glass or ceramic tea pot to boil water since other types of tea pots are more likely to interfere with the more subtle of flavors. Loose leaf teas will additionally require that you have a good tea strainer handy so that you don’t end up with any unwanted leaves in your cup.

If you are wondering why you would use loose leaf teas when tea bags are so highly convenient, the answer to that is simple. Over the course of the centuries, some of the finest teas in the world have been offered to the populace in a pure, loose leaf form. This is because more often than not, the flavors of loose leaf teas have been found to be fresher and more palatable. Nevertheless, this can highly depend on each individual’s preference, and there are also many types of teas offered in bags that can be just as preferable. Bearing this in mind, don’t feel shy to rely on a trial and error method to best find the tea that works for you.


Step 2: Choosing Your Perfect Tea


Once you have your fresh water and your pot of choice, you are ready to search for your new favorite type of tea. Discovering the tea that suits you perfectly can be, as stated before, a matter of trial and error. To help out those who are new to the art of drinking tea, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most common types of tea along with their descriptions and benefits in order to help you with your tea drinking decision.


Green Tea

Green tea is perhaps the most traditional of teas and like most teas; it has been carefully crafted through the preparation of an evergreen known as the camellia sinensis plant. The leaves of this plant are the source of most teas available to us, including green teas such as Sencha (煎茶) and Gyokuro (玉露) green teas.

Green teas are best known for their high antioxidant and tannin content which can help support and promote good health in a great number of ways. In addition, green teas can make an excellent weight loss supplement. For those who are sensitive to caffeine, green tea may be considered a more preferable choice to black and oolong teas which are known to hold higher levels of caffeine.

When preparing green tea, tea leaves can be added to water of lower temperatures between 158º and 175º Fahrenheit, which is much lower than the boiling point of water. Pour this water over the leaves or the tea bag and allow it to steep for 2-4 minutes depending on your preference. It is important to note that tea steeped longer will result in a stronger flavor, however tea steeped too long can become bitter.


Black Tea

Black teas are known for their stronger, bold variety of flavors such as English Breakfast and Earl Grey. Similarly to green teas, black teas are also made from the camellia sinensis plant; however these leaves have been oxidized which gives them their black appearance and distinguishable difference in taste.

The higher caffeine content of an energizing cup of black tea makes it a great brew to wake up to. These teas also hold a unique set of antioxidants properties as well as cardiovascular support, support for oral health, and more.

Black tea can be prepared at hotter temperatures using boiling water and generally only need to be steeped for 2-3 minutes otherwise they can become bitter if steeped too long. In addition, cream, milk, honey, or a bit of lemon can be added to black teas in order to alter the flavor to your preference.


Jasmine Tea

Jasmine tea is another commonly enjoyed tea and is typically made from a mixture of dried jasmine petals and a base of black Assam tea. However, there are also green varieties of jasmine tea available, and more recently, newer types of jasmine such as jasmine oolong have made their appearance as well. The delicate taste of jasmine varieties are noted for being sweet and floral.

In addition to the antioxidants and tannins that can be found in most teas that have been made using the camellia sinensis plant, jasmine tea can also holds calming properties and can slightly decrease heart rates due to the aromatic properties of the petals.

The preparation of jasmine tea will depend heavily on what base is used for the tea. Green jasmine teas are best prepared at lower temperatures, while black jasmine teas will typically be more enjoyed when prepared at higher temperatures and both of these teas can be steeped according to their black and green counterparts.


White Tea

White tea is perhaps the most highly sought after of teas. Just like black and green teas, white tea is prepared from the camellia sinensis plant, however white tea leaves are harvested at a younger age and undergo the least processing of all types of teas.

Since white tea is the least processed tea, it is notable for being one of the healthiest teas available to us and holds some of the highest levels of antioxidants. There are many health promoting benefits to drinking white tea including support for healthy cholesterol levels, cardiovascular support, assistance with weight loss, and more.

Similarly to green tea, white tea is best prepared at a lower temperature and can be enjoyed straight or can be sweetened with a bit of sugar or honey if desired.


Oolong Tea

Oolong is another excellent variety of tea that has been processed through withering and partial levels of oxidation. The leaves are then twisted and curled in order to lock in their unique flavors. The flavors of oolong are wide and varied depending on their type and can range from a fresh earthy taste to strong roasted aromas and flavors.

Drinking oolong tea can be relaxing and offer similar health benefits to green, white and black teas. In addition to these benefits, oolong tea also holds a nutritional value due to the presence of multiple vitamins and minerals that can help promote good health on many different levels.

Preparing oolong tea is best done with water that has just come to a simmering boil. It is best to steep this tea for a period of approximately 3 minutes in order to unlock its best flavor however some types of oolong can differ depending on their type. For best results it is often advised to refer to instructions that come with each individual tea if possible.


Herbal Teas

Herbal teas such as chamomile, sage, and rose hips tea are actually not teas at all since they are not made from the camellia sinensis plant. Instead, these brews are more properly referred to as tisanes, despite being commonly referred to as tea.

Herbal tisanes make up for the most diversity in the tea family and as a result they also hold the largest variety of health benefits that can range from promoting healthy  bones and organs, to even helping support those who suffer from feelings of depression or anxiety.

Although there are a great number of different herbal tisanes available to us, they can generally be best prepared through steeping tea bags at a simmering temperature for a period of 4 to 8 minutes. Most herbal teas are enjoyed more for their benefit than for their taste, however some less favorable flavors can often be doctored with the use of a bit of honey and lemon.

Other Tips

In addition to these tea basics, you may find these additional tips helpful in your pursuit of fine-tasting tea:

Storing Tea: The method in which tea is stored can also have an impact on the delicate flavors of your tea. For best results it is important to store your teas in cool, airtight containers that avoid exposure to light, humidity, and high temperatures.

Bleached tea bags can contain harmful dioxins and chemicals. When using tea bags for preparing tea, unbleached tea bags are essential for both flavor as well as health.

Choosing high quality, organically grown teas is not only beneficial to our environment but can offer you better tasting tea overall.

Many teas can also be enjoyed chilled or iced! For iced variations of tea, simply prepare them as you normally would and then chill them for several hours in your refrigerator to enjoy later.

Author: Guest Blogger