1. It’s all about that Plant, ’bout that Plant, ’bout that Plant.
Sorry to put that Meghan Trainor ditty in your head, but the very first thing you need to know is that all types of tea come from the same plant – Camellia Sinensis.
Whatever tea is in your cup (White, Green, Oolong, Black or Pu-erh), it all starts out the same way as a freshly plucked tea leaf and is then transformed into a category based on how it’s processed, and the amount of oxidation (air) it’s exposed to.
Think about what happens when you bite into an apple. That first bite reveals bright white flesh and the longer it’s exposed to air, the darker it becomes. That’s basically how white tea becomes black tea!
NEXT TO WATER, TEA IS THE MOST WIDELY CONSUMED BEVERAGE IN THE ENTIRE WORLD.
Fun Fact: Herbal tea is technically not a tea because it doesn’t come from the tea plant, Camellia Sinensis. It’s an infusion of leaves, roots, bark, seeds, fruits or flowers. Herbal teas (also called Tisanes) are naturally caffeine free.
2. What type of tea is the healthiest to drink?
This is the number one question I’m asked.
Here’s my answer every single time. The healthiest tea is the one you like the most. Because then you’ll drink more of it, and less unhealthy options like pop, coffee and alcohol.
Anything that comes from the tea plant is good for you.
Remember, it’s a plant.
A beautiful and magical gift from Mother Nature that’s been used as a health tonic for over 5,000 years.
Here are some healthy tea facts, keeping in mind I’m not a doctor. But I have watched a lot of Grey’s Anatomy over the years so I’m sure that counts:
- Rich in antioxidants, vitamins & minerals that help fortify the immune system – nature’s very first vitamin water!
- The detoxifying effects of antioxidants can help regenerate and repair cells and protect against harmful free radicals.
- Polyphenols are believed to reduce the risk of degenerative diseases because they protect the sections of the brain responsible for learning and memory.
- Powerful stress buster because of unique amino acid, L-theanine, which increases alpha waves in the brain and relaxes the mind.
- Flavonoids help protect the heart from cardiovascular disease. There are 750x more flavonoids in a cup of tea vs. a cup of coffee.
- Antimicrobial qualities help prevent dental cavities and bad breath.
- Fluoride in tea strengthens teeth and increases bone density.
- Post-meal digestive drink.
- Can stimulate metabolism and burn calories.
- Significantly reduce the risk of high blood pressure.
LET FOOD BE THY MEDICINE & MEDICINE BE THY FOOD – HIPPOCRATES
Drinking tea contributes to your overall health and well being. It soothes and stimulates. It improves your day & lifestyle. Tea is freakin’ awesome. Mic drop.
3. Check Your Ingredients
Just like food, always read the ingredients in your tea. Less is more.
Choose tea with clean, natural ingredients. Great quality = great taste.
You may be horrified to find that your favourite tea contains loads of artificial flavours, colours and chemicals you can’t even pronounce.
These are what we call “gateway” teas. They lure you in with fancy names and flavours, but you end up drinking artificial tasting tea with a bad aftertaste.
I LIKE MY TEA HOW I LIKE MY PEOPLE…NON-TOXIC
Just remember that your tea should never smell better than it tastes. That’s usually a red flag that you should pay closer attention to the ingredients.
4. Maybe She’s Born with it…Maybe it’s Caffeine
Caffeine is definitely my stimulant of choice. At least until drinking red wine for breakfast becomes a thing, and then I totally reserve the right to change my answer.
All tea contains caffeine, a bitter compound that stimulates the nervous system. The caffeine levels vary by tea type – white tea has the least and black tea the most.
Caffeine is a naturally occurring substance found in the leaves, seeds or fruits of at least 100 different species worldwide. The most common sources of caffeine are coffee, cocoa beans, cola nuts and tea leaves.
But…the effects of caffeine vary by beverage:
- A cup of tea contains 66% less caffeine than a cup of coffee
- The tannins in tea regulate the slow release of caffeine so you get a longer lasting feeling of calm alertness…compared to the dreaded coffee jitters.
- Up to 6 cups of tea is considered moderate consumption and has no harmful effects in most people.
Wondering about decaffeinated tea? Hard pass in my opinion. It goes through a nasty chemical process to remove the caffeine, while also removing flavour. Plus, they can never completely remove all the caffeine so why bother.
Consider switching to an herbal tea (especially Rooibos) if you want to avoid caffeine. Rooibos (from the South African red bush), is the only tisane that has antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. It’s 100% caffeine free and is the closest you’ll come to drinking something that tastes like black tea, without having black tea in it.
I DON’T HAVE A PROBLEM WITH CAFFEINE. I HAVE A PROBLEM WITHOUT IT.
Fun Fact: The longer you steep your tea and the hotter the water is, the more caffeine is released. Be mindful of time & temperature to control your intake.
5. Don’t Squeeze Your Bag
I’m sure you’ve been guilty of committing tea bag assault at some point.
You know what I’m talking about. It’s like a scene from Law & Order. You’re trying to squeeze every last drop of goodness out of your tea bag, so you strangle it tightly with its own string.
Or, you use your spoon to smash it with all your might against the side of the cup.
On the show they call that blunt force trauma…and it’s a felony.
What you’re actually doing is squeezing bitter tannins back into your cup. Not good. Instead, remove it gently and lovingly from your cup. Be kind to your bag.
A WOMAN IS LIKE A TEA BAG. YOU CAN’T TELL HOW STRONG SHE IS UNTIL YOU PUT HER IN HOT WATER.
Here’s a few other tea bag tips:
- Choose a pyramid shaped tea bag so there’s room for the whole tea leaves to completely unfurl and plump up during steeping. This obviously won’t happen if you’re drinking typical supermarket bags filled with tea dust as opposed to premium whole leaf tea.
- Make sure your tea bag is made from a plant-based material so it’s 100% biodegradable & compostable.
- No bleached paper, staples or plastic thank you!!
A popular myth is that tea is dehydrating. My Mom used to tell me constantly to drink less tea and more water.
Turns out she was wrong. Just about that one thing though. She’s been right about everything else.
Tea is only dehydrating when it’s working as a diuretic within your system, which is like drinking 6 cups in one single sitting.
Basically…tea is healthier for you than water. Don’t tell the people at Brita.
Tea is hygroscopic, which is fancy for saying it absorbs all surrounding odours.
It shouldn’t be exposed to light or air and make sure it’s kept in a tightly sealed package/container and stored separate from other teas, herbs and spices.
Tea doesn’t really “go bad” (unless it gets moldy), but similar to spices, after a few years it starts to lose essential oils and becomes less flavourful. You can still drink it…just won’t be as tasty and aromatic as when it was fresh.
Still have some unopened packages in the dark corners of your tea cupboard?
Stick the kettle on…they should be fine.
8. Fan Favourites
All the cool kids are drinking it so here’s the 4-1-1 on some popular faves.
Most people don’t realize that blends from large commercial companies (think Tetley, Lipton, Red Rose) are closely guarded secret recipes, created to produce the unique flavour profile of their brand.
Because tea is a crop that changes every year based on its environment, the recipes may contain up to 40 different teas in order to produce the consistent flavour you’ve come to expect. This is how they ensure your favourite brand tastes the exact same year after year, every time you purchase.
There are so many versions of the classing morning blend but the most popular is English Breakfast. It was traditionally made using black tea from China, but now includes a strong Ceylon (Sri Lanka) & Kenyan (Africa) component.
Irish breakfast is far more robust than English Breakfast. It typically has a strong Assam (India) base, giving it a rich, malty flavour.
Earl Grey is one of the most popular and recognized teas in the world. It’s flavoured with the oil of bergamot orange, a citrus fruit with the appearance and flavour somewhere between an orange and a lemon, with a little grapefruit and lime thrown in for good measure.
Fun Fact: There’s no such thing as Orange Pekoe tea. That’s just a clever marketing name created back in the day by Sir Thomas Lipton to make his breakfast blend sound more elegant to the nobility.
I DON’T DRINK TEA TO WAKE UP, I WAKE UP TO DRINK TEA
Chai literally means tea in many languages. So, you shouldn’t say Chai Tea or you’re really saying Tea Tea. Which was also my childhood nickname (TT) because my younger brothers couldn’t say Tracie.
Masala Chai is a flavoured blend using traditional spices such as cardamom, ginger, cloves, pepper and cinnamon.
There’s much ado about Matcha. Mainly because it’s incredibly good for you.
Ceremonial Matcha is a green tea-leaf powder made from shade grown Tencha leaves in Japan. The leaves are de-veined and stone ground very slowly so it doesn’t end up with a burnt taste. It takes one hour to grind 30 g of Matcha. Hence the reason premium Match is so expensive compared to inferior imposters.
Matcha is the healthiest green tea for one reason and one reason only. You are ingesting the entire tea leaf as opposed to only infusing the leaves in water.
9. How to Prepare the Perfect Cup
Start with Fresh Water
You can use tap water (depending on how strong the chlorine levels are in your area), but a better option might be a charcoal filtration system like Brita.
Warm your Teapot
When you pour hot water into a cold teapot, the teapot ends up absorbing most of the heat and cools your tea down too quickly.
Warm your teapot by pouring a few inches of hot water into the bottom, swirl it around for a few seconds, dump it back out and make your tea like normal.
This also helps prevent cracking and crazing (those fine spider lines) that can appear when hot water shocks a cold teapot.
Use the Correct Amount of Tea
The general rule is 1 tea bag (2 – 2.5 g of tea) for every 6 – 8 oz cup.
If you like your tea stronger, always increase the amount of tea but don’t increase the steeping time or you’ll end up with a bitter brew.
Cover Your Tea while it Steeps
Flavour is a combination of two sensory perceptions – taste and aroma.
Taste is around 75% smell so you need to contain all those volatile aroma compounds during steeping by keeping your cup covered. Then remember to breathe in all that deliciousness before you take your first sip!
Steeping Time & Temperature are Key
Put the kettle to the metal. Each tea type requires a different water temperature and steeping time to deliver the most flavourful cup.
For white, green and lightly oxidized oolongs (these are closer to green teas), you never want to pour boiling water over the delicate leaves or you’ll scald them and create a bitter taste. Instead, boil the water and then wait 2 – 3 minutes before pouring.
For all tea types, make sure you follow the recommended steeping times. The longer your tea steeps, the more bitter tannins and caffeine are released in the cup.
Using the wrong steeping time & water temperature is why so many people think green tea is too bitter…because they’ve been making it all wrong!
|Tea Type||Steeping Time||Temperature|
|White||2-4 min||Below the Boil|
|Green||1 – 3 min||Below the Boil|
|Oolong (Lightly Oxidized)||2 – 4 min||Below the Boil|
|Oolong (Longer Oxidized)||2 – 4 min||Boil|
|Black||3 – 5 min||Boil|
Remove the Tea Bag/Leaves
Once the steeping time is done, always remove the tea bag/leaves (gently!!) so you end up with a consistent brew in the teapot for your 2nd and 3rd cup.
With herbal teas you can leave the bag in for as long as you want. Since they are from the tea plant, there aren’t any tannins to cause bitterness.
Take a deep breath and savour your delicious cup of tea!
10. Tea Makes You Feel Good
It’s not just the taste of tea. It’s the taste combined with the sensation of how it makes us feel.
That’s the real magic of tea.
The fact that it’s also natural and healthy is just a beautiful bonus.
“If you are cold, tea will warm you;
If you are too heated, it will cool you;
If you are depressed, it will cheer you;
If you are excited, it will calm you.” – William Ewart Gladstone