Tea is one of the most popular after food drinks in the world, but still very few people are aware that there are four inherently different flavours and types of tea one can find in every supermarket. Each tea is made out of different ingredients and each tea has its advantages and disadvantages.
What you should always remember is that there are only four types of tea.
- Black tea
- Green tea
- White tea
- Oolong tea
All these are made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis, also known as the tea plant. Other herbal infusions such as chamomile tea, ginger tea or red tea made of rooibos leaves are disqualified as types of tea since the tea plant is not involved in their making. The difference between the four tea variations lies in the process of making them. In addition, each type of tea has a different flavor and various health benefits.
1) Black Tea
The strong flavored burnt Sienna colored hot beverage is the most popular type of tea in the West. Either served with a squeeze of lemon or added milk and a cube of sugar, the cup of black tea is part of daily tea ceremonies that take place worldwide. Black tea is made of heavily oxidized Camellia sinensis leaves. When served plain, it contains no calories, carbohydrates, or fats. A cup of black tea contains more caffeine than any other types of tea but less than in any cup of coffee.
2) Green Tea
The lightly oxidized tea has been popular in China, Japan and Korea for centuries. Recently, rumors on its health benefits increased its popularity in the West as well. It has been proven that drinking green tea can lower cholesterol, prevent cancer, increase metabolic rates and be helpful in variety of other conditions and illnesses. The green tea is lightly oxidized, dried, but not fermented. It is usually served plain, without sugar or milk. Since some of the green tea variants taste a bit bitter, it should be brewed in lower temperature than the boiling point.
3) White Tea
White tea is rarer and more expensive than the other types of teas mentioned above. Originated in the Fujian province of China, the white tea is made of young Camellia sinensis leaves, which go through a long process of steaming or frying, inactivate fermenting and drying. Since the leaves are harvested while the buds are still covered by white hair, it is called white tea. White tea has the most delicate, sweet taste than the other types of tea. Moreover, it contains the smallest amount of caffeine and the largest amount of antioxidants that help prevent cancer.
4) Oolong Tea
The traditional Chinese tea is the common companion of Chinese foods such as dim sum and chop suey in American Chinese restaurants. The oolong tea, black dragon in Chinese, got its name after its long, dark distinguished leaves that look like wild black dragons when brewed. The unique taste of the oolong tea is achieved by a long process that includes sun drying of the Camellia sinensis leaves, light oxidization, cooling and drying processes. The result is a lighter flavor than the popular black tea and stronger than the delicate green tea.
There are also several ways to brew tea leaves. Although tea bags have grown in popularity throughout the world due to their convenience and ease of use, many still prefer to use loose tea. But even in that there are choices. One option is a mesh tea ball. The trick here is to secure all of the tea leaves safely inside the metal ring so that the mesh ball can close completely. Otherwise tea will float out through the crack.
The practice of interpreting the arrangement of loose tea in the bottom of one’s empty tea cup is an age-old tradition known as Tasseography or reading tea leaves. When reading tea leaves, you traditionally start at the handle and then continue clockwise examining groupings and positioning of tea. Tea groupings near the handle are thought to represent what is occurring in the person’s life having the reading or what is one their mind.
Another option is to use a tea ball infuser. This is typically more effective in reducing the amount of tea remains in your teacup, but also eliminates the fun you might have reading your tea leaves.
If you are a tea purest, then it is unlikely that you will embrace using tea powder. Although its use is the simplest, in that all that is needed is to shake some tea powder into a cup and stir in hot water, the results are often unsatisfactory. In a pinch, however, it is a quick way to prepare some tea!
Tea is a lovely beverage and suitable for more occasions than just afternoon tea. Now that you know a little bit about the four types you can select one that is suited to your liking.