Tea for Two: Types of Tea and Their Benefits
Admit it. There’s nothing like a good hot cup of tea. It just has something to ease your mind and make you feel cool, calm, and relaxed. Throw in a rainy day, a cozy blanket, and a good book, and you’re good to go.
Tea is one of the go-to drinks people take in any time of the day, whether for breakfast, afternoon, after dinner, or before bedtime. And they drink this brew for a variety of reasons.
“Strange how a teapot can represent at the same time the comforts of solitude and the pleasures of company.”
History of Tea
Many people believe that this beverage originates from China. According to an ancient Chinese legend, Chinese emperor Shen Nong was boiling water in the garden. He accidentally discovered tea when a leaf from a tea tree fell into his pot of boiling water. There, it gave the water flavor.
The emperor decided to taste this concoction and was happily surprised. He liked the flavor. It tasted invigorating and refreshing.
Traditional preparation is hugely different as compared to what we do today. Before, the most popular method of preparation was first grinding the delicate leaves into a fine powder. They used a stone mill for this. Next, they whipped the powder into hot water with bamboo whisks.
It wasn’t until the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) when they started to prepare tea just like how we do it today. First, they would dry out the leaves. Next, makers roll the leaves and heat them in iron woks. Finally, they use hot water for steeping.
Types of Tea
All tea comes from the same kind of plant, the Camellia sinensis. However, the processes used is what makes each type different and unique. Read on to know more about the different ways the leaves are handled.
Makers use larger and more mature leaves for this brew. They also use bruised leaves. They are picked, withered, rolled, partially oxidized, and lastly fired.
Different tea estates have their own processes in making this. This is why oolong has the widest array of flavors and aromas. They are also steeped several times, with each infusion having their own distinct taste and fragrance.
Green tea is one of the least oxidized teas. The makers allow the leaves to only wither very slightly. Next, they rapidly heat the leaves. This way, the oxidation process stops abruptly. The makers then roll and dry the leaves.
Since the leaves go through minimal processing and get only a bit of oxidation, they retain their green color. Their taste is grassy, like that of leafy green vegetables.
This delicate drink undergoes the least processing of all the other teas. Makers pick the leaves only a few days of the year. They are picked only when a white down, called bai ho, appears on the tender shoots. In order to prevent oxidation, the shoots naturally wither then dry out. This is a delicate process. Tea makers have to pay strict attention to the leaves.
This type has a light cream color. It emits a subtle floral aroma. The taste is naturally sweet, quite light and bright.
This is a rare and expensive type of brew. It is produced like the green tea, but has an additional step. Makers then wrap leaves in a special damp cloth. This takes up to three days. The leaves undergo gentle oxidization before the final slow charcoal drying. This process gives the leaves a slightly yellow coloring.
This tea tastes mellower and is less grassy than green teas.
Black tea is the most widely consumed tea in the whole world. In the process, the leaves wither completely. They then go through full oxidation. All the water evaporates out of the leaves. Next, the leaves absorb more oxygen from the air. This results in the dark brown and black color.
Though tea is from China, black teas are now cultivated worldwide. Some of the most famous black teas come from Indian regions, specifically Nilgiri, Assam, and Darjeeling. Sri Lanka also cultivates some teas.
Its taste is brisk and bold.
This type undergoes microbial fermentation. This process can last from several months to many years. The exposure of the leaves to oxygen and humidity causes endo-oxidation and exo-oxidation. The leaves then become darker with oxidation.
The fermentation of the leaves changes their chemistry. This affects the drink’s organoleptic qualities. Fermentation also reduces the astringency and bitterness of its taste.
Tisanes (Herbal and Fruit Infusion)
Herbal teas use dried flowers, herbs, spices, fruits or other plant material. They are then steeped in boiling water. This means no actual tea leaves are used. Popular examples of this type are chamomile, cinnamon, ginseng, peppermint, and also raspberry.
Benefits of Tea
Fights against Free Radicals
Tea is a good source of antioxidants. And we all know what antioxidants do. That’s right, they fight against harmful free radicals that bring diseases and unhealthy bacteria to our bodies. They also protect us from damage and pollution.
Improves Brain Function
Teas have a good amount of caffeine. Caffeine improves various aspects of brain function. These include improved mood, better memory retention, sharper focus, and a faster reaction time. This brew also has anti-anxiety effects, which is why you immediately get that relaxed feeling as soon as you get that first sip.
Drinking tea can also protect your brain as you grow older. It lowers your risk of Alzheimer’s disease as well as Parkinson’s disease.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that tea lowers total serum cholesterol and also low-density lipoprotein (LDL). There are properties that inhibit the absorption of bad cholesterol from the large intestine.
Helps in Losing Weight
Drinking teas can help you lose weight faster. They increase fat burning, especially during exercise. They can also boost your metabolic rate. Some studies also show that tea makes us burn more calories, even if we are at rest.
The caffeine content also helps by taking the fatty acids from fat tissues. The caffeine converts the fatty acids to energy.
Works as an Anti-Allergen
The tea polyphenol called EGCG reduces pollen allergies. Tea also reduces allergic response thanks to quercetin. This is a flavonol that is naturally in tea. It eases histamine response.
As an added boost, you can even add some honey into your tea to double up on the anti-allergy power.
Lowers Risk of Diabetes
Many Americans are victims of this disease, specifically type 2 diabetes. This disease means your body has high blood sugar levels in the context of insulin resistance. This could also mean your body cannot produce insulin.
Studies show that the intake of tea improves insulin sensitivity and also reduces blood sugar levels.