What is Tea?
Camellia sinensis is the tea plant, whose leaves and leaf buds are used to produce tea. Tea, common name of the shrub Camellia sinensis, is widely cultivated in China, Japan, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Taiwan and other countries. Furthermore, the word tea, is used to refer to the aromatic beverage prepared from the cured leaves of the tea shrub by infusion with boiling water. (Thanks Wikipedia for the definition.)
There are several varieties of tea – all of which you will see reviewed here on Tea Escapade at one time or another. They include:
- White teas:
White tea is the purest and least processed of all teas. White tea usually contains buds and young tea leaves. It has very little caffeine and brews a light color and flavor. White teas also contain the highest antioxidant properties (helps to detoxify and fight cancer), help lower your cholesterol level, and are the best for skin and complexion.
- Green teas:
Green tea is the most popular type of teas, mainly because it is the beverage of choice in Asia. Often Green tea is mixed with fruits or scented with flowers to created flavored or scented Green teas. This tea has only 5-10% the caffeine in coffee. Green tea is also high in antioxidants (helps to detoxify and fight cancer), helps lower blood pressure, fight gingivitis and cavities, and helps regulate blood sugar levels. Green teas should be steeped at a much lower temperature than boiling.
- Oolong teas:
Oolong tea is full-bodied with a flavorful fragrance and sweet aroma. Is is a semi-fermented, which gives it approximately 15% of the caffeine in one cup of coffee. Most people commonly recognize Oolong tea as the tea served in Chinese restaurants. Oolong teas promote weight loss by boosting your metabolism rate and aid in digestion by breaking down oils and fats.
- Black teas:
Black tea is the tea most people know since you likely grew up dipping tea bags of black tea in your cup (or from an iced pitcher in the South). Black tea is fully fermented, so it has approximately 20% of the caffeine in a cup of coffee. Black tea helps prevent the absorption of cholesterol into the blood stream, which helps to prevent heart disease. It is also good to prevent gingivitis, tooth decay, and it helps regular blood sugar level and blood pressure.
- Pu-Erh teas:
Pu-erh tea is traditionally made with leaves from old wild tea trees of a variety known as “broad leaf tea” from the tea plant. Pu-Erh tea is known as diet tea, since it helps the body digest fat and break down oils. This tea has a rich, earthy flavor that improves over time like wine. Pu-Erh teas are often aged for up to 15 years to improve the taste. They also assist in lowering cholesterol, which is good for the heart.
- Herbal teas:
Herbal tea does not contain any leaves from the Camellia family, so it is sometimes referred to as a tisane. Herbal teas can be broken into three categories: Rooibos teas, Mate teas, and Herbal infusions. We will cover Rooibos and Mate below. Herbal teas consist of pure herbs, flowers, and fruits. The health benefits of herbal tea varies from tea to tea, but they are all caffeine-free and typically rich in vitamin C. Herbal teas are delicious hot or iced.
- Rooibos teas:
Rooibos (or Red) tea is made from a South African red bush. It is rich in vitamins, minerals, and protein and has higher antioxidants than Green tea. Naturally caffeine free, Rooibos teas are excellent in aiding with digestion, help relieve allergies, and promotes healthy skin, teeth and bones. Rooibos teas are delicious hot or iced.
- Mate teas:
Yerba maté (Spanish yerba mate, Portuguese ervamate), ilex paraguariensis, is a species of holly (family Aquifoliaceae) native to subtropical South America in Argentina, eastern Paraguay, western Uruguay and southern Brazil. Mate tea is considered the coffee lover’s favorite tea. Mate teas give the same energy as coffee without the jitters. They also curb the appetite and contain 21 vitamins and minerals.
Thanks Teavana for the great descriptions with additional details and pictures from Wikipedia. This information will be used by those new to tea for years to come and us current lover’s of tea looking for a refresher.