Did you know that there are many awesome health benefits of tea? Maybe the Mad Hatter’s obsession with tea parties wasn’t so crazy after all!
Hello friends! I don’t know if you know this, but I am an avid tea drinker. Yes, I still love my coffee to death, but tea and I have a different sort of relationship. I drink my coffee in the mornings, and some days I drink it other times throughout the day. Tea and I, however, are like BFFs. I drink tea pretty constantly now. You could say I got a little obsessed with it after I discovered my sophomore year of undergrad how incredibly amazing and healthy tea is! It was not the tea I grew up with, and it was a hundred times better.
I grew up in South Texas. The tea is either a simple very dark black iced tea, or it’s so sweet that there’s actually a scientific way the tea is prepared to ensure ultimate sugar super-saturation in the water. The tea I drink now is nothing like either of those. Okay, there are methods on the best way to brew each type of tea, and which kinds are better for you, but tea is awesome. Today, I’m going to go over the benefits of the main types of hot tea, and show you some cool infographics I found on how to prepare the best cuppa for yourself out of either pre-bagged or loose leaf tea. Are you ready? Let’s talk benefits of tea!
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First off, I want to start off by answering the question: What is tea? I mean, there are so many different kinds, flavors, and new super antioxidant packed varieties that keep popping up. But, where does tea come from? Surprisingly, from one type of plant. Yep, the base of green, white, oolong, pu-erh, and black tea all come from the leaves of the Camellia sinesis, or the tea plant. Not to be confused with the tea tree. Totally different plants. When these plants are 2 years old, they start producing fine leaves for tea. The leaves are processed in different ways depending on what type of tea they are being made into. I may or may not be adding a tea plant to my apartment garden soon. Hey, I already have herbs, why not grow my own tea too?
Let’s start with the most common tea people know about: black tea. That dark colored, very rich tasting tea people in the South love to supersaturate with sugar. Well, not everyone. Black tea, sans sugar, is actually high in thiamine, riboflavin, and even vitamin C. The best part of black tea is the theanine, which helps you to relax, even when combined with the caffeine present in black tea, which is why people drink tea, any kind of tea, at night. It helps the brain to slow down and catch some ZZZs. Plus, black tea is also high in antioxidants. It comes in many flavors, with Earl Grey being one of the most popular. Ever had a London Fog? It’s an Earl Grey Tea Latte. You should. They’re delicious!
Green tea is another very popular type of tea. Green tea is full of antioxidants, and most varieties contain about 22% of tea polyphenols, which boost the immune system. Plus, green tea leaves are also chock-full of epigallocatechin, which has been found to help improve heart health, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as alleviate pain from swollen joints. It’s also been used for centuries as a weight loss agent since it boosts your metabolism. Green tea is normally either decaffeinated or has a low level of caffeine, depending on the type of green tea. Matcha green tea powder has a higher level of caffeine than most other green teas. Matcha has been growing in popularity lately, and I think it’s very yummy! You can get green tea loose leaf or pre-bagged; however, I would recommend only getting loose matcha powder if you can.
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Also called tisanes, herbal teas are an infusion of non-tea ingredients such as fruits, spices, and herbs that are normally not used in teas. These include teas like peppermint, dandelion root, lavender, chamomile, blueberry, and many others of this nature. These are teas you can grow yourself. Cool, right? Remember that herb garden I introduced y’all to a while back? Yeah, almost all of those herbs can be brewed into your own teas. Even some of the apartment friendly trees bear fruit or leaves that could be used in herbal teas. There are benefits of herbal tea. It honestly depends on the herb that is used in the tea. For example, lavender and chamomile tea are both good for relaxing, and ginger root or peppermint tea is great for those with an upset stomach. You most likely will find these more flavorful and tasty if you have loose leaf tea. Or, if you make them yourself!
Remember how I told you that most of these teas come from the same plant, and they were just processed differently? If green tea leaves are unprocessed, and black tea leaves are processed, oolong leaves are semi-processed. Oolong tea helps you think, has a mid-range caffeine level for teas, and has been known to lower cholesterol while boosting the immune system. I’m telling you, tea is awesome.
Oolong teas come in many subtle flavors. This is a great tea to start with if you want something with a little caffeine that is easy to make, and still has many good flavors. Again, I’m going to stress that you get more benefits from loose leaf tea rather than pre-bagged. Pre-bagged tea is quite literally dust, and the dust doesn’t release the nutrients and flavors of the tea slowly, which is needed to cultivate the flavor profiles of the teas. You know how sometimes you brew a bag of tea, and it’s horridly bitter? That’s because of the tannins, which are really good for your digestion. When in dust form, the tea releases all the tannins at once, creating bitterness. In leaf form, the tea slowly releases the tannin, incorporating it into the flavors from the tea. So, if you have issues with tea being too bitter, check out loose leaf teas. I promise; it makes all the difference.
White tea has very little caffeine, and is usually whole leaves and flowers that have delicate flavor profiles. I have this dragon fruit white tea and let me tell you, it’s heavenly. Very mild, not too sweet, and just a hint of caffeine. White tea is also high in antioxidants, and it has antiviral properties. It’s also been known to help thin the blood and improve artery function. Some other benefits of white tea include the fact it helps keep your teeth nice and pretty, and kills bacteria that cause bad breath. Pretty neat, huh? I keep learning new cool things about tea while I write this blog. Since white tea has very delicate flavors, it’s important to brew them correctly. This will probably be one of the more expensive teas you look at. Loose leaf teas will give you the ability to buy in bulk, so it can cut your cost dramatically!
Rooibos (pronounced ROY-boss) is a tea made from a red bush in Africa. It’s non-caffeinated, too, making it a good tea for those who can’t have caffeine, or can’t have a lot. It also has less tannin, so it’s less bitter than other teas. It also helps lower cholesterol and high blood pressure, and has a high concentration of antioxidants. It actually has more antioxidants than are found in green teas. And, if you’re like me and have an iron deficiency, rooibos teas are said to help with the absorption of iron. Rooibos tea is not as popular as other teas, so finding it in teabags is not as easy. However, you know what I’m about to say. Loose leaf, man. You can actually buy this tea on Amazon in loose leaf.
Now that I’ve told you all about these different varieties of tea, let’s talk about the best way to brew said teas!
I’m not going to tell you that you can’t just stick your mug of water in the microwave and nuke it until it boils to make your tea. However, boiling water in a kettle does seem to help the tea flavors steep in the water better. For loose leaf teas, you’ll either want a good strainer, or a teapot with an insert to pour your hot water in. I used to think it was snobbish to boil water in a kettle, pack loose leaf tea into a strainer, and place it and the water in a separate teapot (which can’t boil water on the stove) to brew. But oh man, the tea is ten times better. I got this cute little teapot on Amazon, and it works fantastic! Quick side note: a teakettle is used to boil water on the stove, and is usually metal or enamel coated cast iron. A teapot is used to steep the tea in, and cannot be placed on a stove. They can be ceramic, glass, or cast iron, and usually have gorgeous designs. I really liked the simple look of these teapots, which is why I went this route.
Another key to making great tea is to have the water at the right temperature. It’s like any other type of cooking. You can’t cook a pizza in the oven very well if it’s only at 150 degrees F, or you could very easily ruin it if it’s at 500 degrees F. Same goes with tea. The chart here is a great guideline to follow, and it even tells you a little about the caffeine level and what the taste will be like. But if your specific brand says otherwise, follow the brand. One thing I am considering getting very soon is a good electric kettle. You can buy ones that you can program the temperature on, so it’s even easier to brew your tea at the correct temperature. Plus, I can take it to my office on campus and brew tea there while I wait on students. I like this idea a lot.
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One last tidbit of information before I leave you to go running to the nearest tea store. Loose leaf tea is actually more cost efficient than pre-bagged teas. I know, it seems weird. I can get a box of 20 teabags for like $3, and loose leaf teas can be like $4 an ounce. Interesting fact: You can make a LOT of tea from an ounce of loose leaf herbs. Plus, many can actually be used for more than one pot of tea. And, if you’re buying the bulkier white or green teas, since they are so light, you get a lot of tea for your buck. Storing loose leaf tea is also simple. Keep them in airtight containers, preferably out of the light in a cool, dark place, like your pantry or spice cabinet. Since I’ve now got you all obsessed with tea, check out my previous tea post, where I go over some really cool ways to store your tea collection.
Well, there you have it! The health benefits of all my favorite types of teas! Which type of tea is your favorite? Have you tried loose leaf teas before? Let me know if you have a favorite brand in the comments, and don’t forget to share this post with your family and friends! Until next time, stay creative friends.