A beginner's guide to tea

December 27, 2014

Loved world-wide and comforting day or night, tea is a warm, welcome beverage. Here’s how to find a great tea to match your taste.

A beginner's guide to tea

Types of tea

Most teas come from the same plant, the camellia sinensis, but various processes produce distinctive flavours. These are some of the world’s most popular teas, including what to expect taste-wise.

Black tea: Coffee lovers usually go for black tea, such as Orange Pekoe, because of its strong, full-bodied flavour and high caffeine levels. Decaffeinated black teas exist, but remember that they still contain a little caffeine. Black tea is best made with boiling water and steeped for three to five minutes.

Green tea: Green tea is delicate and astringent with notes of grass, jasmine or toasted grains. It has lower caffeine levels than black tea. Use steaming hot, not boiling, water and steep for only two to three minutes to avoid bitter-tasting green tea.

White tea: More expensive than other teas, white tea is popular for its sweet and subtle flavours. This tea is made from the buds and new leaves of tea plants, so the flavours are less astringent and have less caffeine. Steep white tea for a couple of minutes in steaming hot water.

Oolong tea: Oolong tea is very similar to black and green teas, depending on the drying process. Lighter oolongs are more delicate and fruity while darker oolongs have a more floral taste. Steeping times are similar to green and black teas, depending on the type of oolong you have.

Herbal tea: Unlike most teas, herbal teas don’t contain any tea plant, so they vary wildly in flavour. For centuries, many herbal teas have been used as health remedies for ailments like upset stomachs and inability to sleep.

Rooibos tea: Originally from South Africa, rooibos is also an herbal tea made from a broom-like member of the legume family. It’s known for its distinctive red colour and earthy, fruity taste. Use boiling water and steep Rooibos for three to five minutes.

Popular types of flavoured and herbal teas

  1. Chamomile tea: Mild and flowery, chamomile tea has long been used as a sleep aid.
  2. Peppermint tea: Peppermint tea is aromatic, slightly peppery and can ease stomach pains.
  3. Ginger tea: Ginger tea, usually with a sweetener, can calm upset stomachs.
  4. Chai tea: A blend of aromatic Indian spices and herbs, chai tea has a spicy flavour with hints of cinnamon and cardamom.
  5. Dandelion tea: Dandelion tea can help with inflammation but has a very strong, distinctive flavour.
  6. Hibiscus tea: A herbal-blend tea, hibiscus is bitter with notes of cranberry and can help with low blood pressure.

Known for its pick-me-up nature, tea is an exciting alternative to that morning or afternoon cup of coffee. Now that you know a bit about various kinds of tea, you’ll be sure to find one or many that are to your liking.


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