What is Tea?
While drinking tea may have originally been for medical purposes, today, tea is consumed daily as an enjoyable beverage. Consumers of tea not only get to enjoy a variety of health benefits through their tea of choice, but they can also choose from a range of caffeine levels, as well as preparation styles (hot, cold, with milk, with sugar, with lemon, etc.). No matter your choice, all tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant, an evergreen plant that mainly grows in tropical and subtropical climates. The way the leaves are processed determines what type of tea is produced. Herbal teas, or teas not containing leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant, are actually not teas at all but are instead considered infusions, sometimes called tisanes.
Types of Tea
White tea is one of the most delicate tea varieties because it is minimally processed. The tea is harvested before the leaves fully open, when the buds are still covered by white hairs. The leaves are hand-picked and then quickly dried to prevent oxidization. Since it is the least processed tea, it retains a high amount of antioxidants.
After being harvested, the tea leaves are quickly heated by pan frying or steaming and then dried to stop oxidization. Green tea can get bitter if steeped too long or in water that is too hot. It is best brewed in water between 175-185 degrees Fahrenheit. High quality green teas can be steeped multiple times, increasing the temperature of the water at each re-steep.
Oolong is produced through a process of wilting and withering the plant under strong sunlight, which allows for partial oxidation before curling and twisting. This tea is best brewed in water 185-205 degrees Fahrenheit. Just like green tea, Oolong can be re-steeped multiple times, with the flavor often improving with each reuse.
This tea has been wilted, sometimes crushed, and fully oxidized, turning the leaves black. It is best steeped in water that is near boiling, at 210 degrees Fahrenheit. If you enjoy milk in your tea, you would want to add the milk to a hearty variety of black tea so you can taste the tea through the milk.