Tea For Dummies
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Although there are literally thousands of teas and herbal teas, figuring out where to start doesn’t need to be daunting! All tea is made from the same plant, Camellia sinensis; everything else is an herbal tea. There is so much to learn about each of these types — but there truly is something for every taste.

Different types of teas

Within the Camellia sinensis family, you can find the following, with each type of tea offering a full spectrum of flavors:

  • Black tea
  • Green tea
  • Oolong tea
  • White tea
  • Fermented tea
  • Tea blends (including blends of different teas and teas with inclusions)
The number of herbal teas is practically unlimited. Some of the more common include the following, (although herbal blends may also incorporate spices, seeds, and nuts):
  • Rooibos and honeybush blends
  • Fruit teas
  • Herbals such as mint, mate, or mountain tea
  • Flowers, including chamomile, rose, lavender, or hibiscus

Brewing the perfect cup of tea

After you choose what tea to brew, you have to figure out how to brew it correctly. Consider these important things:

What equipment is needed?

There are a lot of tea-brewing gadgets on the market today. All you really need is something to heat water, a vessel to brew the loose leaf in, a fine mesh strainer or brewing basket, and a cup for drinking your tea.

How much tea to use?

The average 10- to 12-ounce cup of tea needs about 3 grams of loose-leaf tea.

What temperature of water is best for which teas?

This depends on what type of tea you are brewing. A black, herbal, or fruit tea is almost always brewed with boiling water, whereas a green or white tea may be brewed with water as cool as 150 degrees.

How many minutes to brew it?

Brewing time also depends on the tea and how you like it. The longer the brew, the stronger it gets. Be careful though. Tea may also get more bitter — to the point of being almost undrinkable.

Fun facts about tea

Share these fun facts at your next tea party!
  • We often think of the English and their tea time, but Turkey is actually the largest tea-drinking country in the world, with the United States not far behind and always among the top three.
  • Tea is grown in many parts of the world, and every country has its own tradition when it comes to tea. Some countries, like China and Japan, tend to produce more green teas, whereas most of the teas produced in India are black teas.
  • Like frost wine, frost and frozen teas are made with lightly frozen tea leaves that are harvested while they are still frozen.
  • When you order your favorite chai tea, you are simply ordering a tea tea. The word chai just means “tea” in many languages.

Tea misconceptions

The following are some common misconceptions about tea, caffeine, and health:
  • “Caffeine is bad for you.” Although too much caffeine can cause jitters and other unpleasant side effects, caffeine works together with tea’s unique amino acid L-theanine to give you a calm alertness.
  • “Some teas have less caffeine than others.” Unfortunately, calculating the caffeine level in tea is extremely complicated, and there’s no way to predict how much is in your teacup. (Note, too, that decaf tea also contains some amount of caffeine.)
  • “Tea is healthy.” Yes, it’s true that tea is good for you. However, it’s difficult to link tea with specific health benefits, and currently the science just doesn’t back up many of the claims. Still, tea contains lots of antioxidants, and it can positively impact your mood and outlook. There’s nothing like sharing a pot of tea with a friend.

Incorporating tea in food and drink

Tea not only makes a great beverage, but it can also be used as an ingredient when cooking, such as:
  • A little smoky lapsang souchong, ground and rubbed on your ribs, can give them that “smoked for hours” flavor.
  • Heavy cream infused with your favorite tea overnight in the fridge, then strained and whipped, can take any dessert over the top. Just add a dollop of your tea-infused whipped cream and wow your guests.
You can also use tea to up your cocktail game by making it a key ingredient in your bar. Here are some suggestions:
  • Tea syrups
  • Tea-infused vodka, gin, or other spirits
  •  Tea bitters

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Lisa McDonald is one of a handful of European-trained tea sommeliers in the U.S. She's also the owner of TeaHaus, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, an acclaimed tea shop where customers can find more than 200 varieties of tea. Jill Rheinheimer, an editor and graphic designer, writes a research-based blog about all things tea, as well as educational and marketing material for TeaHaus.

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