Articles and Neat Stuff
Cold Brewing Your Tea
Remember the ‘sunshine tea’ we used to make. You know, some teabags in a jar of water and left outside to brew? This is similar, only you won’t likely forget about it in your yard!
Cold brewing eliminates the bitterness and astringency that may accompany some teas. Caffeine levels are reduced by up to half that of hot brewed tea. And, depending on the length of brewing time, antioxidants may increase. The longer, the better, from what we have read. In any case, it makes a great summer beverage!
Just too simple. Put tea in jar. Fill jar with water. Cover jar. Refrigerate jar. Read a book, paint a rock, take a walk, watch a show, build a puzzle, have a nap… ;) Strain the tea; sweeten, add fruit, or drink straight up, as is or over ice. Fabulous!
Here’s the real recipe:
How to make cold brew tea. Using loose tea:
- Measure* loose tea into a large glass jar. The leaves can be put into the jar loose, or in an infuser or paper filter bag.
- Fill jar with room temperature or cold water.
- Cover the jar. Steep in your refrigerator for 6 to 8 hours for green or white tea; 8 to 12 hours black or oolong tea.
- Remove the teabags or infuser. Or, if using loose leaves, strain the tea through a sieve or strainer with a fine mesh.
- Serve, with or without ice. The tea may be sweetened, or flavored with fruit slices, mint leaves, or other add-ins, as desired. Tea should keep well in refrigerator for up to 5 days.
*Tea leaves required: 1.5 – 2 teaspoons per 250ml (8oz) of water. So, per liter, you would need 2-3 tablespoons of tea leaves, or 4-8 store-bought teabags, depending on the type. We recommend going with the loose leaves. Just seems that, if you are going to spend all that time making something that should be wonderful, then it’s best to use quality leaf tea.
Some teas may be reinfused in the same manner, for about twice the time. The brew will be slightly lighter, but good, nonetheless.
This is another time patience is a virtue!
Tea recommendations for COLD BREW METHOD: Your favorite tea should be the one you try first. Why not? The sky is the limit here. I am excited to try our summer oolong tea! Strawberries, mango and peach on luxury oolong. How can it go wrong? Let us know what works for you. This is a game changer!
Slurp Your Tea When No One Is Listening!
Articles by Karen (The Tea Lady), Everything Tea, Vegreville
❤ Tea. “Tea is an aromatic beverage commonly prepared by pouring hot or boiling water over cured leaves of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis. (Source: Wikipedia)” There are four varieties of Camellia sinensis, of which two are primarily used in the production of tea. These are the sinensis and assamica varieties. From these we get white tea, yellow tea, green tea, oolong (wuyi or wulong), pu erh, and black tea. (And kukicha, made from the twigs not leaves, but that’s another story.) The differences in the teas are due to a variety of factors. The soil, altitude, temperature, sunlight and rainfall all affect the leaves, as do any of the many processes used to make the final product. Even the location on the plant from which the leaves are picked, and the season they are picked in changes things up. There are buds and new tips all the way up to the older, darker, larger leaves. The leaves can be bruised, crushed or cut to promote various degrees of oxidation (fermentation), or they can be left unbruised, as in white or green teas, or left to yellow, as in the yellow teas. The leaves can be steamed, sun dried, roasted, toasted, pan fried, dried over a smoky oak or pine fire, or a combination of processes. Pu erh tea is aged, just like a good wine! Teas can be scented with flowers (ie: jasmine) or combined with other teas to make blends. Now add in flavours, fruits, nuts, seeds and spices into the mix for greater variety yet. Phew, so many teas - so little time. Makes me want to sit down and relax with a cup of…? That’s right! Tea.
Health Benefits Of Drinking Tea
There are many health benefits associated with drinking tea. The tea plant does contain caffeine, but its effect is more gentle than other caffeinated beverages because of other substances found in tea that cause the caffeine to be released slowly over time. The net result of this is long periods of sustained alertness and energy without feeling 'wired'.
Black tea, green tea, white tea, oolong tea and matcha are all harvested from the leaves of a warm-weather evergreen tree known as ‘Camellia sinensis’. The leaves from this tree contain catechins and other polyphenols that act as strong antioxidants, which have numerous health benefits. Also found in tea leaves are vitamins, minerals, chlorophyll, amino acids (L-theanine), fibers, and caffeine. Generally speaking, matcha will have the highest level of antioxidants because it is a powder made from the whole leaf of green or white tea, followed by white and green teas themselves , then oolongs, and finally black teas. All these teas contain some degree of antioxidants in addition to the vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
Rooibos, mate and herbal teas are not derived from the Camellia sinensis plant, but are produced from other herbs and plants, and also contain many beneficial substances too numerous to list in this article.
As we can make no claims as to the health benefits of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and amino acids, we encourage readers to research medical studies and to find out for themselves how good these things can be for you.
Information on Caffeine:
Depending on the grind and how prepared, a typical 8 ounce cup of coffee contains anywhere from 140 to 180 mg of caffeine. Brewed black tea has 30-70mg, green has 20-35, and white has 10-15 mg of caffeine. So, although a pound of tea may have more caffeine than a pound of coffee, a CUP of tea has much, much less caffeine than a CUP of coffee. A pound of tea will last you a very long time because you use very little to make that perfect cup.
Mate can be as high as 190 mg of caffeine per 8 ounce cup. However, other natural substances found in both tea and mate cause the caffeine to be released over a long period of time, thus giving you sustained energy for a long period of time. If you want a jolt, coffee would be your beverage of choice. If you want sustained energy, try mate or tea.
As always, rooibos, honeybush, herbal, and fruit teas are completely caffeine free!
How to Make a Perfect Pot of Tea:
Bring freshly drawn water to a boil. Pre-heat teapot with hot water. Drain. Measure tea into infuser or directly into teapot. Adjust amount to taste. Experiment a little! Pour desired amount of hot* water over the tea (see note) Steep. Remove tea leaves, if desired. Herb, fruit and rooibos teas do not become bitter if left in the pot. Infuse again! Many teas can be infused 2 or 3 times, so repeat the above steps , increasing the steeping time with each infusion, to get the most out of your tea. Serve with milk, sugar, honey, lemon, or straight up!
*Note: Ideal steeping temperature for each tea varies. The more oxidized the tea (e.g. black) the hotter the water should be. Less oxidized teas (white, green, oolong) should be steeped in water cooler than boiling:
❤ white: 1-2 tsp/cup; (185 F or 85 C). When water boils, turn off heat and let water cool 30-60 seconds. Steep for 1-7 minutes. Remove leaves.
❤ green: 1 tsp/cup; (170-180F or 76-80C). When water boils, turn off heat; let water cool 1 minute. Steep 2-7 min. Remove leaves. Water too hot makes green tea bitter.
❤ oolong: 1 tsp/cup; (185-210 F or 85-98 C). Just under boiling. Best enjoyed when leaves are briefly infused, 1 - 3 min.
❤ black: 1 tsp/cup; boiling water Steep 3-7 minutes. Remove leaves. -most common mistake is to steep black tea with water that is not hot enough.
❤ herb & fruit: 1.5-2 tsp/cup; boiling water. Steep 3-7 min.
❤ rooibos (green or red): 1 tsp/cup; rolling boil (212 F or 100 C). Steep 3-7 minutes.
❤ chai: 1.5-2 tsp/cup; boiling water (212 F or 100 C). Steep 5-10 min. Typically served with plenty of milk and sugar or honey.
Be kind to the earth. Compost your old tea leaves!
❤ White Tea is so named because of the fine silvery white hairs found on the unopened buds and young leaves that are picked for this tea. The leaves are slightly oxidized (fermented) by allowing them to wilt in sunlight before lightly processing them to stop the oxidation process. White tea is generally steeped in less than boiling water. 170 – 185 F° (76 - 85 C°). For best results, bring the water to a boil and let it sit for about a minute before pouring over the tea leaves. Now this is the tricky part. The leaves can steep anywhere from 1 to 15 minutes, depending on the type of white tea, and of course, your preference. We Generally tell people two to three minutes, but we also know that, whatever way you like your tea is the best way for you. We encourage that you play a little with your tea. Change things up to see what suits your tastes the best. Make a simple white tea and add raspberries or apple slices. Fantastic. (By the way, the color of the steeped white tea is a light yellow. Don’t be surprised!) Slurp your tea when no-one is listening. It tastes better!
❤ Green Tea is good for you, so why do so many say it’s just too bitter? The problem is usually twofold. The water too hot and/or steeping time too long. Both activate the tannins (polyphenols) in the tea and affect flavour and mouth feel, making it bitter and astringent. “Well, Mom said to heat the pot and use boiling water…”, so that is what we do. That is perfect for black tea, but not so good for green tea. Steep the leaves in cooler than boiling water – somewhere between 62 C° and 90 C°, and try a shorter steeping time. Play with your tea to get it just right. You may be pleasantly surprised! (A little note: Tea and red wine are the best-known dietary sources of those tannins that are so good for us. Since wine is not allowed while you work or drive, why not drink green tea? Just asking…
❤ Oolong is also known as wuyi, wulong, or black dragon tea. It’s a partially fermented tea that fits in somewhere between black and green teas. Oolongs come from many sub-varieties of the Camellia sinensis plant. The most famous being Da Hong Pao* from the Wuyi Mountains of China. Oolongs can be sweet & fruity, with honey-like aromas, green and fresh with floral scents, or have a woody, roasted character. They can be scented with jasmine, twisted, wrapped, rolled or curled then roasted or toasted... Man alive, that’s quite a process for a cup of tea. Oolong has been touted to promote weight loss. I don’t know about that, but it does seem to increase the number of trips I make to the outhouse. Could it be all that extra walking? Hmm-mmm. ( *Da Hong Pao tea can sell for up to $USD1.25 million/kg, or $35000/ounce.) Now that is an expensive cup of tea!
❤ Chai means tea in many languages. Masala chai is Hindi for ‘mixed-spice tea’, which we have come to know simply as chai. Traditionally, masala chai is a sweet aromatic spicy hot drink made with a robust black tea, milk, sugar, and spices. Indian villages, markets, or households use their own blend of spices - recipes passed down for generations. The spice blends commonly include cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and black pepper. Other spices and flavorings can also be added, such as star anise, cloves, fennel, chocolate, vanilla, etc. Whatever the blend, the result is a hot, sweet & spicy tea that warms you to your soul. If you’ve never tasted a chai, you’ve missed something extraordinary. Try one today!
❤ Black Tea comes from the same plant as green tea, and has a wonderful aroma and dark color due to a fermentation or oxidation process. The oxidation is promoted by bruising or cutting the freshly picked tea leaves - just like an apple browns after it has been cut. Black tea has a full flavor that can be sweet, spicy, floral or with hints of chocolate. The caffeine level is higher than green tea due to the oxidation process. Less caffeine than coffee, cup for cup, “…A strong cup of coffee can provide 100mg, 200 or even 300mg of caffeine, a cup of black tea may provide 20-60mg.” (Source: authoritynutririon.com). There are many compounds in tea that are healthy for you: polyphenols, theanine, theobromine, theophylline, to name a few. (Sound Greek to you? Probably Latin… I digress.) Tea is known to be mildly diuretic, calming, and a gentle stimulant. Hey, if I can perk up and calm down, all the while I’m headed for the loo, it’s all good to me. Pour me another cup, I’ll be right back.
❤ Gyokuro, a.k.a. "jade dew", is a type of shaded green sencha tea from Japan. It is one of the more expensive sencha teas. Most of us have probably tasted or seen the classic Japan sencha style green tea. The traditional sencha tea is grown in full sun right up to harvest. For gyokuro, the tea bushes are shaded for the last two to three weeks of growth before harvest. This shading causes biochemical changes in the leaf that affect the flavour and aroma of the tea. Levels of caffeine (We know caffeine!) and the amino acid, theanine, increase. [Just an aside here… The amount of theanine found in a single cup of tea can increase alpha brainwaves in a positive way, not to mention dopamine levels! For some this means decreasing anxiety, improving sleep and lessening of the jitters! And this caffeine-theanine combo has shown to promote a better simple reaction time and working memory boost!* Oh, how I love my tea…] Getting back… It is recommended to use twice the weight of dry gyokuro leaves compared to regular sencha, at a much lower brewing temperature and longer brew time, say about 50°-60°C, for about 90 seconds (compared to 60 sec. @ 65°-70°C for sencha). This is for the first infusion; longer time for subsequent infusions. Remember to heat the pot & cups, or your tea will get cold too quickly. Hmmm… just had a thought: Some like it hot; some like it cold. Some like it in the pot, nine days old. Just sayin’…
(*Reference: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Theanine - see links above under the Article List or on the Contact Tab)
❤ Yerba Mate, or simply, mate, is a leaf from the Ilex paraguariensis shrub or tree - an evergreen from the holly family. Mate was originally consumed in South America. Now, whether sipped from a cup, or through a straw (bombilla or bomba) from a calabash gourd, this tea-like beverage, has become known worldwide for its health benefits. Boasting at least 196 active compounds, among them: mateine (a.k.a. caffeine) vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, including tannins and flavonols, the health benefits surpass even green tea! Uruguay natives have the largest consumption of Yerba Mate at 10 kg per capita. The demand is so great that there are hot water filling stations just about everywhere you go. Typically mate is made with hot water, 70°- 80°C. This keeps the brew from getting bitter, and I personally think you wouldn’t want to burn your mouth on the straw! Traditionally the herb is kept in the gourd, to which hot water is added until the mate is spent. Here, we tend to steep the mate like we would green tea, so steeping time depends on your preference for weak or strong drink. Consumption of mate is intended to invigorate, stimulate the mind, detoxify the blood, and ensure longevity. For those people that are not bothered by caffeine, mate can be enjoyed any time of day. I just know that I drank two cups of mate then had this crazy desire to clean my house. Maybe I should be feeding this to my ”mate”. (Pun intended!) I wonder if he would clean the house.
❤ Pu‘erh (pronounced poo-er, poo-ar, or poo-air, or if you are my good friend Wayne, poo-tea) is an aged or post-fermented dark tea. Post-fermentation involves active bacteria and fungal cultures. Sounds a bit scary, doesn’t it? Be NOT afraid!! We wouldn’t have our favorite salami, kimchi, bread, wine, or cheese, to mention a few, without our friendly little microbes. Ripe or ‘cooked’ pu’erh, is totally fermented with those microbes in a largely anaerobic environment, much like you would compost vegetable peels for your garden. Raw or green Pu-erh is only partially fermented then partially oxidized through aging. These processes vary, and for as many processes as there are, there are as many types of Pu-erh. Finally the leaves (maocha) are pressed into a “cake” in the form of a disc, nest, mushroom, brick, square, melon, or simply left loose. Pu’erh can be pressed into the skin of an orange or melon, or flavored in any number of ways. Recently, two kg of one highly prized FuYuanChang pu’erh tea, aged from the early 1900s, auctioned for 1.7 million USD. So at about 2 grams of leaves per cup of tea, this would give us about a thousand cups of tea at $1700 USD per cup. I think my 10 buck bag from my local tea shop is lookin’ pretty good! No joking around, pu’erh is good for you. It helps with the digestion of fats and some say it helps with weight loss, as so many teas may. It is an unusual tea, and well worth its weight in gold. Literally!
❤ Yellow Tea is the most rare of the six primary tea categories. It originated in Anhui Province, China. The aroma is much like our black tea but the flavor is more like green or white teas. This high quality tea was served to the Emperor, as yellow is the traditional imperial color. The early spring buds and 2 adjacent small leaves are handpicked from the top 1-2 inches of the camellia sinensis tree. The arduous processing begins with heating the leaves in a wok to stop oxidation, then keeping them warm in a cooler wok. From here the damp leaves are hand rolled and twisted, and placed in baskets. The leaves are turned regularly and covered to control the moisture level. This smothering and natural drying process causes the leaves to yellow and to reabsorb their own aroma. The end product is a slightly fermented tea, high in antioxidants, that yields a sweet, light yellow infusion. Yellow tea boasts the many health benefits of a high quality green tea without the bitterness.
MOST POPULAR: Junshan Yinzhen, from Hunan, China.
MOST EXPENSIVE: Yellow Gold Tea Buds from Singapore - The buds are clipped from the top of the tree exclusively with gold scissors. This happens only one day per year and on only one mountain. The buds are painted with 24 carat gold flakes, as it is thought that the gold is healthy for you! (Note: If you are using the Yellow Gold Tea Buds, I recommend eating the leaves. You don’t want to waste any of that gold!)
❤ Rooibos, or red bush tea, is a herbal tea that, for generations, has been popular in South Africa. It’s a broom-like bush with needle shaped leaves. For Red rooibos, the leaves are cut and allowed to oxidize, causing them to redden in color, giving the tea a sweet, almost nutty flavor. Un-oxidized green rooibos is a sweet mild tea that blends well with many fruits or is simply wonderful straight up. Traditional medicine in South Africa has used rooibos to treat nervous tension, asthma, allergies and digestive issues. It’s even given to infants for colic. Many trace nutrients help with hydration, and some of the chemical compounds found in rooibos are known to be powerful antioxidants with cancer fighting qualities. Never bitter, due to low tannin content, and naturally caffeine free. And, on a lighter note (pun intended), absolutely no calories in a cup of rooibos tea, unless you add them! This year for Christmas you could try a Rooibos Chai, or Chocolate Mint Rooibos. Good for everyone and won’t keep anyone awake to see old Saint Nick get stuck in the 8” chimney. Leave a gingersnap or two beside a steaming cup of Licorice Rooibos. He just might even ask for seconds after he calms down from the chimney ordeal. Have a merry Christmas!
❤ Honeybush, or cyclopia intermedia, is a small woody shrub indigenous to South Africa. It is similar to rooibos in nutritional values and health benefits. The flowers have a strong honey scent, thus the name. Honeybush is fairly new to Western cultures but has been consumed by bushman tribes for centuries. The infusion is slightly sweet, with a honey-like aroma, and is naturally caffeine free. Because the herb has low tannin levels it is never bitter. New research has identified many nutritional compounds in honeybush, as well as antioxidants and phenolic compounds that may help your body fight infection, lower inflammatory response and may have potential to be anti-obesity compounds. I am game to try anything that is going to reduce my rotundity (Or, is that rotund-a-tea? I digress…) I think this is an amazingly healthy drink. We usually steep the herb in boiling water for 7 to 10 minutes. But, in some of the literature I read, it is suggested that the herb be simmered for 20 minutes to release all the flavor and nutrients – a water extraction. Sounds like stewing more than brewing. There is so much research out there, and I encourage you to read up on this wonderful herb. And, while doing that, get steeping that tea. It’s good hot or cold, blended with fruit, cinnamon or vanilla, sweetened, or straight up. It is good for you, however you drink it, and if what I read is true, you could skinny-up… or is that down? Honeybush. Good anyway you steep it, cheers!
Mulled Christmas Tea
❤ Mulled Christmas Tea is a wonderful thing to serve over the holidays, and it makes your house smell fabulous. You will need a large pot for this recipe – at least 5 liters. First, make a good strong black tea, your favorite will do. Steep about 3 tablespoons of loose tea (or 10 good quality teabags) in 6 cups of boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove and discard the leaves/bags. Add 6 cups of fruit juice (apple, cranberry, raspberry, or a combination) and 3 cups of a dry red wine, plus ¾ cup sugar, and give it a good stir. Into a large tea ball (or a cheesecloth bag) put a 6” cinnamon stick, broken into pieces, about a teaspoon each of whole cloves and cardamom. Hang the tea ball into the pot and bring it to a boil. Then turn down the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until you think it tastes just right. Remove the spices then transfer to a crockpot to keep warm. Add thinly sliced oranges or lemons and some fresh cranberries or even mint leaves. Serves up well in a glass mug. You can put a cinnamon stick in the mug, because they look fancy. Who says tea is boring? Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!
Grades Of Tea
Orange Pekoe (Peck-Oh) is not a flavour but one of several grades of black tea.
BLACK TEA GRADES
In the black tea grades, Golden refers to the presence of gold hues in the leaf, which is evidence of high quality, and Tippy refers to an abundance of young buds, which is also desirable.
- TGFOP (Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe) - is the highest grade of tea, and will have the tea bud and flowers plus the two uppermost leaves of the tea plant. This grade represents some of the most precious tea in the world. After brewing, it is not uncommon to see whole leaves in their original state. The tip on these leaves can make up as much as a fourth of a whole leaf. This grade is sometimes further refined to include FTGFOP (Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe) and SFTGFOP (Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe), being the choicest of the choice.
- GFOP (Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe) - whole young leaves with a golden brown tip.
- FOP (Flowery Orange Pekoe) - whole leaves with the flowers. The cup tends to be lighter than the broken grades.
- OP (Orange Pekoe) - whole leaves without the flower or bud.
- P (Pekoe) - The leaves of this grade are shorter and not as wiry as an Orange Pekoe. In Europe this type of leaf is often referred to as curly.
- GFBOP (Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe) - a broken Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe.
- FBOP (Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe) - a broken Flowery Orange Pekoe. The leaves are larger than the standard Broken Orange Pekoe.
- BOP (Broken Orange Pekoe) - the smallest of leaf grades. The liquor usually has a good color with strength in the cup and is very useful in many blends.
- BP (Broken Pekoe) - a very short, even, curly leaf. It develops a dark, heavy cup and is very popular in the Middle East.
- S (Souchong) - the large leaves near the bottom of the tea plant, usually twisted lengthwise.
- F (Fannings) - small pieces of tea leaf.
- D (Dust) - the smallest particles left after sifting and grading, often used in tea bags to produce a rapidly infusing tea.
GREEN TEA GRADES
Green teas are graded by the quality of their flavour, the area it is grown in and the way it is flushed or picked. A typical grading system is as follows:
- Special Grade - one bud one leaf, just beginning to unfold, flat & smooth leaves
- Grade 1 - one bud one leaf, opened, also one bud and two leaves just beginning to unfold, leaves generally flat and smooth.
- Grade 2 - a bud and two leaves, leaves unfolded, flat leaves
- Grade 3 - a bud and two leaves with some leaves opposite each other, fairly flat leaves.
- Grade 4 - a bud and two or three leaves opposite to each other, flattish leaves but broader and not as smooth as higher grades.
- Grade 5 - a bud and three leaves or two leaves opposite each other, with rough leaves.
Other terms used to describe green tea include
- Gunpowder - young leaves and buds are rolled tightly into pellets that unfurl in the cup, also called Pearl Tea.
- Sencha - tender, early leaves from the first or second flush.
- Gyokuro - leave shaded for 2 - 3 weeks to increase their chlorophyll content, producing vibrant green teas.
- Dragonwell - broad, flat leaves.
- Imperial - loosely rolled pellets made from older leaves.
- Young Hyson - young leaves rolled long and thin.
- Hyson - mature leaves rolled long and thin.
OOLONG TEA GRADES
Oolong teas have their own grading system, which have to do with the quality of cup that they give. The grades are, from highest to lowest:
- Finest or Extra Fancy
Other grading systems are also recognized for Oolong teas.
Is It Tea?
The word Tea has become synonymous with many different beverages besides the ancient plant from which we derive our common black, green, oolong and white teas. Just about any natural product other than coffee is generally called tea when made into a beverage. Many beverages called tea can be made from a variety of plants such as peppermint or chamomile or many different herbs. Rooibos or Red Bush Tea comes from the Red Bush plant of southern Africa and contains absolutely no caffeine. The word 'Tisane' is another word used to describe beverages made of herbs, fruits, or any other plant material other than tea, coffee and mate. A brief description of the various classes of teas and tisanes follows:
The fresh leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant are harvested and then fully fermented or oxidized to produce the final tea. The fermentation process starts by allowing the tea to wither in direct sunlight for approximately twelve hours, during which time air is allowed to pass through the leaves to partially dry them. The withered leaves are then either hand rolled as in some exotic teas, or machines are used to cut, tear and curl the leaves into small bits. The cut, tear, curl process releases chemicals that give the tea its aroma, flavour and colour. The tea is then dried to end the fermentation process and graded into various broken tea grades. The flavour of the black tea will be distinct to the region or estate from which it comes, the maturity of the leaves when they are picked, the fermentation process, and will vary from year to year due to different growing conditions. Teas from different regions are often blended to give consistent flavor from year to year. The unflavoured black teas may then be combined with natural flavours and blending ingredients to produce a variety of flavoured teas and blends. The full fermentation process of black tea causes the maximum amount of caffeine to be released, thus causing black teas to have the highest caffeine content.
Known as the King Of All Teas because of the exacting methods used in their production, oolongs tend to the most rare and expensive of all teas. The name oolong is derived from the Chinese word 'wu-lung', which is translated 'black dragon'. Oolongs are produced from full bodied mature leaves of the Camellia sinensis and allowed to only partially ferment by allowing the leaves to wither for only two to eight hours. This causes the caffeine content of oolongs to be lower than that of fully fermented black tea, but higher than that of the unfermented green teas. There are seven major steps in the production of a quality oolong tea.
- Picking - leaves are picked 3 - 4 times per year, with leaves picked in the spring generally being the highest quality. An experienced picker knows just which leaves are ready for harvest.
- Wilting - leaves are allowed to wither and dry on large wooden plates both indoors and outdoors to achieve the best balance of heating and cooling.
- Bruising - the leaves are caused to ferment or oxidize by shaking or tumbling a number of times until just the right amount of oxidation has taken place. This begins the fermentation (oxidation) process, as the juice in the leaves is exposed to the air, much like an apple turns brown once it is bruised or cut.
- Kill Green - is the stopping of the fermentation process by frying the leaves in a pan for a short amount of time. As the leaves are only partially fermented, they will generally be reddish in colour with the middle of the leaf still green.
- Shaping - the leaves are shaped or rolled depending upon the customs of the producer.
- Drying - high and low heats are applied to remove all moisture. Aged oolongs may be re-fermented and dried on a yearly basis. This step releases and reinforces the distinct flavours of the tea.
- Sorting - the most expensive teas are then sorted and graded by hand, and then packaged.
Oolongs may be blended with natural flavours and ingredients, or left with their own distinctive and unique flavour, which depends greatly upon the producer of the tea. Oolong is often scented with jasmine. Jasmine flowers are picked in the early morning & added to the tea leaves. The Jasmine flowers bloom at night, so when the flowers open, the fragrance permeates the tea leaves. This scenting/flavoring process is repeated at least two nights.
The water used to steep oolong tea should be about 185-195°F or 85-90°C. As a general guide, use about 1-2 teaspoons or 2-4 of tea leaves for about every 6 ounces of water. A steeping time of 3-5 minutes is recommended with more or less time depending on the desired concentration. Generally, the higher the temperature of the water or the greater the volume of leaves used, the shorter the steeping time. The tea leaves should unfurl for full flavor. The leaves may be steeped two or more times, with a longer time given for each subsequent infusion.
Green teas are non-fermented teas. The freshly harvested Camellia sinensis leaves are allowed to wither and are then steamed or pan-dried before fermentation can take place. By stopping the fermentation process, green teas have less caffeine, more polyphenols and more chlorophyll than black or oolong teas, making it one of the healthiest drinks on the planet, aiding in digestion, inhibiting cancer and boosting the immune system, promoting weight loss, and lowering cholesterol and high blood pressure. Numerous flavours and varieties of green tea are available, depending upon the methods used in producing the tea, the region from which it originated, and the numerous flavours and blending ingredients that may be added.
White tea is harvested before the buds of the Camellia sinensis open in the spring and when the new leaves still have a fuzzy white down. Like green tea, the leaves are steamed and dried to lock in the goodness and prevent fermentation. Generally speaking, white teas contain even less caffeine and more health benefits than green tea. The teas are full of flavour, so the tea is steeped for a shorter period than most others and may be reinfused. White teas are generally of the highest quality of all the teas.
ARTISAN TEA (BLOOMING TEA)
These are specialty green teas hand made and when steeped they 'blossom' into beautiful artistic creations.
Matcha is finely ground green or white tea produced mainly from shade grown green and white teas. Because it contains everything that is in the leaf of the tea in powder form and the leaf is consumed in full, matcha will deliver the highest concentrations of polyphenols and anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals, amino acids, fiber and caffeine of any tea. One serving of matcha is approximately equal to 10 cups of green tea.
A brief comparison of common antioxidant rich foods follows. The numbers cited are per gram and for comparative purposes only, and will vary depending upon the type of matcha and numerous other factors:
- Matcha 1384
- Gogiberry 253
- Dark chocolate 227
- Walnuts 135
- Wild blueberries 93
- Acai berries 55
- Broccoli 31
- Spinach 26
(Source: Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, Lipophylic and Hydrophilic Antioxidant Capacities of Common Foods in the United States)
By consuming the whole leaf, one benefits by consuming the insoluble fiber as well as all the vitamins and minerals and antioxidants. Matcha will give a sustained energy boost for 3 - 6 hours, which is tempered by the amino acids. Mental clarity and concentration are also improved.
Rooibos tea comes from the Aspalathus linearis plant native to South Africa, and is not related to the traditional black, oolong, green, matcha and white teas that are derived from the Camellia sinensis. Thus Rooibos is actually a herbal tea that is caffeine free, rich in minerals, and low in tannins. Unlike traditional tea, Rooibos does not turn bitter from prolonged steeping.
To produce Red Rooibos the stems and branches are harvested, then hand bruised, turned and wetted to cause fermentation. The fermentation process is stopped by drying and the yield is a deep, rich red tea. Green Rooibos is harvested but not allowed to ferment by drying the tea upon cutting. The yield is a green coloured tea with a slight grassy flavour. Green Rooibos is higher in antioxidants than its Red Rooibos cousin.
Rooibos teas are often blended with other ingredients and natural flavours to produce a variety of good tasting teas.
Rooibos has been found to alleviate headaches, insomnia, nervous tension, mild depression, eczema, acne and other skin issues, colic and stomach cramps. It helps the body to absorb iron and contains iron, potassium, copper, calcium, manganese, and natural fluoride. Therefore it also aids in the development of strong teeth and bones. Rooibos is a good choice for breast-feeding mothers because of the high mineral content, the aiding of digestion and the boost to low iron levels. Because it is high in minerals and low in tannins, Rooibos promotes proper kidney function without the formation of kidney stones. Like traditional tea, Rooibos is high in polyphenols that boost the immune system and fight against cancer.
Honeybush is from another South African plant, the Cyclopia family, of which there are 24 species. The flowers of the Honeybush have a honey-like fragrance, and the herbal tea that is produced is similar to Rooibos but sweeter in taste. Honeybush has similar health benefits to Rooibos, and is rich in iron, potassium, calcium, copper, zinc, manganese, magnesium, and sodium. It is found to alleviate skin problems, aid in digestion and constipation issues, relieve arthritic pain, and to calm the central nervous system.
Mate or Yerba Mate, Ilex Paraguariensis, is an evergreen member of the holly family growing in South America. The fresh leaves are harvested and then flash fired to stop the fermentation process and preserve the nutrient value. The tea is then dried and stored in aging rooms for up to one year before packaging.
Traditionally, mate is packed in a gourd or calabasse, then hot water added. The drink is then consumed by using a bombilla, which is traditionally a bamboo straw, although stainless steel varieties are available. Hot water is continually added until the mate is used up.
Mate is nicknamed 'the liquid vegetable' and contains over 196 active compounds, including caffeine (also called mateine), vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, carotene, fatty acids, flavonols, inositol, tannins, pantothenic acid, amino acids and chlorophyll. 144 of these ingredients are also found in green tea, so mate has similar health benefits to those of green tea.
Consumption of mate is intended to invigorate health, restore vitality, combat fatigue, stimulate the mind, detoxify the blood, and ensure longevity of life.
'Chai' is simply the East Indian word for 'Tea', so when you say 'Chai Tea' you are actually saying 'Tea Tea'. 'Masala Chai' literally means 'Mixed Spice Tea', and Chai Tea has become popular as a spiced tea beverage. Traditionally, Chai is a combination of whole spices, black tea, sugar and milk - all combined and simmered together.
Chai teas now available are a combination of black tea and spices, but green tea, rooibos and mate combined with spices would also be classified as Chai. The Chai is steeped and then served with hot milk and sugar to taste.
FRUIT AND HERB TEA
Fruit Teas and Fruit and Herb Teas are combinations of various dried fruits, petals and other herbs that when blended make a refreshing tea, often called a tisane. These teas are completely caffeine free.
There are literally thousands of different herbs that make a good tasting cup of tea and may be consumed for their beneficial medicinal qualities. Hibiscus tea, for example, is said to reduce blood pressure. These teas are generally leaves, petals or flowers or some combination of several different species. Among these teas are peppermint, spearmint, chamomile, and many more. These teas are caffeine free.