Teach Me About Tea
For me, tea making is a form of art. It's expressive, creative, and beautiful. Drinking it, is not only good for your physical health but also good for your soul. It makes you slow down, giving you time to appreciate life.
Let's not forget about the added benefits of anti-oxidants, immunity boosts, insomnia busters, anti-inflammatories, and potential weight loss. What's not to love?
For many though, tea can be intimidating. It's understandable. There's new, confusing terms, new brewing techniques, and even a new thought process when it comes to tea. Don't worry though, I'm here to break it down for you!
Let's start with a few terms you'll hear thrown around a bit: Tea, Tisane, Herbal Infusion, and Herbal Tea.
First we'll talk about Tea. Tea is only considered a "tea" if it comes from the tea plant, Camellia Sinensis. If it doesn't, then it's called a tisane (pronounced Ti-Zahn). Tisanes are also called herbal infusions or herbal teas. Those terms are often used interchangeably.
Black, white, green, and oolong teas all come from Camellia Sinensis, while herbal "teas" like chamomile, mint, rooibos, and those with dried fruits, barks, seeds, and berries, are tisanes. We call the later herbal "teas" but in reality, they aren't teas at all.
Tea Types, Caffeine, and Oxidation
So what's with this white, green, and black tea terms? Are they all different teas? Nope!
Whether the tea you're enjoying is black, green, or white, it's all from the plant Camellia Sinensis. The difference is how long the leaves have been allowed to oxidize, meaning how long they are dried and are exposed to air. The longer the oxidation, the darker the leaves.
So, White tea leaves have the least amount of oxidation, which therefore also means the least amount of caffeine. Green tea leaves have been allowed to oxidize a bit more giving them a little more caffeine and Black tea leaves have been allowed to oxidize even further giving them the most caffeine.
Tisanes have no caffeine at all because caffeine is coming from the actual tea leaf. If there's no tea leaf, there's no caffeine.
Tea Brewing Technique
Now that you're able to determine if you're drinking a tea or a tisane, let's talk brewing technique. Technique? I know, you thought you just boil water and pour it over and viola! Tea Time! Hold your horses there, partner....
Remember we talked about different tea leaves and oxidation? White tea leaves have the lowest levels of oxidation which means they are delicate. Think of white tea leaves as fragile and in need of a soft touch. You don't want to scorch them with boiling water and ruin your cup of tea. The same goes for green tea. Less oxidation means a lower temperature of water should be poured over the leaves. Have you ever had green tea that tastes bitter? You guessed it! The tea pourer clearly didn't know they were burning your delicate green tea leaves.
Keeping with the concept of oxidation, black leaves are like the rough and tough uncle of the other two. He's always out in the sun, his skin is weathered, his hands are calloused, and he can take a punch. Black tea leaves require a bit more oomph to get their gears going so make sure to use water that's just come off boil for these bad boys. They are also a lot more forgiving.
Steep? Like in a hill?
Uhhhh, no. Steep as in, how long to let your tea leaves sit in hot water before you remove them. Remember that lovely new term, oxidation? The amount of time you'll want to steep your tea depends on the type of tea and how much they've oxidized. So, white and green teas will only need a short time to steep, about 3-5 minutes while black teas and tisanes are better between 5-10 minutes. Some more hardy tisanes can even be best at 15 minutes while some very delicate white teas are better with minimal steep times. Luckily, most tea makers will let you know exactly how long to steep their particular creation.
How Much Tea Should I Use?
Most tea will come with instructions on the bag but as a general rule of thumb, it's pretty safe to go with 1.5 teaspoons per 8oz cup of water. With more robust teas, you may find tea makers listing their blends at 1 teaspoon per cup. Just check the instructions that come with your tea.
What Do I Do After My Tea Has Steeped?
After your tea has steeped for the proper amount of time, simply remove your tea infuser. Good teas can often be steeped more than once so don't go throwing your leaves away if you've purchased high quality teas. My teas can be steeped twice with some of my blends even being able to be steeped a third time. It also depends on how strong you prefer your tea so play around with blends you love.
It's Tea Time!
Create your own art by sitting back, appreciating, and enjoying your cup of tea. After all, you're the artist and you get to choose what you like and don't like.
Looking for great teas and tisanes to start your journey with a love of tea?