Tea Buyer's Guide and Steeping Tips

A buyer’s guide to black, green, white and herbal teas, plus health benefits and brewing tips.

Studies show if you drink tea regularly, you may reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s and diabetes, plus have healthier teeth and gums and stronger bones. How? Tea is rich in a class of antioxidants called flavonoids. “True teas,” such as black, green, oolong and white teas, come from the leaves of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis. What many of us call herbal teas, such as chamomile and rooibos, are actually tisanes or infusions. The differences in true teas result from how the tea plant’s leaves are processed: black teas are oxidized (exposed to oxygen) a few hours before rolling and drying, deepening their color, while white teas and green teas are simply steamed, rolled and dried. Think of oolongs as hybrids; their leaves are partially oxidized before drying.

Black Tea

Black Tea

Just like wine, tea’s complex flavors vary widely with the region and processing. Darjeeling (India) is slightly spicy, with grape and almond overtones, while Chinese types, such as smoke-dried Lapsang Souchong, tend to be earthier.

Where it’s from: China, India, Sri Lanka, Africa, Vietnam, Indonesia, Nepal, the Caucasus regions, Turkey.

Health benefits: People who drink black tea regularly (3-5 cups/day) tend to have fewer heart attacks and strokes, as well as lower rates of colon and lung cancer. Drinking black tea also may reduce risks of diabetes and osteoporosis and inhibit bacteria that causes tooth decay.

Water temp/steeping time: Boiling water for 3-5 minutes.

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