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.

White Tea

White Tea

White teas are relatively rare and expensive because they’re only produced from new leaves and buds. They have a light body and golden color plus a pure “tea” flavor without astringency and a hint of sweetness. The leaves of White Peony open up and look like a peony when steeped, while Ceylon White (Sri Lanka) has pine and honey notes.

Where it’s from: China, India, Sri Lanka.

Health benefits: Compared to other true teas, white tea contains more of a flavonoid called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which may help prevent heart disease and fight cancer.

Water temp/steeping time: Steaming water for 2-3 minutes.

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