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.

Rooibos Tea

Rooibos (Red Bush Tea)

This earthy dark red brew is favored by black-tea drinkers looking for caffeine-free alternatives.

Where it’s from: South Africa.

Health benefits: Rooibos contains a fair amount of flavonoids—quer­cetin, luteolin and aspala­thin—that are associated with reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer.

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

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