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.
Green tea has a vegetal, mildly grassy flavor, with a slightly astringent mouthfeel. Oversteeped brews can be bitter. Chinese types include Dragonwell, prized for its trace of chestnut flavors, and Jasmine (fragrant with added jasmine flowers). Try Japan’s smooth Sencha or toasty Genmaicha, blended with toasted rice grains.
Where it’s from: China, Japan, Sri Lanka.
Health benefits: Drinking green tea is associated with lower rates of colon and pancreatic cancers and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s.
Water temp/steeping time: Steaming water for 2-3 minutes.