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.
The flavor and color of oolong tea can vary widely, depending on source and length of oxidation. Lighter oolongs, such as Pouchong, are similar to green tea, while darker versions like Formosa have characteristics more like black tea.
Where it’s from: Taiwan, China.
Health benefits: Studies suggest that oolongs provide health benefits similar to green and black teas. A type of flavonoid in oolongs called chafuroside may fight inflammation and help inhibit the development of intestinal cancers.
Water temp/ steeping time: Darker oolongs: same as black tea. Lighter oolongs: same as green tea.