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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.

Herbal Tea

Herbal Teas (e.g., chamomile, hibiscus)

Their aromas and flavors echo the flowers, leaves, seeds or roots from which they’re derived. Chamomile has flowery, applelike notes; hibiscus has sour, berrylike fruit flavors.

Where it’s from: All over the world.

Health benefits: Chamomile tea has a long history of use as a sleep aid; it may also help soothe an upset stomach and help calm colicky babies. Hibiscus tea is rich in vitamin C and may help reduce blood pressure.

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

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