Black, white, green, or red tea. For someone who’s not a tea enthusiast, the nuances between these varieties will not ring a bell. After all, it’s just a bunch of leaves, right? And if more exotic-sounding words like oolong or pu-erh are thrown into the mix, these would be likely met with a blank stare.
This next five minutes of reading won’t make you a connoisseur, but it will definitely up your tea game, and maybe even help you get your tea basics down to a T.
While tea is generally thought of to be any hot water infusion from leaves, flowers and herbs, strictly speaking, true tea is what’s derived from the Camellia sinensis plant, a shrub believed to have its origins from China, India and other parts of Asia. These would include white, green, oolong, black and pu-erh teas.
Many have the notion that because of the differences in color and appearance these teas come from different plants. In part, the shrub variety, and how it’s grown and harvested influence its characteristics. By and large however, it’s the manner by which the tea leaves are processed that spells the difference. The amount of oxidation, or the length of exposure to oxygen after leaf harvest, defines the type of tea created. Simply put, more exposure to oxygen results to darker leaves and deeper flavors. This oxidation process can be made faster or slower by methods including rolling, crushing, steaming or roasting the leaves.
White teas experience the least processing, thus the snowy / silvery color. These tea buds are hand-picked while they are still very young and enclosed in new leaves, and allowed to wither under sunlight or in a controlled environment to minimize oxidation. This results to a slightly sweet, delicate flavor. White tea is said to have the least amount of caffeine, compared to the other true teas.
Green tea comes from the same leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, but quickly steamed or pan fired and then dried to minimize oxidation. Typically green or yellow in color, its flavor is described as fresh and grassy.
Green tea contains polyphenols or plant-based chemicals and micronutrients, which act as anti-inflammatory agents and antioxidants. Green tea is composed of 20 – 40% polyphenols by weight, including a catechin called Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG), which is said to fight cancer and promote metabolic health.
Unlike green tea, black tea comes from leaves that are fully oxidized before these are dried. When people think of their iced teas or the popular Earl Grey and English Breakfast options, they are referring to black tea. With darker hues that range from deep red and brown to black, this tea carries smoky or fruity tones depending on the specific variant.
Found midway between green and black tea, is the semi-oxidized oolong tea. The flavor of an oolong tea may vary from fresh like green tea to malty like black, depending on the amount of oxidation used. The process and length of rolling the leaves into strands or balls also influence the tea’s subtle flavors.
Named after a city in southwestern China’s Yunnan, Pu-erh tea differs from the other true teas because of the natural fermentation process it undergoes for several years. Earthy in taste, Pu-erh tea is said to taste even better when aged longer, with proper storage. In Eastern countries, it is often drunk after a heavy meal for better digestion.
On the other hand, Roiboos or red tea comes from a South African bush. While this is just as soothing as the other teas, this herbal infusion is caffeine-free, making it a great drink even for kids. Its zinc and alpha-hydroxy are good for the skin, and its calcium content lends to better bone health.
Just as wine sommeliers and beer cicerones understand that there is a wide array of types and styles of wine and beer available, tea experts and master blenders also know that the type and manner of tea brewing create countless flavors that suit different palates. Whether served hot or cold, or done before, during or after meals, drinking tea is a satisfying experience.
Beyond enjoying its flavors or aroma though, drinking tea has long been proven to be good for health. Various studies show encouraging results in using tea to combat and prevent cancer. Its antioxidants help the body fight diseases caused by free radicals from pollution and stress. It promotes heart health by reducing bad cholesterol and heart attack risk. Tea’s iron and calcium content likewise helps keep bones and teeth strong. Black tea’s tannins have been observed to fight plaque growth, while green tea’s ECGC is said to reduce bad breath. Tea’s anti-inflammatory flavonoids are used to help relieve rheumatoid arthritis pain.
Aside from its invaluable medicinal merits, including tea in our regular diet offers other practical and palpable benefits especially when it comes to focus and concentration.
Ancient Chinese history has it that early Buddhist monks drank tea to keep themselves alert and awake during meditation. The caffeine in tea acts as a stimulant to sharpen the senses as well.
University of Basel research published in Psychopharmacology, established that intake of green tea extracts increases the brain’s effective connectivity, improving cognitive performance.
Another study documented how drinking tea positively influences divergent thinking, or the ability to generate creative ideas using different possible solutions. This experiment found subjects who drank tea to have developed more creative building block designs and more interesting restaurant names.
Research on L-Theanine, an amino acid commonly found in tea, has shown how it helps manage stress and promote relaxation. On top of this, other studies have reported how the combination of L-Theanine and caffeine, both found in tea, significantly improve memory and attention. Another experiment documented in the Molecular Nutrition and Food Research journal established how green tea ECGC helps generation of neuron cells in the hippocampus also aiding memory. These are further supported by research on how green and black tea help inhibit enzymes associated with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Similarly, studies on elderly Chinese have shown how regular tea consumption appears to have lowered their risk for neurocognitive disorders.
All in all, tea is a natural fuel that can drive your focus, energy and memory, cranking up your daily productivity. For non-believers, the pleasure of soothing and refreshing flavors, the promise of increased performance, and the comfort of better health and illness prevention, all these just might make drinking tea your cup of tea.
And if you’re still not quite sure where to get your tea journey started, then checking out Tea of Titans™ just might be a step in the right direction. Tea of Titans™ offers powerful, organic combinations of green and pu-erh teas crafted to give you slow, sustained release of energy over the next 3 – 4 hours from drinking. Whether you prefer your drink of choice to be citrusy or caramel-like, Tea of Titans™ has several variants to tease your palate, and give you the right kick without the crash. Now that’s what you call brewing your perfect cup of tea to the T!