Tea For All
Growing up in a Jamaican household neither of my parents drank coffee. In fact, I only recently learned how to make coffee. This is my sad but true confession. What flowed in my parents’ household was tea. Coming home after a long day, with a cup of tea greeting you in the kitchen is such a reward. Tea has really come a long way and today we are spoilt with a huge variety. With this variety, one would believe that each blend is created from a unique ingredient. It is surprising to know that most of your specialised teas are created from the same types of leaves. This knowledge fascinated me as I always thought every type of tea had their own type of plant. The only difference comes in with the preparation and conditions under which the Camelia sinensis plant grows. After the leaves are picked, the manner in which it is processed also has an effect on the flavours and blends of our most popular options.
A few years ago, the internet was flooded with information about the benefits of green tea. With a low caffeine content and many health benefits, we were sold. When I feel like my body needs a detox, green tea is always the first to come to mind. There is very little oxidization that takes place when processing green tea and this is the reason behind the low caffeine levels. Green tea is not completely caffeine free, but rather gives you a constant boost of energy, instead of the highs and lows that comes with coffee. On the days when I know I need a consistent level of energy, this one would be my choice of drink. Traditionally, green teas are linked to China, Japan, Thailand and Korea, although you can find authentic brands in most health stores.
When I was growing up, the popular (or only) tea choice was black tea. Most households at the time were familiar with this type of tea. Back then, most of us did not care about the level of caffeine in the tea, but with time and a host of studies and additional information available, I decided I’d look it up. Black teas contain about 40 milligrams of caffeine in an .20liters or 8 oz cup. The leaves are allowed to wilt after being plucked, after which it is crushed into small pieces. This is done to allow the tea to oxidize and gain the dark colour. Chai tea was created in India after the locals were not satisfied with the sweet flavoured options available. Black tea was brewed with milk and a variety of spices to create the blend known as Chai tea today.
This caffeine tea is indigenous to the Cedarburg Mountain in South-Africa and has gained popularity for its medicinal properties. Many South-African homes serve this tea to the whole family, including pregnant woman and babies. The naturally sweet taste makes it appetizing and does not require added sugar or milk. With the amount of minerals in this tea, you are sure to boost your immune system on those off days. Some of the minerals found in Rooibos tea includes zinc, iron, potassium and magnesium, just to name a few. Lactating mothers can also benefit from this tea because of its antioxidant properties. If you are health conscious, this is a great tea to add to your collection.
This tea might not be familiar to the average household, but we are definitely hearing about it more. I have only had the pleasure of tasting this tea a few times, but it was pleasantly delicious. In the oxidation process, oolong tea can be placed between green tea and black tea, which is about mid-way. China and Taiwan were the first countries to brew this connoisseur’s drink. You can infuse this tea up to 7 times, which results in lower caffeine counts after each brew. After the leaves have withered a bit, it is usually rolled by hand. The texture is very different from most teas, because it is not crushed into tiny pieces. The niacin which is found in this tea, helps to detoxify the body from the inside out. The Taiwanese would name their oolong teas after the mountain from which the leaves are plucked. You do not have to be in Taiwan or China to experience the health benefits of this tea, as it is now available world-wide.
Following the green tea buzz, there was a new kid on the block. Probably the least processed tea of all time is white tea and the leaves are only picked at certain times of the year. This could amount to only a few days out of the entire year. After the leaves are picked, it is dried to prevent oxidization from happening. The flavour is mild, yet recognizable, with an earthy taste to it. You might get a hint of almonds, bamboo or herbs. Many believe that this tea is not consumed because of the flavours, but rather the health benefits. If you are looking for both the health benefits of green and black tea, you might find the perfect balance with this tea type.
We already know how bad sodas are for our health. Tea is a much better option and can give you the same good feeling, without the guilt. You can find hundreds of different tea brews and just need to find the flavour you like best. Our society is becoming more conscious of the health benefits in the ingredients we consume, which is fantastic. Tea can be a comforting hot beverage in winter and a refreshing iced drink in the hotter months. There is nothing not to love.