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A Tea Primer

ALTMAN  SEPTEMBER 2015  A TEA PRIMERChoosing a good tea can be as complex as or perhaps more so than choosing a good coffee. There are thousands of different kinds of teas, each with their own individual appearance, taste and aroma. “True teas” (those made from Camellia sinensis tea plant versus herbal teas which come from other plants) can be categorized into 4 major categories: black, green, oolong and white. Generally, these categories refer to how much a tea is oxidized.

Black tea is the one most common known and the one many of us grew up dipping in our cups with a “Lipton” tag (or enjoyed from an iced tea pitcher in warm weather times).Black Tea comes from leaves that are fully oxidized and strong, full bodied tasting classic teas like English breakfast and Earl Grey fall within this category.

Green tea is the most popular tea sipped across the world. Study after study shows green tea has great antioxidant benefits and aids in everything from reducing fibrocystic nodes to weight loss to digestive problems. Each aroma is different—some mild, others very strong—yet the overall complexity of green tea can be scented with flowers or mixed with fruits.

Oolong tea is a cultural staple in all of Asia which is why it is usually the tea included in Chinese cuisine. The loose form has the most caffeine content with the highest possible grade having an orchid-like aroma and smooth finish. The oolong leaves are potent and can help with the formation of strong bones, preserve heart health, and strengthen the immune system.

White teas are the least processed and considered the purest of all teas. They are gentle and a pale, golden color with a subtly sweet, mellow, nectar-like flavor with unique floral, wood and honey notes.They possess high antioxidant properties to enhance skin, bones, heart health and offer a host of other health benefits

Other choices include:

Herbal teas are usually caffeine free and vast in choices, including passion fruit, orange, ginger, nettle, chamomile, thyme, cinnamon and peppermint. Avoid the artificially flavored, synthetic herb teas and go for the organic ones which usually contain a better quality leaf.

Rooibos teaisa caffeine free, red colored, naturally sweet and sometimes nutty herbal tea made from the South African red bush.

Mate teas, popular in South America, are made from the leaves and twigs of the yerba mate plant, and it is the one type of tea that tastes like coffee. It has five times the antioxidant qualities that green tea does and can help you think more clearly, alleviate bad breath, and help with an upset stomach, to name a few benefits. Be careful not to overdo it with mate teas though. They can overstimulate you and give you coffee-like jitters.

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