For years I drank only coffee. This year I started drinking more tea. While I drink coffee in the morning, tea is my go-to beverage in the afternoon and evening. My favorite is black tea, but I enjoy a variety of other options.
Tea is the most consumed beverage in the world, second to only water. It did not just suddenly reach this historic popularity overnight. Tea has a rich history, which is intertwined with thousands of cultures spanning over centuries. Before we delve into all the different types of tea that can be found across the globe lets go over some interesting facts about tea in general.
Tea ceremonies are an ancient tradition in China and Japan that the natives still celebrate with utmost enthusiasm to relish the benefits and versatility of this drink. Upon its introduction in Europe, tea was perceived as a status symbol and a customary drink for the elite members of the society before it became a common household beverage consumed at breakfast and/or during the evening. Tea is also prevalent in various other cultures worldwide. For instance, in the Middle East, it is a norm to offer a cup of tea to the guest as a welcome gesture. This famous drink is also considered a focal point for social gatherings in various countries like Iran, India, Saudi Arab, Pakistan and so on. According to a survey, an average Turkish consumes over 10 cups of tea each day!
But how deep is your knowledge about this immensely popular drink? Do you know where tea originates from? Or how many different types of tea there are and the ways in which they are consumed?
Brew a nice cup of tea for yourself, relax and read on to find out some never-heard-before facts about tea.
Table of Contents
- A Brief History of Tea
- Tea vs. Herbal Tea
- Types of True Tea
- Other Types of Tea
A Brief History of Tea
Tea is an aromatic drink that is commonly prepared by brewing cured leaves of the evergreen plant Camellia Sinensis in hot or boiling water.
Archaeological evidence suggests that tea was first discovered in China as early as over 6,000 years ago (which makes tea an older known substance than the Great Pyramid of Giza), but back then, the Chinese consumed tea leaves either as a form of grain porridge or by simply chewing them on their own. Tea shifted from being a food item to a popular drink only a few hundred years ago when people realized that a concoction of these leaves prepared in hot water tastes a lot better than the alternative ways of consuming tea. Legend has it that tea was first discovered by the Chinese Emperor Shennong when a tea leaf accidentally fell into his bowl of hot water while he was on his quest to discover edible herbs and plants.
Over the years, it became a common practice in China to sell dried tea leaves in the form of compressed cakes or by grinding them into a powder that could be mixed with hot water as and when needed. This early form of commercial tea was called ‘matcha’ or ‘muo cha’ in the local language.
However, while tea culture grew and flourished in China, tea was still an unknown substance in other parts of the world until the Dutch traders introduced tea in Europe during the 14thCentury. The substance was so well received that soon special ships began to be constructed. The aim was to bring the maximum amount of tea in the shortest time period from China, the sole producer of tea back then.
It is said that British spies smuggled the plant along with skilled tea-farmers from China in order to learn the tricks of the trade. Soon, tea cultivation began in Darjeeling, a city in the then British-occupied India.
Today, tea is grown in Africa, South America and various regions around the Caspian Sea but the major amount of tea consumed across the world is still obtained from China, India, Kenya and Sri Lanka who together represent over 75% of the world’s total tea production.
Tea vs. Herbal Tea
Before we discuss the types of tea, it is important to note that ‘tea’ and ‘herbal’ tea are two entirely distinct drinks. Herbal tea or more appropriately, tisane has a history as long as the original tea itself. However, tisane refers to a caffeine-free drink that is prepared from fresh or dried flowers, fruits, herbs and/or seeds. In other words, it does not contain any ‘tea’ at all. Nonetheless, the terms are normally used interchangeablyand unless you are caffeine-conscious, it shouldn’t really matter. After all, herbal teas taste equally great as the types of ‘true’ teas discussed below.
Types of True Tea
Black tea is the type of tea that is prepared from the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant. The leaves which wither immediately when harvested, are rolled by the farmers in order to release the enzymes contained therein. The leaves are then spread out and allowed to oxidize until they turn brown. Once dried, the leaves are heated at a certain temperature to destroy the enzymes and prevent further oxidation as it will change the taste. Finally, the leaves are grounded into a powdered form and sold after being packaged properly.
Black tea has a strong, robust flavor and gives off a deep reddish-brown or black color when prepared in hot water. This type of tea has several health benefits that include maintaining blood pressure, lowering blood sugar level, boosting heart health, improving digestion, reducing the risk of cancer and many more.
A rich, malty flavor profile coupled with the countless health benefits is the reason why approximately 165 million cups of black tea are consumed in Britain every single day!
Given the fact that a true black tea tastes somewhat bitter, many people prefer to add a dash of milk to balance the slightly astringent flavor. Black tea can be further divided into different categories such as Darjeeling and Assam tea (cultivated in India), Ceylon Back tea (from Sri Lanka), Earl Grey breakfast tea and so on. Some of the different types of black tea are discussed below.
2. Black Tea with Bergamot
As the name suggests, black tea with bergamot is a combination of black tea and bergamot fruit extract. Often believed to be a hybrid of lemon and orange, bergamot is a pear-shaped citrus fruit that is well-known for its medicinal properties. Besides counterbalancing the bitter taste of plain black tea, the addition of bergamot extract makes the beverage good for weight loss and oral health as well as making it a good stress reliever.
The renowned Earl Grey tea is basically black tea with bergamot.
Another way to cut down on the harsh flavor of plain black tea is to add a few drops of lemon juice into the concoction. You can buy pre-packaged black tea with lemon extract or simply squeeze some lemon juice into your regular cup of tea.
The benefits of lemon-black tea include increased iron absorption, detoxification, and weight control. This tea is also good for curing a sore throat and boosting immunity as it fights off the free radicals in your body prevents a virus from spreading.
Green tea is the opposite of black tea in terms of processing. While black tea is the most processed of all true tea varieties, green tea is the least processed. It is prepared from leaves that are dried before heating them at a very low temperature. Other techniques might be employed for instance pan-frying, steaming, roasting or tossing over a low flame. This makes the leaves mildly aromatic, and they release a fresh, herb-like flavor when added to boiling water.
Depending on the type of plant that is derived from, the overall taste of green tea can range from fresh and mild to strong and slightly acidic. As you will already know, green tea features a pale green color that closely resembles the actual color of fresh eaves due to the fact that they haven’t been processed too much. Green tea is celebrated for its health benefits because it is chock full of antioxidants. The following are some of the various types of green tea that you can brew.
Jasmine green tea is green tea that has been flavored with the extract of jasmine flowers. Apart from the unique smell that jasmine extract adds to the beverage, the drink is also prized for its health benefits.
It reliefs arthritic pain and inflammation, stabilized blood pressure, reduces stress and anxiety and is known to help people suffering from depression.
Add a few drops of lemon to your regular green tea or purchase the same mixture from a nearby store but don’t miss out on the refreshing and reinvigorating taste of lemon green tea.
According to research, citrus juice brings out the antioxidizing properties of green tea and makes them more readily absorbed into the body. A cup of lemon green tea drank every morning can help you lose weight drastically while drinking it during a cold can help you recover faster.
Adding some mint leaves to green tea or better yet, brewing the mint leaves on their own can revitalize you mint like nothing else.
With an enticing aroma, this type of tea can strengthen your immune system, improve digestion as well as alleviate several joint and muscle pains.
Oolong is a type of true tea which means it is also obtained from the Camellia Sinensis plant. The way it differs from black tea and green tea is by how it is processed.
Oolong is partially oxidized. In other words, it undergoes half of the treatment that black tea undergoes. Therefore, depending on the level of oxidation, oolong tea may slightly resemble green tea or black tea in terms of both, taste and appearance.
But the primary difference lies in the properties. Oolong tea reduces the level of bad cholesterol and maintains blood sugar level. More often than not, oolong is mixed with a few drops of milk, and this is called milk oolong tea.
White tea is most delicate of all true tea varieties. This is because it is hand-processed and obtained from the youngest shoots of the Camellia Sinensis. If brewed for a particular amount of time, white tea can give out the lowest amount of caffeine but brewing it for longer will strengthen the properties.
Puer refers to an aged black tea that originated in China. It is renowned for its medicinal properties although it was illegal to import it to the U.S until twenty years ago. The method of production of the tea is still a closely guarded secret amongst the Chinese.
The tea features an intensely rich flavor profile that is not bitter despite the peaty taste.
Other Types of Tea
While there are only a handful of true tea varieties, these are not the only ones that enjoy wide spread popularity in the world today.
The following are some other types of tea (or herbal tea) that you must not miss out on.
Chamomile tea which is made from dried chamomile flowers has long been a topic of interest for researchers and tea-lovers alike. It has been used as a traditional folk remedy for a long time as it is rich in flavonoids. Flavonoids are natural chemicals that play a significant role in the medicinal properties of chamomile tea.
Chamomile tea lightens dark skin spots, acne scars and prevents breakouts due to its anti-inflammatory properties. However, it can cause severe allergic reactions in some cases or lead to vomiting if consumed excessively.
Lemongrass tea is made from lemongrass, a herb that is native to Sri Lanka. This type of herbal tea is said to help lower cholesterol, reduce anxiety, and is used to treat certain bacterial infections.
Also known as basswood, linden is a tree whose flowers, leaves, as well as its bark is used for medicinal purposes. Linden tea is believed to help cure breathing problems like bronchitis, relieve headaches and fasten the recovery from flu and common colds.
Made from fresh or dried hibiscus flowers, hibiscus flower is a truly fascinating tea that you will often find at exotic restaurants. Besides lowering cholesterol and regulating blood pressure, hibiscus tea maintains liver health and speeds up metabolism. It can be consumed warm but tastes best served chilled.
Rooibos tea is widely popular as a flavorful and caffeine-free alternative to black tea and green tea. This type of herbal tea is prized for its numerous health benefits, which include protection against cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
Be it protection against the common cold, flu, headaches, joint pain or stress – drinking ginger tea will help you get rid of it all. Simply add some fresh chopped ginger in water and bring it to a boil. Add honey (and some lemon juice to balance the astringent taste) and drink while warm.
Also known as chimarrao or cimarron, mate is a traditional drink in South America that is rich in caffeine. However, many people consider it as a better alternative to coffee because it provides a similar boost of energy as coffee but contains more nutrients.
Massively popular in India, masala tea literally means spiced tea. It is brewed with milk and includes an array of spices such as cloves, fennel, star anise, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom and more. The best thing about this tea is that it can be tailored according to your preferences by adding more or fewer spices. You will love a cup of masala tea during rainfall or cold season.
Sick of catching a cold every now and then? Want an effective method to lose weight? If you answered yes to any or bothe of these questions, dogrose tea is just what you need. Made from dogrose, a plant native to North Africa, this tea is laden with lots of mineral and vitamins that boost your immunity and improve overall health.
When the weather turns chilly, a cup of winter fruit tea will provide warmth like nothing else. As evident by the name, there is no fixed formula for this tea. Tea-lovers and manufacturers produce it in different ways as per their liking, but a typical cup of winter fruit tea will include fruits (or extract of fruits) such as apple, grapes, kiwi, orange and a dash of honey to sweeten it up even more.
If you are a die-hard tea-lover, then plan a trip to China during their tea festival to drive your taste buds crazy with pleasure. Meanwhile, you can treat yourself by brewing a cup of one (or more) of the different types of tea discussed above.