Black, Pu-erh, Green, Oolong, and White teas are all made from the leaves of the Camellia sinesis plant. The extraordinary benefits of tea are from their high content of plant-derived antioxidants. Legend has it that the second Emperor of China, Shen Nung, the Divine Healer, had a magical property of a transparent stomach with which he could determine the effects of medicine on the body. He is credited with identifying the medicinal properties of hundreds of ingredients that became the foundation of Chinese Medicine. One afternoon Shen Nung was boiling water as he rested underneath a wild tea tree. A breeze stirred the branches and caused a few leaves to drift into his simmering cauldron. Intrigued by the aroma he drank the liquid and felt revitalized and invigorated. Thus tea was born.
Black tea is picked early in the spring when the tree has a high ratio of bud to leaf. The leaves are then allowed to fully oxidize. Tea masters determine when the oxidation process is complete to provide the rich flavors and aromas. The different names of black tea such as Assam or Darjeeling refer to the region where it was grown. Regular consumption of black tea helps repair damaged coronary arteries and lowers bad cholesterol levels helping prevent several cardiovascular diseases. Theaflavins in black tea destroys abnormal cells in the body before they turn into breast cancer cells. Black tea is full of tannins and anti-inflammatory compounds that help heal and relax the digestive system. Black tea is beneficial for those with asthma, as it expands the air passage allowing people to breathe more easily.
Pu-erh tea is a fermented black tea from the Yunnan province in China. Pu-erh tea can also be aged for several years to allow beneficial bacteria and fungi to break down the tea leaf transforming the compounds and enzymes in the tea. Like wine, pu-erh tea ranges in quality and vintage, being anywhere from 3 months to 100 years old. It is best to either drink a young or old tea, as the middle years of the tea are not as palatable. Used in many Chinese elixirs, the fermentation process creates compounds different from those in green or black tea. Fermentation causes it to lose catechin antioxidants but it gains so much more. Research shows that pu-erh tea has high amounts of gallic acid (a potent anti-microbial), the compound theabrownin, several polysaccharides and enzymes. Theabrownin is found exclusively in pu-erh tea and recent clinical studies show it has cholesterol and fat lowering properties. The high content of gallic acid helps to significantly break down visceral fat after just 12 weeks. The best time to drink pu-erh tea for weight loss, and to lower cholesterol, is one hour after meals as it helps your body quickly digest and eliminate fats. The fermentation process also increases the content of digestive enzymes in pu-erh tea supporting the rapid digestion of food and reduction of gas and bloating.
The finishing methods of green tea result in an array of flavors and aromas, from toasty to sweet. Green tea has been shown to contain the most concentrated amount of polyphenols, making this tea excellent for fighting free radical damage and slowing the aging process. Green tea is the best food source of catechins, making it a more powerful antioxidant than vitamin C or E; thus lowering your risk for several types of cancer. Green tea has been shown to specifically reduce the risk of bladder cancer, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, prostate cancer, skin cancer, and inhibit breast cancer cells, lung and esophageal cancer cells. Drinking three cups of green or black tea can reduce your risk of a heart attack as they prevent atherosclerosis and reduce cholesterol. Drinking green tea reduces the inflammation associated with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Green tea helps regulate glucose in the body making it extremely beneficial for those with Type 2 Diabetes. Green tea protects the liver from the damaging effects of toxic substances that are filtered through this vital organ every day. Green and black tea also help boost metabolism to support energy levels and weight loss. The catechins in green tea are said to have the highest fat burning effects on the body.
Oolong teas are semi-oxidized, and are often thought as a bridge between green and black teas. Although it is not quite as high in polyphenols as green tea, it provides many unique and powerful health benefits for chronic conditions like heart disease, and inflammatory diseases. Some of the most positive benefits of oolong tea include promoting bone structure health, skin health, and dental health. Oolong tea prevents tooth decay and strengthens the structure of your bones. It has a high mineral content and is a good source of vitamin A, B, C, E and K. It is great at helping the body detoxify and remove harmful free radicals. Oolong tea is very effective at controlling how your body metabolizes fat. Activating enzymes, it enhances the function of the fat cells in your body, meaning you use more fat cells for energy reducing the amount of stored fat. If you have been diagnosed with eczema, drinking just three cups of oolong tea, three times a week, can quickly show a significant improvement in the appearance of skin. Oolong tea helps manage the damaging side effects stress has on your body and the aroma of Oolong tea has a relaxing effect on your mind and mood. Tea estates each have their own way of creating oolong tea, producing the widest selection of flavors and aromas, from a flowery to a citrusy finish. Oolong teas can be steeped numerous times, and each infusion will have its own distinctive taste and fragrance.
White tea shoots are allowed to slowly wither and then are dried naturally to prevent oxidation, making it the least processed of all teas. White tea has all the same healthy antioxidant benefits of green and black tea. It is great for strengthening the immune system and fighting off harmful bacteria and viruses. Drinking white tea will help prevent you from getting common colds and flu’s during the winter season. The free radicals in white tea have the most significant effect on the skin. It protects the skin from aging due to sun exposure. It also helps to break down the toxins in your skin that cause acne.
Yerba Mate is actually an herbal tisane or tea; however the Yerba Mate plant is high in caffeine. Yerba Mate teas will have the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee. The components of yerba mate meet and then surpass those of green tea. It provides the body with energy and nutrition. It is high in vitamins, minerals, Carotene, Chlorophyll, Inositol, trace minerals, Pantothenic Acid and contains 15 amino acids. The Pantothenic Acid in Yerba Mate supports the Adrenal glands, enhancing hormone production and sustained energy. Yerba mate helps you use carbohydrates more effectively, enhancing physical endurance. Another benefit for those who exercise, Yerba Mate cuts down the amount of lactic acid produced during a workout, decreasing soreness and speeding up recovery time. While containing a high amount of caffeine, it is metabolized in the body slowly and provides focus throughout the day.
Red Rooibos is a fermented tea that is actually a caffeine free herbal tisane. It is extremely high in antioxidants and the US Department of Agriculture has affirmed red rooibos tea is capable of reducing cancer, heart disease, premature aging, and other serious health conditions. Having no oxalic acid, it can be enjoyed by those who are prone to kidney. It is rich in essential minerals like iron, calcium, potassium and zinc. Rooibos is also reach in manganese which supports bone health. Manganese stimulates enzymes to build new bones and repair damage. Rooibos helps relieve infants of stomachaches and colic from its anti-spasmodic agents that ease severe stomach pain and cramps. The antioxidant aspalathin found in rooibos tea helps balances blood sugar, improve insulin resistance and protect the body from developing type II Diabetes.
The caffeine in each of these teas varies due to the size of the leaf, the location in which the tea bush is grown, and the time you steep the tea. The longer you steep a tea the more caffeine it will have. The smaller the tea leaf, the most caffeine it will have. The longer a tea is fermented, the more caffeine it has. Black teas are always fermented for the longest period of time, thus having the most caffeine content, approximately 20% of the caffeine in a cup of coffee. Oolong tea contains 10-15%, green tea contains 5%, and white tea contains 1% of the caffeine in a cup of coffee. With the exception of Yerba Mate tea, herbal teas or tisanes are caffeine free. Tea caffeine has the same effect on the body as any other caffeine, although at one point this was thought to be different. However, because tea contains polyphenols, the caffeine is absorbed at a slower rate in your body, and doesn’t hit you fast and hard. Tea caffeine will last for a longer amount of time in your body and you won’t experience the sudden drop in energy you get from other caffeine sources. Tea absorbs everything around it. It is recommended that you store it in an airtight container and place in a dry cool area away from light and other strong scented items like coffee or spices. Tea stored in the manner can remain fresh for about 6-9 months.
Always use freshly drawn, cold water to prepare tea. Purified and spring water are best because they are relatively free from pollutants and other substances that can dramatically alter tea's taste. On the other hand, it is preferable for the water to have some natural minerals content, as they may enhance the tea's flavor. For this reason, distilled water should be avoided since the lack of minerals will leave the tea tasting flat. Similarly, one should never use pre-heated water-as from the faucet, for instance. This kind of water has mostly likely been overheated, thereby losing oxygen content while picking up possibly harmful substances from the water pipes. Traditionally, in Asia, water is always brought to gentle boil before one prepares tea. Boiling water eliminates many harmful germs and bacteria. Though water quality has improved vastly, boiling in the water in this fashion can help to bring out tea's flavor. The water should be heated until a steady stream of air bubbles gently rise to the surface. At this point, the water is sufficiently heated and also has preferable oxygen content. In contrast, using water that has been held at a fierce, rolling boil can leave tea tasting dull and flat.
Temperature is critical in making good tea. The popular conception that boiling water can be used on any kind of tea is actually incorrect. In fact, each variety of tea, from green to black, needs to be prepared at a different range of temperature. Because of its more delicate processing, green tea often needs a cooler temperature to bring out the right flavor. Conversely, black tea, which has been fully oxidized, needs much hotter water to bring out its characteristic baked sweetness.
Duration Of Infusion
Similar to water temperature, different kinds of tea need to be brewed for different lengths of time. Generally, delicate teas such as green tea need to be brewed for shorter times, while heartier black teas and earthy, fermented pu-erh teas benefit from longer infusions. Of course, the duration of the infusion varies with culture and personal preference.
Material Of Teapot
While seemingly unimportant at first, the material of the teapot being used also affects the quality of the infusion. When considering a teapot, it is important to consider the variety of tea and the temperature at which it is prepared. Materials like iron or Chinese Yixing ware are excellent at retaining heat over long periods of time, while glass or porcelain are more likely to release that heat. Yixing is a country in Southern China where a certain type of clay exists which is not found anywhere else in the world. The clay has a unique mineral composition that makes it porous and able to hold heat exceptionally well. Therefore, iron and similarly heavy materials are better for teas that need to be prepared at high temperatures, such as black tea or pu-erh. A teapot made from iron would keep the water hot enough to extract the teas full flavor. Green and white teas, on the other hand, need a vessel that stays cooler, such as porcelain.
The following instructions will allow you to make a good cup of any kind of tea. Also included are suggestions for amount of tea leaves, time of infusion, water temperature, and material of teapot for the general varieties of tea. Of course, there are more detailed instructions for any kind of tea.