Tea, in all its forms is the world's second largest beverage, surpassed in quantity only by water. It is the infusion of water and dried leaves of the evergreen plant species known as Camelia sinensis. The region where the plant is grown impacts its flavour, and many teas have names that indicate their origin, such as Ceylon or Darjeeling. China, Taiwan, India and Sri Lanka are the world's largest growers of tea and thus provide virtually all the tea that we consume. How the teas have been dried, whether they have been fermented, and for how long, determines whether the tea is considered a white, green, oolong or black tea.
Many people start their day with a cup or two of tea, exploring and experiencing tea's dynamic, versatile qualities and health benefits, especially those of green and white tea.
When the tea leaves are picked very young, gently steamed and dried, the tea is the least processed. It has the most subtle flavour and also the lowest caffeine content and is classed as white tea.
By contrast, green tea has been allowed to whither before being steamed or pan-fried, then rolled and dried, and tthen fried again. It has a more earthy flavour than white tea and a bit more caffeine, but as with white tea, a high antioxidant content.
Next are the teas that involve fermentation: oolong and black. Oolong tea has a short fermentation time, thus it retains some of its green tea properties, while imparting a stronger, bolder flavour, found in fully fermented black tea. Oolong and black teas can contain quite a bit of caffeine because of this fermentation; they also have little of the green and white tea's antioxidant power.
Anything that does not include the Camelia sinensis plant, including what are so often called 'herbal tea' is, in fact, not tea at all. Herbal teas are simply herbal infusions made from one or more herbal plants steeped in water.
When steeping herbs, white or green tea, do not use boiing water, as it burns the tender leaves. Bring your water to a boil, then allow it to cool for a bit before pouring it over thew tea. Allow the tea to seep for only two or three minutes, as longer steeping times creates a bitter flavour. For a stronger flavour, adjust the amount of tea you use rather than steeping longer. Remember the teapot? The flavour often develops even further on a second steep, so save the tea leaves for one or more steeping times. Enjoy.
Shanti Gowans is the globally recognised author and founder of Shanti Yoga™, Meditation and Ayurveda for the self, family and community.
Shantiji has brought the concepts and practices of a healthy body and a still mind to thousands of Australians through her Yoga and Meditation programs on national television... Read more about Shantiji's biography
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