I am an avid coffee drinker but I also enjoy tea and didn’t realize there were so many different types of tea drinking. As I started checking into the variations of teas I was astonished at how many I had never even heard of.
Way Beyond the Teabag: Discover the Different Types of Tea Drinking
By some estimates, there are 80,000 ways to order a Starbucks latte. Coffee connoisseurs are so common, it wouldn’t seem odd to see someone place an order for a half-caf tall served at 115° C and drizzled with pumpkin spice. Today, it doesn’t make you stand out to really know your coffee.
Starbucks is now trying to replicate its success with coffee with its new tea subsidiary. Whether you want to be ready when it takes off, or simply love the idea of exploring an exotic beverage that not many know about, tea deserves your attention. It’s a beverage with a royal history, and one that offers mind-boggling variety.
From green teas to flower teas and teas grown in hidden little valleys, there’s an exciting world out there to discover. You can even check out the James Norwood Pratt Tea Dictionary to enhance your tea knowledge. As I found there is so much to know about the different types of teas.. this is only a little of what I found.
Teas are categorized and named for the kind of oxidization that the leaves receive after they are picked. Oxidization is a drying process that results in different levels of color, flavor, caffeine level and strength. Almost all supermarket tea is the highly oxidized, black variety. It is brewed with milk and sugar.
Popular in China, white tea is the least processed of all teas, fresher even than green tea. Made of only the young buds and the immature, fuzz-covered leaves of the tea-plant, it isn’t sun-dried. Instead, it is simply air-dried. White tea produces a mild-flavored brew with the lowest caffeine level of any variety. It’s richer in antioxidant content than any other tea.
Oxidized for no longer than four hours, oolong is lightly colored. It produces a light, golden brew with a distinct taste.
With green tea, the leaves are heated to destroy the enzymes that make the oxidization process possible. Since there is little heat exposure, green tea retains nearly all of its antioxidant content, and is rich in vitamins. These qualities produce the health benefits frequently ascribed to this tea.
Almost all commercially available tea is the farmed variety. Pu-erh, on the other hand is tea that comes from wild trees rather than bushes. It’s a rare form of tea, and is only naturally harvested in China. The leaves are fermented before the product is made available to consumers. Pu-erh tea comes with a rich, earthy flavor that’s prized by tea connoisseurs.
A lot depends on the blend achieved
Just as with coffee or any other beverage, different tea blends achieve different kinds of tea character. Professional tea blenders work to come up with creative mixes.
Earl Grey: You’ve probably seen the name on supermarket shelves. Earl Grey comes with added extract of the Bergamo orange. Centuries ago, the additive was thought up as a way to improve the taste of inferior teas. Today, however, the taste has caught on, and Bergamo is added to superior teas.
Jasmine tea: Tea blended with the scent of the jasmine flower can be a wonderful thing. It tends to be an acquired taste, however. Jasmine isn’t actually added to tea leaves. Instead, the strong-scented flower is simply placed in the vicinity of crates of green, black or oolong tea leaves. The tea absorbs the scent.
Masala tea: When tea was first introduced in India by the British, it wasn’t popular with locals. The people of India attempted to find a way to modify it to their tastes, adding local spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and clove. While masala chai in Indian households is made of fresh, hand-ground ingredients, ready-made masala mixtures are easily available off-the-shelf.
Not everything called a “tea” contains tea
Real tea comes from the plant that goes by the botanical name camellia sinensis. A number of other beverages made through the brewing of processed flowers, fruit and herbs, however, are called teas, as well. Flower teas can contain dried chamomile flowers, rosebuds or even calendula. One popular product, Blooming Tea, flavors the calendula flower with fruit extract. Fruits teas, on the other hand, are brewed out of sun-dried apple, cinnamon or cornflower. These teas can offer a delicate, almost beautiful flavor.
If you’ve never given much thought to the world of teas, you should resolve to dip a toe in these waters. There are some astonishing flavors out there. You’ll enjoy the journey when you discover the different type of tea drinking.
Do you love tea, coffee or are you like me and love BOTH? What’s your favorite kind of tea?