Tea is the world’s most popular beverage after water. It surpasses coffee in popularity, and is consumed in some form in nearly every culture. Tea has become known for its healthy properties, including cancer-fighting antioxidants. It comes in a variety of types, each with differing colors, taste and fragrance. As sales of tea have risen in the United States, new and exotic formulations and blends are becoming available. Here is a guide to tea, from white to black.
Tea leaves come from the Camellia sinensis plant, which is grown primarily in wet, warm climates. The plucked leaves are cured according to the type of tea being produced, with the lighter teas (such as white) undergoing less processing than the darker black teas. Tea can be processed into an almost infinite variety of blends, each with a distinctive taste. Additives in the form of other plant materials, such as herbs and flowers, also increase the variety of flavors. Herbal teas, for example, are made by adding jasmine, rose, and chamomile, among other plants.
The three basic types of tea are white, green and black, each with different tastes and colors.
White Tea – Leaves are picked and processed quickly, not allowing for the oxidation that will concentrate the taste. White tea is very pale in color, with a very delicate taste and aroma.
Green Tea – Leaves are allowed to wilt, but not to oxidize, thereby allowing for some color. The taste is stronger than white tea. Green tea is said to have good antioxidant properties as well as other chemical properties that aid in overall health, by reducing blood pressure and harmful bacteria.
Black Tea – Leaves are allowed to fully wilt and oxidize. Black tea is higher in caffeine than the other colors, but still has less than coffee due to preparation methods. Less tea is used per cup than coffee, although tea has more caffeine per weight than coffee. Black tea is the most popular type in the United States, and is available in a variety of blends, such as English breakfast; and flavors, such as spiced chai.
Tea grown in different parts of the world, much like coffee, will have distinctive tastes. For example, Assam and Darjeeling are both grown in India, but in different regions. Asian tea is grown and prepared as lotus tea, from Vietnam, or as bubble tea, from Taiwan.
Here in the United States, tea is enjoyed as sweet iced tea (Southern style), or as hot black tea, with milk and perhaps sweetener. The varieties and tastes are endless, and worth discovering, as a delicious alternative to coffee.
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