Let's Talk About Tea, A Favourite Wake-Me-Up Beverage For Many
A primer on some of the most popular varieties of tea across the world
Legend has it that the Chinese have known about tea since 2700 BC but it was not until the 3rd century that tea became a daily beverage. In India, it was the British who introduced the tea culture in 1836.
Today, tea is one of the most popular wake-me-up drinks around the world. Scientific studies are now exploring the many health benefits of this wonder beverage, especially its antioxidant properties. Here is a primer on some of the more popular varieties of tea:
Green tea is the unfermented variety, and is mostly grown in Japan and China and parts of Malaysia and Indonesia. Believed to one of the healthier tea varieties, it is rich in polyphenols that give the tea its powerful antioxidant properties. But it is no magic bullet, warns experts.
“Tea consumption, especially green tea, may not be the magic bullet, but it can be incorporated in an overall healthy diet with whole grains, fish, fruits and vegetables, and less red and processed meat,” says Qi Sun, associate professor at the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Some of the most popular variants of green tea are Sencha and Matcha.
Widely used in Indian homes, black tea is a fermented variety. It is characterized by the slightly reddish colour of the beverage. While Assam and Darjeeling are popular Indian varieties, Ceylon, made in Sri Lanka, is another favourite with tea connoisseurs for its citrusy flavour.
A 2015 article on Harvard Health Publishing says that there is evidence that drinking “either black or green tea may lower harmful LDL cholesterol levels. Blood pressure may also dip slightly in people who drink tea, but results from these studies have been mixed”.
Oolong or pouchong is the semi-fermented variety of tea. Largely produced in China and Taiwan, this tea is identified by its slightly smoky flavour. It is the degree of oxidation of tea leaves that determines its flavour—if the leaves are oxidized for a shorter duration, it will be closer to green tea in flavour; if oxidized for a longer duration, the flavour will be closer to black tea. Like green and black tea, oolong tea is also rich in polyphenols, which gives tea all its healthy attributes.
It is the least processed of all teas and is made from unrolled and young tea leaves. Known for its mild flavour and lower caffeine content, white teais best had without milk. Initially grown in the Fujian province of China, white tea is now produced in other countries too.
This tea is produced mainly in Yunnan district of China. After fermentation, the leaves are aged in a humid environment, giving the tea its distinct earthy flavour. Usually made into a cake- or disc-like structure, you can separate a few tea leaves and make your brew.