Beginner Guide to Tea

Those of you that know me, know my daughter and I drink copious amounts of tea. Even in our tiny house, where storage is precious, we have an entire drawer (our biggest drawer) dedicated to tea. Whether it’s curling up on the sofa on a snowy day or gathering friends around the kitchen table over a cuppa, tea is soothing and comforting. Nuances of herbs, spices, mints, and flowers fill the air. We just can’t seem to get enough.

For those of you less familiar with tea, I have put together a brief guide.

7 Categories of Tea

different teas.jpg

Black tea is allowed to oxidate during which water evaporates out of the leaf.  The leaf is then able to absorb more oxygen from the air. Black teas usually undergo full oxidation, turning the leave dark brown and black. Black tea is robust. When it is brewed correctly, it has a higher caffeine content (still only about half the caffeine of coffee.)

Dark Tea is post-oxidated tea from Hunan and Sichuan provinces of China and is a smooth, delicious, aged probiotic tea.

Oolong tea is only partially oxidated. It falls between green teas and black teas on the caffeine scale. The flavor of oolong is not as hardy as black tea or as subtle as green. It might remind you of fresh fruit or flowers. This tea contains polyphenolic compounds, responsible for removing free radicals from the body. Oolong is often planted next to orchards of whatever flavor of fruit they want the tea to take on. Peach is the most common.

Green Tea barely has time to oxidate. The process is suddenly stopped by the quick heating of the leaves. It is brewed at a lower temperature and for less time. Green tea has roughly 15% of the caffeine coffee has. Green tea has garnered favor with many tea connoisseurs for its subtle nuances.tea bush.jpg

White teas are the most delicate of all teas. They are even more subtle, sophisticated, and naturally sweet. They are hand-processed using baby shoots of the tea plant, with zero oxidation. They should be brewed at a very low temperature and briefly steeped. White teas have the smallest amount of caffeine. White tea contains catechins, thought to fight cardiovascular disease and potentially cancer.

Pu’er or pu-ehr is aged Chinese black tea noted for its medicinal properties. The Chinese are very hush-hush about Pu’er and until 1995 it was illegal to import it into the United States.  The process of its production is state secret. It has a strong, deep, earthy flavor.


Tisanes or herbal teas are considered the “red-headed step-child” of teas and are not considered a “real tea.” Real tea comes from a single tea bush (Camellia Sinensis), while herbal teas are an infusion of various herbs, flowers, fruit, seeds, roots, bark, berries, and leaves. Tisanes are caffeine free and are served hot or cold. Herbal teas date back to ancient China and Egypt and were originally taken medicinally. Today, herbal teas are both enjoyed for pleasure and medicinal purposes.


7 Herbal Teas to Tingle Your Tastebuds!

matcha.jpgMatcha green tea

This lime-green powder might look dubious, but it packs power. Made from the tips of the Camellia Sinensis, the leaves are shaded weeks before harvesting, causing a surge in chlorophyll production and giving it the bright green color it is famous for. Whisk together with plant-based milk until it is frothy to create a cup of magic. Matcha green tea boosts your metabolism while lowering your cholesterol and blood sugar. It’s also known for its anti-oxidizing properties.

turmeric tea.jpgTurmeric tea

I love turmeric tea. If you love Chai, try this warm, spicy golden culinary gem. It is what gives curry it’s color. It is a part of the ginger family. Turmeric is said to be an anticarcinogen. It is also touted for its ability to supposedly beat back Alzheimer’s disease. Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric. It has powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.  To brew yourself a cup of this golden goodness, bring 2 cups of plant-based milk up to heat, add 1 tsp of turmeric, 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, a pinch of cayenne pepper, ginger and black pepper (for absorption). Add honey to taste. OR you can just do what I do and add 2 teaspoons of  Gaia Golden Milk powder to 2 cups of plant-based milk.

Peppermint tea.jpg

Peppermint tea

Peppermint tea is the proverbial “bomb.” It’s natural, cleansing, and refreshing. Peppermint tea also aids in digestion, reduces fever, eases nausea, boosts immunity, reduces stress and freshens your breath.  Peppermint tea is also an antibacterial. The best way to enjoy mint tea is to submerge the fresh leaves into just-shy-of-boiling water for three minutes. However, dry leaves do just fine. This is my go-to tea for hitting the road.

Rooibos tea

roobis.jpgThe broom-like Rooibos is rooted in South Africa. For those sensitive to stimulants, Rooibos is your jam. It has zero caffeine.  This tea is known for its phenolic compounds and polyphenols, those scavengers of free radicals that can cause cancer and heart diseases. Rooibos can boost your immune system and protect your body against diseases and inflammation. Brew this one for seven minutes, sweetening with honey or agave.


Echinacea tea

While echinacea tea is my least favorite of all the teas (it’s a personal taste thing), I can’t deny it’s healthful benefits. Echinacea tea increases energy, boosts your immune system, fights off colds, reduces symptoms of bronchial infection, cleans the liver, kidneys and lymphatic system, and eases pain from arthritis. Steep for 3-5 minutes.

ginger tea.jpg

Ginger tea

This is my go-to tea for staving off a cold. This spicy cuppa will contribute a healthy dose of vitamin C and kick your circulation up a notch.  Ginger tea can help the body absorb nutrients, alleviate stomach pain, help with irritable bowel syndrome, fight cancer, improve digestion, open inflamed airways, reduce arthritic inflammation, relieve stress, stimulate appetite and protect against Alzheimer’s. (I might need to drink more, I forgot where I laid my keys this morning). Grate a generous chunk of ginger root into a mug, steep in hot water for two minutes and strain for a delicious, spicy treat. Add honey, lemon or a cinnamon stick if you desire.

Orange peel tea

tea with lemon.jpg

Last, but not least, Orange peels combat the aging process. The orange oil in the peel tea can also reduce acne and inflammation if taking on a regular basis. Orange peels break up mucus and ward off colds. It’s antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral! Orange peels are also effective for treating gas, bloating and nausea. Peel an orange and roughly chop the peel into small pieces. Simmer the peel in water with cinnamon for 10 minutes before straining and drinking. It will have the added benefit of making your house smell amazing!

7 Reasons to Have a Cuppablack cup tea.jpg

  1. Drinking tea could help reduce the risk of heart attack.
  2. Tea helps fight free radicals.
  3. Tea has a high concentration of antioxidants which may fight cancer, osteoporosis & cardiovascular diseases.
  4. Drinking tea is linked with a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease.
  5. Regular tea drinking lowers the risk of metabolic syndrome.
  6. Green tea has been found to improve bone mineral density and strength.
  7. Green tea may protect against Alzheimer’s.

fun teacups.jpg

7 Fun Facts about Tea

  1. Traditionally milk was poured into a cup to protect the delicate china.
  2. For centuries tea was only used as a medicine, it took about 3,000 years for it to finally become an everyday drink.
  3. Chai is a sweet, spicy, black tea from India, brewed with milk, honey, vanilla, ginger, cloves, and cardamom.
  4. Different countries words for tea are variations on either “tea” or “cha. ” It indicates if they got their tea via trading by sea (the coastal part of China calling it “te”) or trading by land (the landlocked part of China calling it “cha”).
  5. The name for tea leaves as they unfurl when hot water is poured over them is called “the agony of the leaves.”
  6. Bubble or Boba tea finds its origin in Taiwan in the 1980s. It was made from black tea, tapioca pearls, condensed milk, and honey. It’s made from all sorts of tea now.
  7. Earl Grey tea was named after the 19th-century British diplomat to China. Bergamot is the citrus that gives it its distinct flavor.


What’s your favorite kind of tea? Do you have a tea you think I should check out? Let me know in the comments section! I am always up for a new tea.

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