There are five main types of tea commonly found on the market: black tea, oolong tea, green tea, white tea, and herbal teas. The first four are made using leaves from the same plant, Camellia Sinensis, but the leaves are processed differently to produce each type of tea. Rooibos tea is made from the Red Bush African plant and herbal teas are made from many different herbs infused in hot water.
Black tea is traditionally the most popular of the four in western countries, although green tea is now catching up in terms of popularity since knowledge of its many health benefits is becoming more widely known. Black tea differs from the others because it goes through a process of oxidation. The leaves are first withered, so that the moisture content is reduced by up to 70%, making them limp and easily rolled …. the rolling is usually done by machinery, forcing them to crack open so that the enzymes within are exposed to oxygen. Oxidation then occurs … basically, the chemical reaction that takes place changes the properties of the leaves and also darkens the color from green to various shades of brown, depending on how long they are allowed to oxidize. The leaves are then dried to complete the process.
Green tea is widely consumed in Asian countries and is becoming increasingly popular in Western countries. Green Tea is reportedly associated with various health promoting properties. For example, it has been shown to promote fat oxidation in humans at rest and to prevent obesity and improve insulin sensitivity in mice.
Oolong tea is more oxidized than green tea but less than black tea. This creates a sweeter and more delicate tea than you might expect from black tea. Oolong teas are generally infused without milk, although milk may be added to soften the taste. The leaves are typically harvested in late spring or summer. Once the leaves are plucked, they are sorted and spread out to dry. Once drying is complete the leaves are then withered. This withering is done by vigorously shaking the leaves in baskets. The shaking bruises the edges of the leaves which begins the oxidation process. They are then fired to halt the oxidation and de-enzyme the leaves. Oolong teas range from 10-70% oxidation. Oolong has a taste more akin to green tea than to black tea … it lacks the rosy, sweet aroma of black tea but it likewise does not have the stridently grassy vegetal notes that typify green tea.
The word oolong means “black dragon” in Chinese. Oolong tea ranges in oxidation from between 10 to 70%. Oolong tea is commonly brewed to be strong, with the bitterness leaving a sweet and pleasant aftertaste.
Oolong tea is full of nutrients, including vitamins A, B, C, E and K, as well as calcium, copper, maganese, selenium and potassium. It is also rich in antioxidants, including polyphenic compounds that might provide health benefits.
White Tea is dried naturally using sunlight or lower temperatures indoors helping to preserve tea polyphenols. If it dries indoors in will oxidize very slightly. White tea is only made from the Da Bai Hao tea bush. The leaves from this tea bush can be processed to make both green and white tea but no other bush can be used to make white tea. Like green tea, white tea is considered a very effective cooling tea and used to treat inflammation, dental problems, fevers and skin problems. White tea also has a high concentration of antioxidants.
Herbal tea, tisane or ptisan is an herbal infusion made from anything other than the leaves of the tea bush (Camelia sinensis). Herbal teas are made from various herbs infused with hot water. The different herbs used will provide different attributes. Echinacea is known for its immune system building qualities when using the root and antibacterial properties when using the top part of the plant. Rooibos flavonoids, quercetin and luteolin have been known to have cancer fighting qualities. Rooibos is purported to assist with nervous tension, allergies and digestive problems.
Falcon Ridge Farms produces an Echinacea Rooibos blend of herbal tea as well as 5 other blends all using Echinacea.
Much has been written and said about the amazing health benefits of tea. So much in fact, that it’s often difficult to separate fact from fiction. What are the scientifically recognized benefits of tea? The following is a brief synopsis of the latest findings.
Disclaimer: Some herbs might react with medications. For example, some herbs thicken the blood, so exercise caution if taking blood thinners. Consult a reputable chartered herbalist.
If you are the type to fret over the appearance of wrinkles, age spots and other signs of growing old, oolong tea may be the answer to your worries. In a recent experiment carried out jointly by researchers from the US, Taiwan and Japan, mice which were fed tea displayed fewer signs of aging than mice that were fed water. (The Straits Times, Sept. 24, 01)
The wonder cup just got even more wonderful. Green tea, rich in antioxidant treasures that protect against heart disease and cancer, now shows promise as an allergy fighter. In laboratory tests, Japanese researchers have found that the antioxidants in green tea, block the biochemical process involved in producing an allergic response. Green tea may be useful against a wide range of sneeze-starting allergens, including pollen, pet dander, and dust. (Prevention, April 2003)
Green tea catechins are chondroprotective and consumption of green tea may be prophylactic for arthritis and may benefit the arthritis patient by reducing inflammation and slowing cartilage breakdown. (The Journal of Nutrition, Mar 2002)
Green tea may be useful in controlling inflammation from injury or diseases such as arthritis. (Boston Globe, April 26, 99)
Tea flavonoids may be bone builders. A report in the Archives of Internal Medicine looked at about 500 Chinese men and women who regularly drank black, green, or oolong tea for more than 10 years. Compared with nonhabitual tea drinkers, tea regulars had higher bone mineral densities, even after exercise and calcium – which strengthen bones – were taken into account. (U.S. News & World Report, May 20, 2002)
“Tea is one of the single best cancer fighters you can put in your body,” according to Mitchell Gaynor, MD, director of Medical Oncology at the world-renowned Strong Cancer Prevention Center in New York City and co-author of Dr. Gaynor’s Cancer Prevention Program. The latest tea discovery? Strong evidence that both green and black tea can fight cancer – at least in the test tube – though green tea holds a slight edge. In a new study, both teas kept healthy cells from turning malignant after exposure to cancer-causing compounds. (Prevention, May 2000)
People who drink about 4 cups of green tea a day seem to get less cancer. Now we may know why. In recent test-tube studies, a compound called EGCG, a powerful antioxidant in tea, inhibited an enzyme that cancer cells need in order to grow. The cancer cells that couldn’t grow big enough to divide self-destructed. It would take about 4 cups of green tea a day to get the blood levels of EGCG that inhibited cancer in the study. Black tea also contains EGCG, but at much lower concentrations. (Prevention, Aug 1999)
One cup of black or green tea has more antioxidant power than a serving of broccoli, carrots, or spinach. (Prevention, Aug 1998)
Tea can lower ‘bad’ cholesterol levels. Researchers at the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland, asked test subjects to eat low-fat, low-calorie prepared meals and drink five cups of caffeinated tea or caffeinated and non-caffeinated placebos that mimicked the look of tea. Levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol dropped 10 percent among the test subjects who drank tea. (Vegetarian Times, Jan 2003)
Studies regarding the effect of green tea consumption on cholesterol appear to show that it lowers the level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is considered the “bad” type of cholesterol, while raising the level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which is considered “good.” It appears that compounds in the tea block the absorption of cholesterol in the digestive tract, while simultaneously aiding in its excretion. In addition, green tea keeps your arteries clean by preventing the oxidization of LDL, which can build up as plaque, resulting in an increased risk of heart attack or stroke.
Drinking black tea may lower the risk of heart disease because it prevents blood from clumping and forming clots. In a recent study, researchers found that while drinking black tea, the participants had lower levels of the blood protein associated with coagulation. (Better Nutrition, Jan 2002)
Better to be deprived of food for three days than tea for one,Ã“ says a Chinese proverb. Research is showing it may just be true. Dr. Kenneth Mukamal of Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center reported that out of 1,900 heart-attack patients, those who drank two or more cups a day reduced their risks of dying over the next 3.8 years by 44 percent. (Newsweek, May 20, 2002)
Studies have also shown that green tea is good for the heart. Japanese researchers published a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association on a group of subjects suffering from cardiovascular disease. Over an 11 year period, those who were given more than 5 cups of green tea per day were 16 percent less likely to succumb to their illness than those who had less than one cup per day. The tea’s antioxidant properties are thought to be behind its ability to prevent strokes and clogged arteries. Additional findings published in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation also state that the function of blood vessels improves within 30 minutes of drinking green tea.
Trying to lose weight? Reach for a cup of green tea instead of a diet beverage. Compared to the placebo and caffeine, green tea extract consumption produced a significant 4% increase in 24-hour energy expenditure. If you consume 2,000 calories per day and don’t gain or lose weight (you’re in energy balance), an increase of 4% would translate roughly into an 80-calorie daily difference. Over a year, this could result in 89 pounds of weight loss. (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Nov 1999)
Recent evidence shows that in the battle of fat loss, green tea may be superior to plain caffeine. According to a new study, green tea appears to accelerate calorie burning – including fat calories. Researchers suggest compounds in green tea called flavonoids may change how the body uses a hormone called norepinephrine, which then speeds the rate calories are burned. (Joe Weider’s Muscle & Fitness, April 2000)
Oolong tea may be an effective way to control obesity. According to Organic Facts, oolong tea appears to activate enzymes in the body that can control fat metabolism. In a study published in the January 1999 issue of the “International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders,” oolong tea was given to lab rats that were on a high-fat diet for 10 weeks. The rats lost weight, and the tea positively affected their fatty liver caused by the high-fat diet. In another study published 10 years later in the February issue of the “China Journal of Integrative Nutrition,” researchers showed that oolong tea can decrease body fat content and reduce body weight through improving fat metabolism. Overweight study participants took 8g of oolong tea every day for six weeks; a strong majority lost weight.
Drinking a daily cup of oolong tea may improve cognitive memory. A study in the August 2006 issue of the “Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology” suggests that oolong and green tea both have the ability to reduce deterioration of cognitive ability and degenerative brain changes and slow down the aging process. During this study, lab mice given oolong and green tea daily supplements showed significant improvements, reversing their cognitive impairment and degeneration of their brain tissue.
While several other “superfoods” have made recent headlines for their substantial health benefits, few can claim a list as long as that of green tea. As far back as 4,000 years ago, the Chinese and other ancient cultures were consuming green tea not only as a beverage, but also as a traditional remedy for everyday maladies like indigestion and gas, as well as to control bleeding and benefit the heart. What makes green tea so powerful is a high concentration of antioxidants called catechin polyphenols. Research shows that these compounds not only provide relief for many traditional ailments, but also reduce the risk for many chronic diseases and serious health problems.
Concerning diabetes, research has shown that green tea may well be one of the best things that you can include in your diet. Although there are two types of diabetes, the compounds present in the tea appear to have something to offer for each of them. Findings by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) show that EGCG can actually stimulate insulin production in the pancreas, regulate blood sugar levels and absorb glucose in those who suffer from type 1 diabetes. In type 2 sufferers, green tea can significantly lower the frequent blood sugar spikes that often lead to further complications in the eyes, heart and kidneys. In addition, green tea’s thermogenic effects also help to control obesity, which is thought to be a major contributing factor in developing diabetes.
The first tea bags were made from hand-sewn silk muslin bags and tea bag patents of this sort exist dating as early as 1903. First appearing commercially around 1904, tea bags were successfully marketed by tea and coffee shop merchant Thomas Sullivan from New York, who shipped his tea bags around the world. Modern tea bags are usually made of paper fiber.
If your idea of a good cup of tea starts with plain tea bags from the grocery store, you are likely missing out on truly superior tea.We are talking about generic supermarket tea bags. There are some excellent bagged teas out there, made up of whole tea leaves. Quality tea merchants often carry bags as well as loose.
The main difference between loose teas and bagged teas is the size of the leaves. That’s what affects the resulting cup of tea. Tea leaves contain chemicals and essential oils, which are the basis for the flavour of tea. When the tea leaves are broken up, those oils can evaporate, leaving a dull and tasteless tea. Typical tea bags are filled with the tiniest pieces of broken leaves, called fannings or even smaller as dust. Loose teas are typically whole leaves or at least large pieces of leaves.
On top of the leaf size, there is also the space factor. Tea leaves need space to swell, expand, unfurl and release their health benefits. Good water circulation around the leaves is important, which doesn’t typically happen easily in a cramped little tea bag. There have been some great developments in the shape of the “traditional” tea bag in the last few years to address this problem.
“Loose tea is too much trouble and the leaves end up in my cup” There are many tea pots that have built-in strainers in the spout, or try a marvelous Tea Infuser.
Loose leaf teas can be more economical as it is much easier to get a second or third infusion from loose tea than a tea bag. Depending on your source, you can also get fresher loose teas. This is very important with white and green teas that have a very limited shelf life.
The next time you have “Green” tea from a commercial tea bag, check if the liquid colour is a light yellow green and if the flavour has a grassy taste. No? Then it’s time to buy better tea if you really want the health benefits.
If you enjoy a change now and again, you can get a wide variety of teas in bags nowadays, but if you want real choices and flavour, shop for loose tea.
Falcon Ridge Farms Teas: For maximum flavour, allow the tea to steep for at least 7 minutes. You can use any of the following methods:
- Boil water and pour over recommended amount of loose tea in a preheated tea pot. Pour into a cup through a small strainer. We sell tea pots with bult-in loose tea cylinders to keep the grounds out of your cup.
- “Brew” the tea in an electric coffee percolator. Put the recommended amount of loose tea in the “coffee grounds cylinder” and brew just as you would coffee. Tea is ready to serve when it has stopped percolating. It will stay hot in the pot until you serve it.
- “Brew” the tea in an automatic drip coffee maker. Put the recommended amount of loose tea in the “coffee grounds basket,” pour the water in the water holder and turn on the machine. When the water finishes dripping through, the tea is ready. This method produces a weaker brew than either the boiling or percolation methods above.
Teas from flowers, leaves, crushed seeds, and powdered herbs: these parts of the plant give up their flavour easily and are generally brewed by pouring boiling water over the herbs in the proportion of 1 cup water to 1 teaspoon dried or 1 tablespoon fresh herbs, a bit stronger if you plan to serve it over ice. Cover the pot to prevent the aromatic steam from escaping and let the infusion steep for 3 to 10 minutes, depending on the herb. If you want a stronger flavour, use more herbs.
Tea from barks and roots: these need more coaxing to give up their oils so they are brewed as a decoction in the same ratio of ingredients as above. Put the herbs in cool water, bring it to a simmer, then simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes.
For convenience, mix up large quantities of your favorite blends and store them in tightly closed glass jars in a cool, dark cupboard.