been drinking tea for thousands of years, enjoying its warmth and rejuvenating
powers. Today, it is served both hot and cold, but for most of its history, it
was brewed with steaming water and drunk hot or lukewarm.
Tea or Teabags?
believe that the only way to make a cup of tea is with loose leaves, and shun
teabags. Loose leaves are to tea connoisseurs what freshly ground coffee is to
gourmet coffee drinkers. Anything else is "inferior," they
way to savor the full rich flavor of the different kinds of tea is to use
high-quality tea leaves. Traditionally, the leaves are placed in a warm teapot
and water that has just come to the boil is poured over them. Once the tea
steeps, the amber liquid is poured into cups through a tea strainer to rid it
of the tea leaves.
were first invented in the early 1800s and for many years afterwards, teabags
were filled with the bits and pieces leftover from tea processing. In this busy
world, not many people make the time to brew their tea from loose leaves and
many — although certainly not all — of the teabags sold today are filled with
very good tea. This is not surprising given that about 96 percent of all tea
brewed in the 21st century is made with teabags.
Types of Tea
There are four primary types of tea: black, green, oolong, and white. They all come from the same
plant and the differences among them arise from how they are harvested and processed. (Herbal teas are not actually "tea" but are, in the world of tea, called tisanes.)
which is fermented, is the most popular kind of tea, with a robust flavor and
amber color most of us associate with “tea.”
Green tea is
steamed and dried but not fermented. Many people prefer its bracing flavor and
distinct flowery aroma. Plus, it is believed to have numerous health benefits.
from partially fermented tea leave, falls between black and green tea in terms
of flavor and intensity and tends to taste slightly fruity.
White tea is
the rarest of all teas, as it’s made from the tiny leaves on the very tips of
the tea plant. Its mild flavor makes it much sought-after by tea lovers
Tea and Health
has numerous health benefits, according to nutritionists and other experts. Tea
brewed from loose leaves is said to be more healthful than that brewed from
Among the claims made for
tea, it is said to:
Help guard the immune systems and ward off infections because of its relatively high levels of antioxidants;
blood pressure and cholesterol;
Help in the
treatment of some cancers;
weight loss because of certain innate properties;
Make skin look
To Brew a Pot of Tea
While most of us make tea
with a teabag and a mug of hot water, the best way to brew tea is in a warm, ceramic
pot. For every cup of tea, spoon a level teaspoon of tea leaves into the pot
and then pour hot, filtered water over them. For the best tea, the water should have
come to a boil and then been allowed to sit for 40 to 60 seconds before being
poured into the pot.
Put the cover on the pot and
then allow the tea to steep. The length of time the tea steeps depends on the
type of tea and how strong you like your brew. For black tea, most tea drinkers
let it steep for three to six minutes. For green and white tea, one to three
minutes; for oolong, six to eight minutes.
To make sun tea, put
teabags into a quart bottle or pitcher of cold filtered water (not distilled
because it will make the tea taste flat). Cover the container and set it in the sun
to brew for three to five hours or until it’s the color you want it. (Any
longer than five hours can turn the tea bitter.)
Store the sun tea in the
refrigerator and drink it within a day or so. You can also add lemon wedges or
other flavorings. It will taste somewhat milder than regular ice tea, but is a
traditional favorite with many people.
To Store Tea
Tea will gradually lose
flavor and become stale when it is exposed to too much air, light, odor, heat,
and moisture. To keep moisture from building up and prevent the tea from taking on
odors, don’t put it in the refrigerator or
The best way to
store tea is on the pantry shelf away from heat and light.
The best way to
enjoy tea is as often as possible!
Selma Roth is a freelance writer based in