1. Tea’s popularity has brought with it many benefits for tea lovers. It’s now easier than ever before to find the tools and ingredients to prepare homemade tea blends. There is no real format for making your own blends, just have fun and be creative. Bottled teas are also readily available in stores and are a healthy alternative to sodas. Though, you still need to watch the sugar content, as sweetened iced teas commonly found in convenience stores and fast-food restaurants can be heavily laden with sugar.
2. Enjoy tea decaffeinated, caffeine-free, or fully-loaded. If you enjoy and need caffeinated drinks, tea is a great alternative to other caffeinated beverages. The caffeine in tea clears your mind and lifts your energy and awareness. Better yet, tea contains natural muscle relaxers that other caffeinated beverages don’t. These relaxers keep energy levels fairly steady and don’t produce the “drop” or “crash” often experienced with other caffeinated beverages. Caffeine occurs naturally in most teas, but can be removed during processing and sold as decaffeinated. When people are looking for a hot tea option with no caffeine, they should look for herbal blends or Tisanes. A great variety that is naturally caffeine-free is Rooibos, the South African herbal blend.
3. Maximize the shelf-life of tea by storing it in an air-tight container. Tea is best stored in the dark and away from moisture. To keep the flavors fresh and authentic, as well as lengthen the shelf-life of your tea, store it in an air-tight container. If properly stored, most teas should be good for approximately one-year, with the exception of Pu-erh tea.
4. Pu-erh tea is the only tea that gets better with age. Pu-erh tea comes from China. Its precise means of processing are not fully known outside the inner-circles of the Pu-erh tea makers in China. However, we do know that it is the only fermented tea and is aged in caves. While teas should generally only be stored for one year, Pu-erh tea is always good and actually gets better over time.
5. Tea is extremely absorbent, making it excellent for soaking up odors. Tea’s natural odor-absorbency can work for you, or against you. It can work against you if you store your drinking tea near onions or other odoriferous foods. To make its absorbency work for you, make sachets to put in sock drawers, inside shoes or in your car. Smokers have been known to keep tea sachets in their car to absorb the cigarette odor.
6. There is a specialized method to tasting tea. Similar to the way people taste wine, tea tasting also has a methodical process that allows the person tasting the tea to get the full flavor. First, release all of the air from your mouth, then slurp the tea by slightly sucking it into your mouth. Mentally picture the tea hitting your entire mouth at the same time, touching all of your taste buds in unison. Finally, allow a little air into your mouth before you swallow. This should illuminate the tea’s authentic flavor. There shouldn’t be too much of an after taste, but if there is, that is usually the artificial flavors or coloring you are tasting.
7. Ask Internet suppliers for a free sample. Internet shopping is convenient, especially when shopping for teas internationally. However, purchasing tea over the Internet is like purchasing a bathing suit: you want to try it before you buy it. If you’d like to experiment with teas, but are concerned about purchasing a tea you won’t like, some suppliers will send a free sample to try before you buy. If the supplier doesn’t publicize that they offer samples, it never hurts to ask.
8. Some tea leaves are naturally sweetened. If you like sweet tea, why add sugar and extra calories when you can find a naturally sweet tea or flavor? There are several tea varieties that are naturally sweet, including Rooibos. Tea can also be sweetened by adding natural flavors and herbs such as peach for a sweet fruity flavor, or fennel for a sweet licorice taste.
9. Tea is hip and edgy. Tea has a stereotype of being stuffy or something you have to drink out of a dainty porcelain cup with small biscuits or cookies. Think outside of the fine china and drink tea from clear containers to show off the tea’s vibrant colors, or find cups in interesting shapes or that are uniquely decorated. Cups should be functional, so make sure they protect against the heat.
10. Oh, Oolong! Watch for the increasing popularity of oolong tea, which is a little-known variety that has many wellness benefits and intriguing flavors. Watch for these teas on your market shelves and favorite tea supplier, particularly those from Taiwan, which is well-known for its exceptional oolong tea.
Five Types of Tea
Tea comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant and there are five main types, which are defined by how the leaves are harvested and processed:
WHITE TEA: White tea is the rawest form of tea, because it involves almost no processing. The leaves are picked from the plant and then dried, allowing only a natural oxidation process.
GREEN TEA: Green tea is processed in two ways, steamed or wok-fired. Green tea from Japan is steamed, whereas green tea from China is wok-fired. Natural oxidation occurs in green tea.
OOLONG TEA: Oolong tea is not a well-known tea, but is gaining in popularity. When the tea leaves reach the oxidation level, those harvesting the tea create the flavor profile they are looking for by quickly baking the leaves to stop the oxidation process. Oolong tea is partially oxidized between one to 99 percent.
BLACK TEA: Black tea usually comes first to mind when people think of tea. It is 100 percent fully oxidized and comes in many varieties.
PU-ERH TEA: Pu-erh is made in China and the processing of this type of tea is a well-guarded secret. This cave-aged tea is the only tea that gets better with time.