Besides waking sleepyheads up and infusing energy in lethargic souls, tea has myriad aspects to it. So if you have ever wondered which tea to drink with what food or if you have been confused between jasmine, oolong, green, black and white tea, look no further. Here is a refresher course on the refreshing brew and everything that goes with it.
Different types of tea
What is tea? Tea is the dried and processed leaves of only one species of plant called camellia sinensis. Interestingly enough, herbal teas or herbal infusions are not really teas, but simply dried leaves and/or flowers from various other plants and herbs.
Even though all teas come from only one species, there are three major varietals:
The China – Small leaves and generally thrives at higher altitudes.
The India (or Assam) – Larger leaves and generally thrives at lower altitudes.
The Hybrid – A mix between the Chinese and Indian varieties.
Black tea, oolong tea and green tea come from the same Camellia sinensis plant. But unlike the other two varieties, green tea leaves are not fermented before steaming and drying.
Goes great with Oriental food such as Indian, Thai or Chinese, especially the kind called Chai, which is made with some of the same spices as used in classic Oriental cooking. But black tea also complements silky, creamy treats like ice cream, yogurt or a bowl of breakfast cereal. If you are serving chocolate with black tea, consider making the tea with less sweetener, so your taste buds don’t go on sugar overload. Some foods that go especially well with black teas:
• cookies or biscuits (of course!)
• a cold cheese sandwich
• peanut butter anything
• cheese and crackers
A lot of people don’t realize green tea can be drunk hot and not always iced. Green tea has a taste you have to get used to. Some people find the bitterness builds up with each cup, and so can only have one or two cups a day. It seems salt cuts down on the bitterness of any green tea so try having it with a couple of salt biscuits.
This is a traditional Chinese tea and its taste varies widely depending on the degree of fermentation and the sub varieties found. Interestingly, the name means black dragon tea and it is very popular among tea connoisseurs in China and in other South East Asian countries.
This tea is almost exclusively grown in China. The name is derived from the fine silvery-white hairs on the unopened buds of the tea plant, which gives the plant a whitish appearance. The buds and leaves are allowed to dry in natural sunlight before they are lightly processed to prevent oxidation or further fermentation. This preserves the characteristic flavour of the white tea. Silver Needle tea produced in the Fujian province is the most expensive variety of white tea.
There are many kinds of herbal teas, with vastly different flavours. The two basic groups are:
Medicinal: These usually have combinations of herbs, spices and leaves in order to make you feel better, not necessarily to be a pleasure to drink. Some “sleepytime” blends work great with a light snack, like a small bowl of cereal or a peanut butter sandwich, provided the mint is mild and there is no eucalyptus which can completely overwhelm the palette.
Grassy: Nettle tea would be a prime example here. These go with almost any kind of dinner you can imagine. They often don’t need sweetener. Not recommended for breakfast.
RED BUSH TEA
This naturally decaffeinated yet energizing tea from South Africa is a well-known favourite in Europe, especially England, and is making a splash in the States. This has a unique taste which makes a delightful change from your regular black tea. You can drink this with or without milk. It goes great with almost any kind of food except dishes based with heavy tomato sauces or lots of mustard.
Benefits for health
Much has been written and said about the amazing health benefits of tea. What are the scientifically recognized benefits of tea? The following is a brief synopsis of the latest findings.
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 at which calories are burned.
Loose vs Bags
Tea made from loose leaves has more antioxidants than tea bags, which tend to have lower-quality, powdered leaves.