All types of true tea come from the Camellia sinensis plant which is a shrub native to China and India. These include white, green, oolong, black, and pu-erh teas.
Teas made from other plants (herbal teas, African rooibos tea, and so on) are not true teas but should be considered tisanes — a catch-all for any beverage made from the infusion of herbs, spices, or other plant material in hot water.
White tea is the purest and least processed type. As a result, this variety has the highest level of polyphenols, and thus more potentially beneficial cancer-fighting properties than any other type available. Light in color and flavor, this comes from only the youngest leaves and buds of the plant. These are first steamed, and then dried. This type of processing results in a drink that’s very low in caffeine.
Even today, green tea is the drink of choice all throughout Asia. Minimally processed through steaming alone, green tea also has high health benefits. The antioxidants found in green tea have been shown to inhibit the growth of bladder, breast, lung, stomach, pancreatic, and colorectal cancers. It’s also been proven to help prevent the clogging of arteries, help burn fat, counteract the effects of stress, reduce the risk of both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and reduce the risk of stroke.
The most processed of all the teas, making black tea involves withering the leaves, then rolling them, a long period of fermentation, and then firing the leaves. This results in a complex and full-bodied sweet extraction. It has the highest caffeine content, so it will give your nervous system a level of stimulation similar to coffee. Black tea is chock-full of antioxidants, some of which have been shown to help protect the lungs from the damage caused by cigarette smoke. Drinking this type may still help to lower your risk of stroke as well.
Made from the South African Red Bush, Rooibos (a.k.a. African Red Tea) is an herbal tea for which leaves are harvested from the plant, ground and bruised, fermented, and dried. Rooibos is naturally caffeine free, and sweet with a sometimes nutty flavor. Green rooibos is also available, made by skipping the fermentation period before drying. This type has a lighter taste. Rooibos also contains polyphenols known for their cancer-fighting properties.
What Comes First: Milk or Tea?
The tradition of pouring milk first had little to do with how it made the tea taste and more to do with class. That is, you didn’t pour the tea first unless you owned a quality set of china that didn’t crack under the heat of boiled water. Milk was only poured first to prevent the cup from cracking, as cheaper materials didn’t hold up to such hot brews. (Personally | add the milk last to satisfy my blend and brewed tone as | like a stronger cup of tea).