ENJOYING A CUP OF FABULOUS TEA
White Tea is named after the tiny white or silver hairs that cover the bud as it develops at the tip of each tea shoot. The teas are usually made from just the unopened bud. The caffeine content of such teas is minimal and the lowest of all tea types.
Yellow Tea is China’s rarest. Similar to white teas, they are made from the skillfully picked new buds which are then piled and left so that the heat generated from the natural oxidation process dries them out and prevents any further decomposition. There is more caffeine in the infusion than in the brew from most green teas.
Green Tea is not oxidized at all. The leaves are steamed after picking to prevent fermentation. These leaves produce a delicate brew that is very light in color. Mothers have used green tea for centuries to help upset stomachs, and there is increasing medical evidence that drinking green tea provides unsuspected health benefits.
Oolong Tea is a compromise between black and green teas. Fresh shoots with one new bud and three leaves are gathered as they reach their peak on the bush and are immediately processed. It is a partially fermented tea whose leaves are greenish black. The brew produced is lighter in both flavor and color. Oolong teas contain more caffeine than green teas but less than black teas.
Black Tea is completely fermented tea. This is achieved by withering, rolling, oxidizing (drying the leaves with air which turns them a beautiful copper color), and finally firing the leaves (a process of treating them with blasts of very hot air). Black teas produce rich, hearty brews which are very popular.
NOTE: White tea is sundried, picked in early spring, unopened buds covered with white down. Green tea is in the natural state then fired. Yellow tea is also used in the natural state, but you wait one day then fire. Oolong tea is not fully oxidized. Black tea is completely oxidized. From white to black – from delicate to damaged.
Puer Teas are in a category of their own because of their unique and complex processing. Made from the larger leaves of the plant, they can be either sheng (raw, uncooked, green) or shu (cooked, black), and finished as loose-leaf or compressed into a variety of shapes. If stored properly, puer teas are the only teas that improve with age and are often used as investment opportunities. Collectors have special caves, in which puer cakes mature for decades. Some people age puer cakes to save money to pay for their children’s college, or because they consider it a safer investment than the stock market, although more recently the puer market deflated sharply. Because puer teas can be worth many thousands of dollars, the puer market is prone to counterfeiting, just like the Darjeeling or the Longjing markets.
Decaffeinated Teas have become very popular. Tea contains less caffeine than coffee; one cup of coffee has 100 mg, cola packs about 80 mg, and per cup, tea has 40 mg of caffeine. Today, most tea manufacturers no longer decaffeinate their teas through a chemical process – they use sparkling water instead. Those who use this process let you know, so read the label. Also, a word of caution: If the tea box lists “Mate” in its ingredients, the tea has caffeine. “Mate” is a South American caffeine plant.
Herbal Teas are not really teas at all. They are considered to be infusions, or in Europe, tisanes. (Infusion – the act or process of infusing, the continuous slow introduction of a solution into a vein) An herbal tea is made from a combination of herbs, leaves, flowers, plants, berries, and spices. They are naturally caffeine free, and provide a wonderful alternative to caffeinated drinks and carbonated sodas, and are good both hot and cold. Rooibos (pronounced Roybus – long o and short u) or sometimes called Red Tea is a product from South Africa. It is sometimes spelled Rooibosch in accordance with the Dutch etymology, but this does not change the pronunciation. It is also caffeine free. Honeybush is a sister of Rooibos, with just a hint of honey flavor. In South Africa it is more common to drink rooibos with milk and sugar, but elsewhere it is usually served without.
Traditionally used as “medicines,” herbal teas can act as mild digestives, help lift depression, soothe you to sleep, and slenderize the physique. The myriad benefits of herbal teas also carry with them an element of caution. Exercise care in the amounts and kinds of herbal tea you drink. In the interest of safety, you should limit your intake to two or three cups per day, moderation being the key. Not all herbal teas are safe to drink as a beverage.
Red and Black raspberry
Slippery elm bark
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Ms. Bernadette M. Petrotta
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