I was 14 when I sipped my first cup of tea and have never stopped exploring ever since. I love coffee, but I’ll always be a tea person because of the sheer variety it offers. Apart from that, if I start talking about all the benefits, flavours and aromas that these teas have, the list would be long enough to make you a tea lover.
All types of tea are derived from the same base plant called Camellia Sinensis. The variety and differences come in the teas due to their processing, growing conditions and geographic conditions. The Camellia Sinensis plant is native to Asia. However, the plant is currently cultivated around the world in tropical and subtropical regions. While coffee is a popular choice of drink in the Western worlds, the East is dominated by tea, including the UK.
Did you know that as one of the most consumed beverages around the globe, tea has more than 3,000 varieties? Wow, that’s a lot to choose your favourite from! But don’t worry, we’ve filtered the best ones for you.
First of all, know that true teas can be classified into five types, which depend on how the plant’s tea leaves are prepared and processed. The five true teas are Black tea, Green tea, Oolong tea, Pu-erh tea and White tea. But that’s not it, a wide range of herbal drinks are made from grains, flowers, leaves and mushrooms which are also purchased as tea. We’ve listed the best of them for you along with their benefits.
Note: True teas are basically the ones that come from the Camellia Sinensis plant based on their oxidation process. Rest of them are either derivatives or a mix of flower petals, herbs or fruits.
Tip: If you’re looking for the most health benefits, then stick to the five “true teas”.
When people refer to tea in Western culture, they talk about black tea. Sun tea, sweet tea, iced tea, afternoon tea are all categories of black tea. Even Earl Grey tea is a blend of black tea. Black tea goes through a process of oxidation for the water to evaporate out of the leaves. In the process, the leaves absorb more oxygen from the air. After the full oxidation, the leaves turn dark brown and black. It has a stronger flavour and higher caffeine content as compared to the other teas.
Assam tea, Darjeeling tea, Ceylon tea and Kenyan tea are a few popular types of Black tea. Due to its bitter taste, people enjoy it better with a few spoons of milk. It is rich in antioxidants, boosts heart health, maintains cholesterol and gut health, it reduces blood pressure, blood sugar, the risk of stroke and cancer. It is best to drink black tea in the morning or noon as due to high caffeine content, it may hamper your good night's sleep.
We’ve been hearing about the benefits of green tea for years now. Originating in China, green tea dominates the mornings of the East, especially Japan. The most popular varieties of green tea include sencha, matcha and genmaicha. Green tea is amongst one of the healthiest teas on the list. Consumption of green tea can reduce the risk of cancer, blood pressure, insulin resistance and increases glycemic control. Most of these beneficial properties come from the catechin content present in green tea.
The best way to consume green tea is by boiling it in water and then adding honey and lemon to it. If you’re drinking it for health purposes, avoid the sugary lattes available at cafes as they aren’t exactly healthy.
Oolong tea is also known as Wulong tea. Unlike black tea, it goes through partial oxidation. The tea’s caffeine content lies somewhere between that of green tea and black tea. Neither is the flavour of Oolong as strong as black tea nor is it as light as green tea. The aroma and taste of Oolong tea is often compared to fresh flowers or fresh fruit.
Consumption of Oolong tea can lower blood-glucose levels and improve cholesterol profile. It improves concentration and reduces the risk of cancer.
Pu-erh tea is a Chinese fermented drink, almost like kombucha or red wine. Its local name is ‘heicha’. It contains a lot of beneficial bacteria. Due to its production process, the leaves go through microbial fermentation. Hence, the tea continues to age even after the drying process. It tastes more bitter than regular tea, but it gets milder overtime. Generally, for ages, green Pu-erh has been prefered but over the past few decades black Pu-erh has become popular. It has equal caffeine content as other teas.
Pu-erh tea is best known to improve health in patients with metabolic syndrome.
While Black tea is the strongest, White tea is the mildest. It’s one of the best options for caffeine-sensitive people. It only contains 25% of amount of caffeine found in coffee. White tea comes from the freshest available leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant. These tea leaves are picked at a younger age and they don’t go through the process of oxidation, which is why it tastes mild.
Benefits of matcha tea are similar to that of Green tea due to its polyphenolic content.
Barley tea is a staple drink in China, Japan and Korea and is one of the most popular drinks in the East. It’s called ‘mugicha’ in Japan and ‘boricha’ in Korea. It’s made by toasting barley and then boiling it for about 20 minutes. It’s a popular summer drink as it is traditionally served cold with ice. In fact, many in East drink it like water. It recently became popular around the world due to its availability in online stores. It tastes smokey, nutty and slightly bitter.
Barley tea is good for digestion, boosts the immune system, improves blood circulation, prevents tooth decay, can help in weight loss and it’s one of the best drinks to feel refreshed after a long day.
The most popular hot beverage served in India, Chai is a combination of Black tea, milk, sugar, herbs and spices like cinnamon, cardamon, cloves and ginger. The flavour of the tea changes as per spices added to it. It can be both beneficial and harmful, depending on the quantity and the way you drink it. A traditional Chai is healthy, it’s good for the throat and body, but the ones that are loaded with sugar might not be great for you. Chai has the same benefits as black tea with the high polyphenol content of the spices that are added.
Many mushrooms have medicinal benefits and Chaga is one of them. Chaga mushroom is native to Northern and Eastern Europe and Asia. The drink originated from the Russian region. Chaga mushroom is a type of fungus that grows on birch trees and it becomes a tea as you boil a piece of dried mushroom. It’s a daily drink in Siberia as it is considered an important drink for health and longevity benefits there. Chaga tea extract even has anti-tumor properties and may inhibit oxidative DNA damage in human cells. This mushroom is full of phytonutrients which is good for your body.
The thought of Chamomile tea in itself is refreshing and relaxing. The tea comes from the edible flowers of matricaria chamomilla plant also known as Chamomile. This tea has a reputation of giving a good night sleep as it relaxes your body and treats insomnia. It’s loved for its mild bitterness, floral and slightly sweet taste.
Chamomile tea helps in treating anxiety and other sleep-related problems.
A flowering plant that originates in East Asia, specifically in China, is the source of Chrysanthemum tea. Much like other flower teas, it also has a floral aroma with slightly sweet flavour. It was traditionally used as an herbal medicine in the East due to its anti-inflammatory properties and various polyphenols present in it.
Dandelion is another tea that makes you feel refreshed even before you start drinking it. Dandelions almost grow everywhere and yes, they are edible. Dandelion tea and Dandelion salads are few of the popular options. This tea is very light, mild and has a floral taste. Dandelion coffee is also quite popular. It’s a great substitute for black coffee. The tea is produced by roasting the Dandelion roots and it is best known for its digestive benefits.
Essiac tea is a traditional drink of the Ojibwa, a North American Indian tribe known as Chippewa. It’s bitter in taste and has grassy flavour. This tea is even known to help treat cancer. It’s anti-inflammatory and has DNA-protective properties. It is also said that high dosage of Essiac extract can inhibit tumor cell growth.
This premium Japanese green tea is mostly available in powdered form. To make Matcha, only the finest shade-grown tea leaves are picked and then are carefully ground into fine powder. It is best consumed in its pure state. It tastes strong, bitter and grassy. You might want to keep away from sugar-induced drinks and food versions of Matcha.
The benefits of matcha tea are similar to that of a Green tea, rather better as with Matcha, you end up consuming the leaves instead of just the extract.
Originated in Egypt, Senna belongs to a large group of flowering plants. Senna tea is much more bitter than the other teas. It is approved by FDA as a non-prescription laxative and contains active chemical compounds that help in relieving occasional constipation. However, while consuming it you must remember that it can irritate the stomach lining to stimulate bowel movements as it’s a stimulant laxative. It’s a tea that you can occasionally consume, not for long-term. It’s long-term consumption can cause intestinal hyperplasia or gastric cancer.
We all know about the refreshing effects of rose. To produce Rose tea, the petals of the flower are dried. These leaves can either be used in their pure form to make tea or can be mixed with other herbs for increased benefits. It tastes light, tarty and sweet. Its mildly sour notes come from the rose petal’s citric and malic acid content. The dried petals also contain various anthocyanins, the same class of polyphenols that are found in different types of berries.
A common type of Japanese green tea, Sencha is grown under the sun and it is consumed by making an infusion from whole tea leaves. It has a mild flavour and a bold green colour. Much like other green teas, Sencha is also full of polyphenols, especially catechins. In fact, Sencha has the highest amount of these compounds.
You will love the subtle flavour of menthol. Spearmint tea contains lesser amount of menthol as compared to Peppermint tea. Spearmint tea is cooler, milder and quite refreshing. Spearmint tea has been used as a treatment for hirsutism (a kind of hair growth that follows male hair patterns, such as growth on the face and chest) in women. It also has a higher content of rosmarinic acid that helps treat osteoarthritis, it decreases pain and increases flexibility.
This is a traditional tea from South America that has recently become popular worldwide. Yerba mate tea is made from the leaves of a species of holly tree that grows in South American rainforests. It has an intense taste and contains around 80 mg of caffeine per cup, which is almost equal to coffee. It is mostly consumed for its energy and mood-boosting properties. It may also help in decreasing abdominal fat, blood viscosity and improve blood flow.
Also known as Agua De Jamaica, Hibiscus is a tea made of dried petals of roselle flower. It’s dark blood-red in colour and has a tart flavour along with flowery smell. Hibiscus has a high acid content due to the presence of malic, tartaric, citric and ascorbic acids. It’s a good source of Vitamin C and a variety of anthocyanin polyphenols. Hibiscus tea benefits in reducing both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
Moringa plant that is also known as horseradish tree is a native to the Himalayas in north-west India. The flowers, seeds, leaves and roots of the plant are edible and hence, used for culinary purposes in Asian cuisine. Moringa tea can be made from both dried and powdered leaves. It tastes light, mild and grassy.
It’s a great source of vitamins and minerals, especially the B vitamins and vitamin C. It can also control the blood glucose and hyperlipidemia.
Popularly known as stinging nettle tea, the drink is derived from the dried leaves of urtica dioica plant aka nettle. It tastes light, earthy, refreshing, mild and grassy. Nettle tea is full of phenolic compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties. It has the potential to treat the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (an enlarged prostate) in men.
Fan of minty flavours? This tea is made from the dried leaves of the peppermint plant. It has a bold, refreshing and minty taste with a strong smell. The Peppermint tea can be an effective digestive aid and it may relieve stomach upsets and discomfort.
Also known as taheebo, Pau d’arco bark is an herb that produces Pau d’arco tea. The tree grows in the Amazon rainforest and its inner bark contains a variety of phytonutrients. The tea is delicious and has a mix of fruity and herb-like flavour.
Raspberry tea has a grassy taste. It’s refreshing and mostly consumed during pregnancy. It’s popularly known as a non-caffeinated drink. Traditionally, Raspberry leaf has been a folk remedy for pregnancy. It is said to reduce the labour period.
Rooibos tea or red bush tea is one of the most popular teas that originates from South Africa. It’s popularly consumed in the place of black tea. It has an interesting taste, a mix of fruity, spicy and nutty. It’s perfect for people sensitive to caffeine as Rooibos is caffeine-free.
Rooibos tea contains various phenolic compounds such as flavanones and flavones. It is also known for reducing cardiovascular risk by preventing angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) activity. If consumed daily, it can also act as a liver protectant.
Also known as Butterfly pea flower tea is a traditional drink from South-East Asia which has a striking blue appearance. The tea is best known to control blood glucose. It’s caffeine-free and is loved for its alluring colour.
So, which one are planning to try first?
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