Drinking Tea - My Way to Relax
Nothing is as relaxing as drinking a cup of hot tea. Not only is it very relaxing, it can also bring some health benefits to the drinker. It is especially soothing when drunk during the cold weather. Whenever the rainy seasons come by our country, I would always find myself steeping some tea leaves in my favorite tea cup. I love the aroma so much and sipping a cup of tea is one of the ways I do to relieve stress.
Copyright © 2014 by Lyra Kua. All rights reserved.
What is tea?
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The earliest recordings of drinking tea was found on China. It is unknown who discovered this beverage, but tea imports originated mainly in China until its cultivation was later introduced in India by Britain. China tea plant varies from other cultivation which can be observed in its small tea size.
There are many types of tea, but they can be generally classified according to how the leaves are processed. All tea leaves come from the same plant called Camellia sinensis. Other infusions coming from a different plant are classified as herbal tea or tisane. Despite the name, herbal teas are technically not a real tea since they don't contain the Camellia sinensis plant.
In general, there are six types of tea: white tea, yellow tea, green tea, oolong tea, red tea (known as black tea by the West), and puerh. Each type of tea has different amount of steep time and the number of times of infusion, as well as the temperature of water required to get the most desirable flavor.
Unlike in other cultures where tea is served with milk, cream, jam, honey, or lemon, tea in China is drank in its pure form. It is enjoyed as a hot beverage and is served in small tea cups.
Tea leaves are steeped directly in a teapot where it is later poured to another container after the steeping time is reached. Some tea drinkers steep tea through a tea infuser, but it is not advisable to use a small infuser, as that would restrict the opening of leaves and prevent the flavors from coming out.
Teas have high level of antioxidants that are beneficial for the health. In order to get the most out of the leaves' nutrients, it is advised to use boiled water for steeping. For those types of tea that require lower temperature for steeping, the boiled water could be left to sit for some time to cool down until the desired temperature is reached.
What are the types of tea?
Below are the main types of tea. Each type of tea has its own recommended brewing time and water temperature, which I will also include below. For first time brewers, start from one teaspoon of tea leaves for every 6 oz. fluid. Follow the recommended soak time depending on the type of tea you're brewing, and adjust the time accordingly depending on your taste.
Remember that the longer the steeping time, the more bitter the tea becomes. If you want a stronger infusion, add more tea leaves into the teapot.
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White tea is the least processed among all and thus the purest form of tea. This tea is taken from the young shoots of the tea plant. The leaves are quickly steamed and dried after harvest. It has the lowest amount of caffeine compared to other types of tea. Preparation of white tea requires only 1-2 minutes of steep time with a water temperature of 65 to 70°C (149 to 158 °F).
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Green tea is the most popular type of tea in Asia. The tea leaves are spread on a surface to air-dry and to slightly wither. These are later heated quickly to halt the oxidation process. The quick process results to a subtle flavor and aroma of the green tea. For this reason as well, the green tea only contains little amount of caffeine. It is suggested to not drink green tea with an empty stomach. Infusion of green tea takes 2-3 minutes with a water temperature 80 to 85 °C (176 to 185 °F).
NOTE: Green tea contains significantly higher level of polyphenols (an antioxidant) compared to other classes of tea due to its short oxidation time.
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The process of making yellow tea is similar to green tea, but with a longer period of drying. The tea leaves are then heated after the color turns to yellow. The aroma of the yellow tea is distinctive from that of the white tea and green tea, yet is somewhat similar to black tea. The tea leaves can be best steeped at a water temperature of 70 to 75 °C (158 to 167 °F) for 1-2 minutes.
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Oolong teas are partially oxidized tea leaves. After being sun-dried, the leaves are then shaken in a basket to crush the leaf edges. The leaves are then left to dry in the shade. The shaking and drying process is repeated several times that results to the leaf edges to turn red, with the center of the leaf remaining green. Oxidation stops when the leaves are finally heated at high temperatures, sealing in their distinctive flavor. The steep time of oolong tea takes 1-2 minutes, with water temperature of 90 to 100 °C (194 to 212 °F). The oolong tea leaves can be brewed many times, and the tea cup should be warmed first before pouring in the tea.
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Red teas are produced by full oxidation of the tea leaves. After allowing the tea leaves to wither for a longer period of time, they further undergo a controlled oxidation process. The process results to the development of a distinctive dark color and strong flavor pertaining to the red tea. After oxidation, the tea leaves are then heated to reach their finished state. Red tea is brewed at a temperature of 99 °C (210 °F) for 3-5 minutes.
Puerh or Pu'Er
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Puerh is a fermented type of tea. The tea leaves that are fermented may have been allowed to wither or none at all. The process of fermentation is maintained by the presence of bacteria in a controlled chamber. The exact fermentation process is however unclear, as the process itself is a guarded secret among tea manufacturers. The aging of the tea leaves results to a rich flavor and aroma of the puerh. The longer it is kept, the better the flavor. It is usually brewed at a boiling water - 95 to 100 °C (203 to 212 °F) for 3-5 minutes and can be steeped for several times.
Flower and Scented Tea
Flowering tea is a blend of tea leaves (green tea, black tea, white tea, or whichever class of tea) and dried flower petals of hibiscus, lily, jasmine, chrysanthemum, globe amaranth, or osmanthus. The dried tea leaves are sewn with the flower and then shaped into a bud. As the bud is steeped, it slowly opens up, imitating the blossoming of a flower.
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Video of Blooming Flower Tea