It's no secret we're fond of our tea here in Ireland. Most homes aren't without a box of the ever popular black tea. While we all probably know a lot about the art of drinking tea (i.e. which biccies go best), there's a whole world of teas out there that you might not know about. From greens to whites and tisanes, there are some amazing teas with even more amazing benefits. We've created this handy guide to tea types in case you're looking to branch out.
The History of Tea
The history of tea spans thousands of years; it is rich, heavy and bold, like a strong cup of Lapsang Souchong tea. Tea leaves have sparked revolutions, forced a leader of colonising into compromising their gold standard, factored into tyrannical drug wars, and contributed to the rise and fall of economies and governments.
China and other parts of East Asia have documented the use of tea leaves as far back as 1,500 BC (and they were likely brewed even prior to this) and China remains the largest producer of tea in the world, with a country in South Asia being another — India has been exporting tea in large amounts since its ‘introduction’ to the country.
A Guide to Tea Types
On to our guide to tea types! The easiest way to sort teas is via their colour. But did you know that the majority of tea is simply the same leaf from the Camellia Sinensis plant oxidised to a different level?
Typical of breakfast teas and often mixed with milk and sugar, black tea is created on the highest side of the spectrum of oxidisation. It, alongside green tea, is the kind we are probably most familiar with here in Ireland. Variations include Assam (also known as Irish Breakfast Tea), Earl Grey, Darjeeling and the smoky and rich Lapsang Souchong which has its tea leaves dried over fires of pine wood.
Black tea, as per most, contains caffeine, so try and avoid it too close to bedtime. However, it does have its benefits such as keeping you alert and giving you an energy boost, as well as containing antioxidants. An interesting note on black tea - it may inhibit your iron absorption due to the presence of tannins, so be wary if you struggle to keep your levels up!
Next up in our guide to tea types is the ever popular green tea. This tea is also of the same plant as black tea - simply less oxidised. This leads to a milder flavour which can be more sharp than rich. Although the same plant, green tea offers more benefits than black due to the lowered fermentation in processing - it keeps the polyphenols that are lost in black tea, and these offer cardiac health benefits. It also contains caffeine alongside a flavonoid called catechin, and this combination has been shown to help increase the body’s metabolism!
There are many variants of green tea, including Sencha (a loose leaf) and Matcha (a finely ground powder). Matcha is the more expensive as it is grown in almost complete darkness, a process which not only increases the caffeine level, but also the level of L-theanine, an incredible amino acid that promotes concentration and offers stress-busting properties.
White tea has its oxidisation process halted very quickly after being picked, and the leaves and bud are plucked while still young. This allows a much more delicate and light flavour than that of green tea or black tea - white tea pairs well with added fruity and floral hints.
Although it still contains caffeine, it does have a lower level of L-theanine (much lower in comparison to Matcha green tea) but an increase in the level of antioxidants! When it comes to fighting aging and free radicals in the body, white tea has the most benefits.
Red tea is actually not a true tea - it comes from the Aspalathus Linearisplant which is grown solely in South Africa. Also known as Rooibos tea, this nutty and rich brew is naturally caffeine free, preferred by many as it has not undergone the alterations and processing that decaffeinated tea has.
It can be taken with milk, similar to black tea, and contains very low levels of tannins. Therefore it doesn't have the same effect on iron levels that black tea can have. This also means it cannot be over brewed, making it a wonderful substitute for creating iced tea. It is rich in antioxidants, and is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties.
Tisane (Herbal) Tea
Last up in our guide to tea types is the herbal variety. Tisanes or herbal teas aren't actually tea at all (because they don't come from the Camelia Sinensis plant) - they're infusions.
They're made from the likes of leaves, spices, seeds and berries and are categorised by what part of the plant they come from. They are caffeine free and can have single ingredients or complex blends. The flavours and benefits are vast and varied, but here are some of our favourites as well as their uses:
Leaf tisanes: Mint; refreshing, soothing, can increase focus and has antispasmodic properties.
Flower tisanes: Chamomile - calming, encourages relaxation.
Bark tisanes:Cinnamon - aromatic, can offer blood sugar balancing benefits.
Root tisanes: Ginger - wonderful for nausea, warming and spicy.
Fruit/berry tisane: Raspberry leaf - vitamin rich, and commonly taken in the final month of pregnancy to promote uterine health.
Seed/spice tisanes: Fennel - ideal digestive support, perfect after meals.
So there you have, a quick and easy guide to tea types. A whole tapestry of the past is in every cup, and you can find your perfect hot drink in any of our stores or online at Evergreen.ie!
Checked and updated: 15 August 2021