(Photo courtesy of alittlething from Flickr under CC license)
(Photo courtesy of alittlething from Flickr under CC license)

By ALEXANDRA WEE, Staff Columnist

I believe there are only three things worth drinking (even after happy hour): water, coffee and tea. One keeps me alive, the other wakes me up and the third calms me down, a true-power trio. Lately though, I’ve been especially fond of tea.

Maybe it’s because of this cozy autumn chill or a need for sanity through classes, grad school apps and one too many hours working part-time retail. Whatever the cause, a good cup of tea to me is like wool socks and my pet dog on a day off.

If you’re not a tea-lover already, let me introduce you to your new best friend.

First, a quick tea-brief

For nearly 5,000 years, tea has been used to heal and quench the minds, bodies and souls of individuals from East to West. Not only has it been a symbol of social status and an integral part of gatherings but its tiny leaves have also been catalysts for political change.

There are dozens of legends on how tea was first discovered but the most popular account surrounds Chinese Emperor Shen Nong in 2737 BC. One day, after leaves of a nearby tea plant blew into his pot of boiling water the emperor tasted the accidental brew and, what do you know, he enjoyed it.

Today, the love for tea runneth all around the globe. From its migration to Japan in the 8th century CE, birthing the culturally iconic tea ceremonies, to its first appearance in England in the 1600s, the tea leaves are now steeped everyday for about half the American population, according to the Tea Association of the US.

Reasons to love tea

Drinking three cups of tea daily can help your body reap tons of benefits like increased metabolism, improved mental performance, healthy cholesterol levels, better skin complexion, and overall peace of heart and mind so get steeping and sip up!

Brewing for beginners

1. Bags or loose leaves? The best thing is that you really can’t go wrong with either. Bags are often easier to prep if you’re usually on the go but if you’ve got just a few minutes to spare, loose leaves don’t take that much longer to brew. And though there are some excellent quality tea bags, most often the leaves will give you a fuller flavor; plus they can be stored longer (keep them in an air-tight container in a cool, dark and dry environment.)

2. Types of tea: Don’t get confused in the tea aisle by all the boxes, brands, forms and flavors! There are four basic kinds of tea. WHITE tea is the least processed with high antioxidants levels and low caffeine while BLACK tea is fully fermented (hence the dark leaves) and the most commonly consumed worldwide. GREEN tea has slightly more caffeine than white and OOLONG is known for its sweet fragrance. All of these teas are made from a plant called camellia sinesis, native to East and South Asia; India, China, Japan, Sri Lanka and Taiwan are known to produce the best quality teas (teavana.com)

3. How to Brew: For loose leaf teas, use about a teaspoon for yourself and add another if you’re making a whole pot. Pour boiling water over teas and steep for a few minutes: 2-4 minutes for white and green teas (let water cool a bit first before pouring), 3-5 for oolong and black teas (wholefoodsmarket.com, “Guide to Tea”).

Did you know?

Herbal teas aren’t teas! They’re made of, well, dried herbs instead of the camellia sinesis’ leaves. They’re still good for you though and can be fused with dried fruits, flowers and other teas to create a sea of amazing flavors.

  • Darren

    Good article. Just a hint: Green teas should be steeped in very hot water (180 and above), but not in boiling water as it brings out the bitterness. Black teas use boiling water.

    • Alexandra

      Haha, great! Thanks for the info!