You can decode the color of tea and learn its secrets so that you can enjoy it immensely!
Do you think all teas are created equal? Teas have different colors, varying caffeine content and a range of powerful vitamins and antioxidants. It is quite fascinating to discover each type and the benefits afforded by each variety. From white to black, the unique attributes of tea make it a smart choice not only for drinking but also for cooking as well.
The various types
All types of tea come from the Camellia sinensis plant. The leaves are processed in different ways creating different kinds of tea with a variety of benefits. Red tea is the only exception. Red tea comes instead from the South-African Aspalathus linearis plant, which in Afrikaans means ‘red bush’.
The leaves and the emperor
Tea was probably discovered by accident. Legend has it that while the Chinese emperor Shen Nung boiled water, a light breeze blew in leaves from a bush nearby. The leaves landed in the cooking pot and began to color the water before anyone noticed them. But it was the sweet smell that gave them away. So it was the Chinese emperor in 2737 BC that tried the world’s first cup of tea. And since then, drinking tea has become a beloved habit for many people around the world for centuries
White tea is the least processed. This is why it is so high in antioxidants and price. It can only be harvested for a few days per year at the beginning of spring and is then dried without oxidation. White tea has a delicate taste and owing to its high antioxidant content, protects the body from free radicals, hindering the process of oxidative stress and subsequently, aging. White tea also has anti-cancer properties (mainly because of the flavonoids it contains), reduces blood pressure, contributes to heart health, and has antibacterial properties.
In a cup: Steep in hot water for 1-3 minutes.
On a plate: Its delicate flavor does not make it an easy ingredient to use in cooking, but can be used to add a kick to an otherwise boring mousse.
Slightly more processed than white tea, green tea is rich in antioxidants (more than black or oolong, but fewer than white), and mainly catechins. It also contains caffeine and techins. Green tea has been researched extensively and it has been found to balance blood sugar and cholesterol levels, to protect from atherosclerosis, boost your immune system and contain anti-cancer properties. It’s no accident that the Chinese have been using green tea medicinally for over 4,000 years.
In a cup: Steep for 2-3 minutes in hot water.
On a plate: Combine green tea leaves with other herbs and use to marinate fish before baking. You can also make green tea cookies.
Black tea leaves are completely processed and result in a potent aroma and high levels of caffeine. This type of tea has the fewest catechins (a type of phytochemical that is associated with various health benefits) because of its extensive processing. Black tea contains polyphenols, which according to science, are powerful anti-inflammatory agents.
In a cup: Steep in hot water for 3-5 minutes.
On a plate: Mix black tea leaves with other herbs and spices like coriander and ginger, along with some brown sugar, and create a unique rub for chicken, fish and baked vegetables.
Oolong (combination of green and black tea)
The leaves are partially oxidized during processing. The time required for processing is somewhere between that of black and green tea, while its flavor is more similar to green tea as are the health benefits it provides.
In a cup: Steep in water that has just begun to boil for 3-5 minutes.
On a plate: Add oolong tea leaves to fried rice and add vegetables.
Red tea comes from the Rooibos plant. It is an adequate replacement for coffee since it boosts the nervous system without containing caffeine. It is beneficial for allergies and peptic system issues. What makes it exceptional is its sweet flavor.
In a cup: Steep in boiling water for 3-5 minutes.
On a plate: It fits with salads and soup.
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