If you ask any person what the UK is most famous for, I’m sure a lot of responses would include tea – that warm, comforting flavour appeals to a lot of us. But how many people know more about tea than your standard cuppa or the odd, “healthy” green?
For me, I actually rarely drink a cup of bog standard tea – usually if I’m not feeling well or hungover, I have a craving (I know, it’s weird right?). Otherwise I usually have green, white or herbal tea through the afternoon and a chamomile in the evening.
Believe it or not, there are actually quite a number of factors to consider when it comes to tea, so here are a few to think about next time you’re tea shopping:
Loose Leaf Tea or Teabags
Tea bags, by their nature, are often filled with the lower quality tea leaves which have a more dusty texture – they are mass produced and infuse quickly into water. They can be useful for on the go, but they do make a lower quality cuppa.
Loose leaf however is usually higher quality, larger tea leaves which allow a better, fuller flavour (especially when they are infused with lots of room to diffuse e.g. in a teapot). Not only that but they actually retain far more antioxidants and essential oils – meaning they are often much better for you too! It also avoids the use of teabags which can be made from various materials or subjected to treatments that may cause chemicals to seep into the water during brewing which may affect the body, especially if used regularly.
How much caffeine is in tea?
Generally there is half as much caffeine in a cup of tea than a cup of coffee (this only applies to green, white & black tea as herbal and rooibos are naturally caffeine free).
Types of Tea…
Black, Green & White
Surprisingly these three teas all come from the same plant, the difference is how they are processed. Black tea is processed the most and is fully oxidised, it can be brewed using water that’s just boiled (leave for about 10 seconds) – allow to brew for 3-4 minutes. Green tea leaves are stopped from oxidising and are thought to contain high levels of antioxidants because of this. White tea is the purest form and thought to contain the highest level of antioxidants. Both green and white tea need slightly cooler water, so leave the water a few minutes after boiling and brew for 3-4 minutes – if you put freshly boiled water on, it will burn the leaves and give them a bitter taste – does that sound familiar? That’s often why people think they don’t like green tea, but it’s just a case of trying a different way of brewing!
Rooibos is from a different plant (the red bush) and is thought to improve circulation and protect and repair the skin.
Herbal teas are made from fruit and herbal infusions – their benefits depend on the ingredients (for example camomile is used to help with relaxation and sleep).
Like black tea, rooibos and herbal teas can be brewed with boiling water (leave 10 seconds or so) and for about 3-4 minutes.
Now to the really fun part, we all know you can drink a hot cup of tea but what else can you do with it?
Ice Lollies – yes Summer is drawing to an end but there’s still time to try some iced tea lollies. Herbal teas work really well for these, all you need to do is brew a strong cup of tea (use twice the usual amount of tea and allow to brew for 10 minutes, or longer!), then pour into ice cream moulds, add some chopped fruit and leave in the freezer until frozen! My favourite to use is this raspberry lemonade.
Tea Latte – the perfect warming drink for the autumnal months, a rooibos tea works really well. Start by warming some milk (cows, almond, whatever) with a tablespoon of tea (per serving) on the hob over a gentle heat, the slower the better to allow the flavour to diffuse into the milk, about 15 minutes. Then sieve to remove the tea and put into a mug, if you have a milk frother to make it frothy, even better! Top with a dusting of cocoa or cinnamon. Any tea that has a strong flavour is great, my absolute favourite is this orange spice cake topped with cinnamon – the flavour is so warming and perfect for an evening.
Iced Tea – another good one for herbal tea, iced tea is a great way to refresh. All you need to do is brew twice the tea per portion (i.e. 2 spoons per person) and allow to cool (ideally leave in the fridge overnight) then sieve the tea and add ice along with any fruit of choice. My favourite is this reggae refresh, served with lime and fresh mint.
Cold Brew Latte – another cold tea alternative, simply brew a very small amount of strong tea (use twice the amount of tea and a third of the water), allow to cool and then add your milk of choice and pour over some ice…voila! I love anything chai flavoured, so I usually use this Orange Choc Chai.