By Sofía González
People tend to easily place themselves into categories as a way of giving others an idea of who they are. You can be a dog or a cat person. Or an indoors or outdoors type of individual. Or, you might be into coffee or tea. To some, each category provides pointers towards what are your tastes or, more specifically, what to these tastes say about you.
Those who prefer tea, or are starting to get acquainted with the world of tea, might find the variety of choices overwhelming. Was drinking tea always so complicated? Well, yes. Navigating into the basics is always difficult. Also, not all flavor profiles are suitable for beginners.
By this moment, if you are just getting started into tea, you'd never expect such an ample spectrum of flavors - ranging from subtle and aromatic to strong and intense. But there's more to it than just the flavor profile. As a matter of fact, here are five common questions (and their respective answers) about tea.
What's the difference between infusion and tea?
Simply put: an infusion is a preparation process by which you extract the nutrients of a plant or herb through a liquid. An infusion does not necessarily involve water - people use oil, vinegar and other substances.
Tea, on the other hand, is the drink you obtain from the infusion of tea leaves in hot water. Please bear in mind that we mentioned tea leaves specifically, a tea plant known in the scientific world as Camellia sinensis. According to Cup and Leaf, there are only five true teas in the world: white, green, oolong, black and pu-erh tea.
There are as many teas as moods that suit them.
In summary, a cup of tea is a type of infusion you solely obtain through tea leaves. If it doesn't use true tea, it is usually known as an infusion.
What are the main types of tea?
As mentioned before, there are only five types of true tea. White tea is made with the youngest leaves of the tea plant, meaning it's minimally processed. They usually are light-bodied, with floral and nutty notes.
Green tea, on the other hand, includes an additional step: it's dried through heat. Green teas tend to taste more like herbs, but their profile ranges from grassy to floral. The third type is oolong, which are semi-oxidized teas. In other words, the tea leaves interact with oxygen in a chemical process that darkens the leaves. The end result depends on how much oxidation the tea has received.
Black teas are fully oxidized and offer bold, earthy flavors. These are perfect for people who enjoy strong drinks, such as coffee. Finally, pu-erh tea follows a process that resembles aging. Aged, also known as post-oxidized tea has a woody and earthy flavor, which becomes more complex with time.
Does all tea have caffeine?
According to many sources, all five types of true tea have caffeine. White and green tea are the ones who contain the least, roughly around 15 to 40 milligrams a cup. As a comparison, a cup of black coffee has between 85 and 200 milligrams of caffeine. Pu-erh and black teas can contain up to 70 milligrams.
Herbal teas soothe digestive ailments.
Although coffee has more caffeine, black tea is sometimes preferred as an afternoon pick-me-up. Its lack of tanines and lower caffeine content wakes you up but it has a smoother drop. A drop is the amount of time it takes for the amount of caffeine in your blood to fall by half. The more caffeine you consume, the stronger your body will feel the drop.
Herbal teas and herbal infusions contain no caffeine at all. This makes them an excellent alternative to tea, as it allows people to enjoy a warm, aromatic infusion without the jitters caused by caffeine.
What's the right way to make tea?
The preparation is pretty basic: you just need tea or herbs and heated water. There's a catch, though: the water you use must be around 80 degrees Celsius, never boiling. Teas and infusions are steeped in hot water, not boiling water.
Herbal infusions take a longer time to release flavor, so you should give them between 5 to 7 minutes. Teas, especially true teas, depend on how much they have oxidized. Black teas require 2 minutes at most, whereas green and white teas require 2 to 3 minutes.
What else can you make with caffeine free tea?
A lot, as matter of fact! For starters, you can make iced tea and different variations of it: sparkling iced tea, milk iced tea, iced tea with chopped fruit - you name it! Just bear in mind herbal infusions, which are caffeine free, take longer to brew. Allow them enough time so that the flavor is strong enough.
You can also cook with tea. Either use the leaves and herbs as a crust, infuse caffeine free tea in butter, milk or other liquid and use it for cooking or use the tea as a broth or substitute for water. Not all teas and infusions work for this, though.
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