With over 3,000 varieties produced around the world, tea is just as diverse as wine and can be just as satisfying. If you've never been all that adventurous with your choice of brew, there's a good chance your favourite tea is still out there waiting to be discovered.
Like most tea varieties, black tea is made from the leaves of the plant Camellia sinensis. The leaves are left to dry for 24 hours after plucking and are then rolled before firing to encourage oxidisation, which gives them their distinct black hue and a high caffeine content equivalent to half a cup of coffee.
Black tea has been credited with numerous health benefits, including lowering cholesterol. Black tea is mainly produced in China, India and Sri Lanka, and varieties are typically named after the region in which they are cultivated, with famous names including Darjeeling, Earl Grey and Lapsang Souchong.
Unlike black tea, green tea is not left to oxidise after harvesting, resulting in its green colour and lower caffeine content. Green tea is most widely produced in Japan, where Genmaicha and Sencha varieties are made using a steaming process, and in China, where gunpowder tea and other varieties are pan fired.
Green tea features the antioxidant catechin, which is used to treat a range of medical conditions from viral infections to dental plaque.
Occupying the part of the spectrum between black and green tea, oolong tea is partly oxidised to produce gentle teas that are moderately high in caffeine. The degree of oxidisation that is allowed to take place before pan firing is what gives different oolong varieties their distinctive colours and characteristics, ranging from green to amber.
With their high antioxidant content, oolong teas are widely praised for their health benefits, particularly for reducing stress, aiding digestion and weight loss.
Low in caffeine, white tea is minimally processed using steam to prevent oxidisation occurring and retain even more antioxidants than oolong tea. White teas are made using buds and young leaves, meaning they can only be produced for a brief period each year, and this explains their scarcity compared to more common tea varieties.
In addition to the usual health benefits, white tea's high concentration of polyphenol antioxidants also offers anti-inflammatory and skin rejuvenating properties.
Made from South Africa's rooibos ('red bush') plant, rooibos 'tea' is not tea in the strictest sense, but has become popular as a caffeine-free alternative that's also low in tannin and packed with antioxidants and minerals.
Herbal infusions may be preferred to traditional tea for reasons of taste or health. From popular blends such as peppermint and chamomile to specialist teas for treating all manner of health and wellbeing issues, herbal infusions are easily the most diverse tea category.
If you're craving something sweet or sour, fruit infusions are refreshing whether served hot, iced or in cocktails. With tempting berry, citrus and tropical flavours, fruit tea can also be a healthy alternative to soft drinks for all ages.
Enjoy a fresh pot of tea at Coffee & Cream
or check out Coles'
selection of teas to take home with you!
13 / 05 / 2016