Monday, January 3, 2011

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Tea

I am a serious coffee addict and knowing how bad caffeine and coffee is I am planning on trying to switch my coffee for tea. I'll still hold on to my creamer though ;p  Being a southerner, hot tea is not something I'm used to so I asked a tea expert for some advice and she says...

Mate is a great transition away from coffee as it has about the same amount of caffeine. My problem with coffee is not the caffeine, it is the amount of cream + sugar I have to add to make it palatable. Green tea, gosh, there are so many. Genmaicha and matcha are my favorite types of green tea. Teavana/special teas really focuses on the flavored teas for taste. If you want straight teas (green or oolong, for example) you may want to order direct from China or Japan, there are several sites like ocha that you can order from. 

Did you know that all teas come from the same plant? (well, except Rooibos, which comes from an African shrub brush, mate which comes from the yerba mate plant, and herbal tea which is comprised of herbs or bits of fruit). Black, green, white, ph erh, and oolong are all from the same plant, the Camellia sinensisplantIt is the processing method that determines the type of tea.
Tea has many health benefits. They are (according to the Teavana website):

White Tea:
  • Extremely high amount of antioxidants
  • May inhibit the growth of certain forms of cancer
  • May reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Excellent for skin and complexion
  • Approximately 1% of the caffeine in a cup of coffee

Black Tea:
  • Aids in lowering cholesterol
  • May help regulate your blood sugar
  • Gently stimulates the heart and circulatory system
  • Promotes healthy teeth, skin and bones
  • Contains 20% of the caffeine in a cup of coffee

Green Tea:
  • May help boost the immune system
  • Includes polyphenols which may help prevent the growth of certain cancers
  • Soothes the stomach and digestive system
  • Regulates blood sugar
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Contains 5-10% of the caffeine in a cup of coffee.

Oolong Tea:
  • Good for metabolism and digestion
  • May help lower your cholesterol levels
  • Also known as ‘Wu-Long’ teas
  • Excellent for skin and complexion
  • Contains 10-15% of the caffeine in a cup of coffee.

Herbal Tea:
  • Delicious source of antioxidants and vitamins, particularly Vitamin C
  • Other benefits depend on the specific parts of individual teas
  • Naturally caffeine-free
  • Usually great hot or iced

  • Rich in vitamins and minerals
  • Works as an appetite supressant
  • 100% of the caffeine in a cup of coffee (without the sudden crash)

  • High in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals
  • May help control allergies and fight colds
  • Good for your skin and complexion
  • Helps improve digestion
  • Naturally caffeine-free
However, I seriously doubt some of these health claims. I mean, all teas contain antioxidants to a varying degree. Anyway, I know they are healthy and I enjoy drinking them, and it is better to have tea than too much coffee, for me anyway it is much easier on the digestive system.
My favorite teas are Silver Needle white tea, Earl Grey creme, Pu Erh, and Oolong, Rooibos, and Mate. The best way to drink tea is from a tetsubin, which is a traditional cast iron tea pot.

Tea should be steeped for varying temperatures and times. It is recommended for green and white tea to steep at 175 deg F (~80 C) for 1-2 min, black tea at 194 deg F (90 C) for 2-3 min, and mate or herbal tea for 208 deg F (~98 C) for 5 min.
In fact, I have quite the tea addiction. I started drinking more tea about a year and a half ago, a switch from coffee. I started off with one black tea, from Harney and Sons, the hot cinnamon spice and a green tea from Teavana. I quickly became addicted to other Teavana flavors, and currently have at least 14 different varieties of tea in stock in the kitchen. Rooibos, black, green, white, herbal, and mate are all there,

However, a secret lies within those tins. Oh yes, the secret of Special Teas. Yes, Special Teas. Because it was only recently I was made aware that Special Teas actually supplies all the tea for Teavana. But here is the thing, you can order ALL the same teas from Special Teas for a fraction of the price. And no, you do not have to order in bulk. I was shocked to learn this, but hey, better late than never, right? You do have to do some searching on their site to match the same teas, as they rename the Teavana teas as a marketing ploy. Observe:
First, you should visit the tea flavor finder on the Special Teas webiste:
Then pick a flavor. Say we pick strawberry melody, for instance. Note that a strawberry flavored white tea appears. However, this tea is not listed under white teas – for some strange reason almost all of the teas are under flavored teas and not under white, black, green, etc. At any rate, 1/4 lb (4 ozs) is $13.70. The ingredients listed are:
Ingredients: White tea Mao Feng, candied pineapple bits (pineapple, sugar), candied papaya bits (papaya, sugar), candied mango bits (mango, sugar), flavor, red currants, rose blossom leaves, strawberry bits, jasmine blossoms, flower of sandy immortelles
Go to the Teavana website and look under white teas. Click on Youthberry White and read the ingredients:
The ingredients are:
Ingredients: White tea, candied mango pieces (mango, sugar), candied pineapple pieces (pineapple, sugar), rosehip peels, apple bits, hibiscus flowers, red currants, flavoring, rose petals and acai fruit powder (acai, maltodextrin).
This tea is listed at $12.00. But wait, that is for only 2 ozs. And it is the same tea. I know the ingredients are EVER SO SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT AS LISTED, BUT LET ME ASSURE YOU IT IS THE SAME TEA.
You can play this game for several hours, matching up the tea from Teavana to the corresponding tea from Special Teas. Sometimes you may have to blend two teas together to make the available offering from Teavana, but that makes the end product EVEN CHEAPER!
Teavana JavaVana Mate:
Ingredients: Assam black tea, roasted mate, cocoa bits, flavoring, and vanilla bits.
$7.20 for 2 ozs.
Special Teas, mate roasted plus Vanilla-with-Finest-Madagascar-Vanilla or Chocolate Creme with Cocoa Pieces
$3.20 for 4 ozs of mate + $5.95 for 4 ozs of black tea = ~ $8 for 8 ounces of the mate blend. The same blend from Teavana would be ~ $25 for 8 ozs! Is that not unreal?!? At first I was livid when I found out but now I am pretty happy about it. Heck, now I can feed my tea addiction for much cheaper! However, I still love a cup of Harney and Sons Hot Cinnamon Sunset tea, it will always hold a special place in my heart. I have also heard that Adaigo Teas is yummy, and I think my next tea order is going to come from them, although I will still be frequenting Special Teas as well!

-Thanks to  Pandazen for all the info!!!

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