The great appeal of tea reveals itself through the vast array of options available to you in your local grocery store or any online distributor. Although many hot beverages call themselves tea, there are in fact several variations and not all of them are based on the true tea plant.
True tea is created from the leaves of a plant called Camellia sinensis. These teas include white, green, oolong, and black tea. The list may seem longer because there are different varieties of these teas and sometimes they are flavored by adding other plants, spices or oils to them.
Flavored teas include Earl Grey, which is made of black tea and bergamot, and Jasmine, which is usually green tea and jasmine flowers. Other types of teas include Assam and Ceylon, which are black teas and Matcha and Sencha, which are green teas. These, of course, are just a few of the several varieties available on the market.
Herbal tea and tisane, on the other hand, happen to be one in the same but completely different than true teas from the tea plant. They originate from dried leaves, flowers or roots that are not from the Camellia sinensis plant. It seems almost any leaf or flower that is steeped in hot water is called tea;although in some countries the word tea is legally restricted to beverages that are made using the true tea plant.
Whether it is a true tea or an herbal tea most “teas” appear to have health benefits. Real teas, like oolong and green, have been included in more research studies and appear to offer the biggest health gain, although herbal teas have shown benefits too.
The herbal tea that seems to be showing the most studied benefit seems to be rooibos. It has a high level of antioxidants, somewhat similar to green tea, but because it isn’t made with tea leaves it doesn’t contain the caffeine. In recent studies rooibos, also known as red tea, has shown liver protecting abilities as well.
In my own personal experience I can almost always count on peppermint tea to soothe an upset stomach. I have a friend who always makes a mix of hibiscus, ginger and cinnamon to help her when she’s not feeling well.
However I love the flavor of true teas, and all the reported health benefits provide compelling reasons to enjoy more of them. With all the varieties and different qualities available it’s a lot of fun to explore and discover your favorites.
Aside from the question of tea or tisane you may also ask tea bag or loose leaf? Tea bags are great for convenience and the triangular tea bags are great for convenience with a little better flavor; but to truly enjoy the flavor a quality loose leaf tea is the best. The loose tea allows water to circulate around the leaves better to help draw out the flavor.
No matter your particular preference, the variety of teas makes it obvious how tea has become so popular across so many different cultures.