An ancient drink with a rich history, tea is one of the most widely consumed beverages around the world. According to legend, the mythological Chinese ruler Shennong discovered tea by accident when the leaves of a nearby plant fell into water he had boiled.
Thanks to the nutritional benefits of tea, including its antioxidant properties, which may help strengthen the immune system, tea has been consumed for millenia. It’ become an integral component of cultural rituals and is as beloved for its taste as its medicinal properties. Tea is now a $10 billion industry in the United States and a $38.8 billion industry worldwide.
While there are many different types of tea, they all stem from five basic classifications: black, green, white, oolong, and pu’erh. The variety depends on how the leaves are treated after picking, according to Fresh Tea, a tea information organization. The following is a look at some of the popular varieties of tea.
· Darjeeling: This is a black tea that has a light, nutty taste and a floral smell. It is lighter than other types of black teas.
· Earl Grey: Another black tea, Earl Grey gets its flavor from the addition of bergamot, which is an orange extract.
· Oolong: Some of the more popular varieties of oolong include Da Hong Pao, Dong Ding, Tieguanyin, Baozhong, and Jin Xua. Oolong is semi-oxidized, so it falls between green and black teas regarding its strength of flavor.
· Silver needle tea: This is the most expensive white tea around the world. It has been a favorite among various Chinese dynasties.
· Assam: While many teas hail from China, assam is a black tea that originates from Assam, India. It has a full-bodied flavor and brisk taste.
· English breakfast tea: This is a traditional blend of black teas originating from Assam, Ceylon and Kenya. It has a relatively high caffeine content, so it’s energizing and robust.
· Masala chai: Chai is the Hindi word for tea. Masala chai recipes differ, but generally speaking the tea is made from an assam or another black tea mixed with cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, cloves, fennel, ginger, and peppercorn. The tea is blended with milk to make a creamy, spicy brew.
· Matcha: This is a traditional Japanese green tea powder made by grinding up green tea leaves. The flavor is stronger than other green tea brews because the powder is mixed into the water, rather than being steeped.
· Bubble tea: Bubble tea originated in Taiwan. It is made from either black tea or matcha mixed with milk and tapioca balls and served over ice.
· Pu’erh: A unique type of fermented black tea that’s traditionally made in the Yunnan Province of China. Pu’erh can be left to age, helping the flavor to mellow.
Tea is consumed daily around the world. Tea aficionados can try the scores of teas available to find their favorite.
Image by Mami Miyashima