Although there is only one tea plant, camellia sinesis, there are many varieties, rather like the different grapes used to make wine. In addition, differences in growing conditions, age of the plant, and processing also affect the final product (again, like wine). Herbal infusions are not properly "tea" at all, but a mixture of other plants prepared in the same manner as tea.
- Store your teas in airtight jars.
- Loose teas are typically of higher quality than tea bags, which usually contain broken leaves or even "dust," or tiny tea particles.
- Learn about the basic varieties of tea: black, green and oolong. Black teas have been fermented, green teas are unfermented and oolong teas are semi fermented.
- Think about your desire or tolerance for caffeine. Black teas have some caffeine (about half as much as coffee), oolong teas have half as much as black, and green has one-third as much as black.
- Learn about tea grades and terminology. For example, orange pekoe; refers to a fairly large leaf size, and has nothing to do with flavor or quality.
- Try pure varieties of teas from different regions: China, India, Sri Lanka and Japan are major tea producers, but African and southeast Asian countries also produce tea.
- Taste blended teas, too. English Breakfast tea is one of the most popular. Blends vary among different manufacturers, so you might, for example, try several breakfast blends to find one that suits you.
- Investigate flavored black teas infused with flower and fruit blossoms, such as jasmine, ginger, lemon and almond. Earl Grey, probably the most famous flavored tea, is black tea with oil of bergamot, which gives the tea an orange-like aroma and taste. There are countless other flavors.
- Consider herbal teas (“tisanes’; or “infusions”) for a caffeine-free alternative. Herbal teas can range in taste from flowery to tangy or spicy. Chamomile, mint, orange spice and rosehip are some popular varieties.
- Choose a Chinese or Japanese green tea for a light, refreshing tea break.
- Take a British tea break and add lemon or milk and sugar to your tea.
Be certain to read about an herbal tea before using it for health purposes.