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The Way of Tea

HerbClip 070156.295 examines a study which sought to determine the antioxidant levels of tea flavonols when consuming black tea, green tea, and green tea extract. While the study found that the green tea supplement provided the most antioxidant activity, the marketing strategies of tea and coffee companies assures that drinking tea has and will continue to increase in popularity.

However, while studies elucidate the different properties and benefits of tea, they usually don't detail how to make a good cup of tea. Fortunately, tea houses, such as the Tao of Tea in Portland, OR and Teaz Me in Chico, CA are educating the general consumer not only on the health benefits of tea but also on how to brew a good cup.

It all starts with the water. Non-chlorinated is best as chlorination destroys the tea's flavor. Water with a pH level of 7 or higher is optimal. Interestingly, the temperature of the water should never reach the boiling point, as boiling water tends to stew the tea leaves, and since oxygen evaporates in the boiling process, the mineral texture of the tea is lost. White and green teas should be steeped at about 140°F to 175°F. Oolong, rooibos, pu-er, and black teas can be steeped near the boiling point.

Quantity of leaves is another factor. One tea expert suggests using a lesser amount of leaves and steeping longer, providing more control to the tea drinker. They also suggest leaving the tea leaves in the water instead of straining them out, which if you prefer strong tea like I do, you do anyway. The smaller the leaf the less quantity of it is needed. The fluffier the leaves (as in white teas and some Chinese green teas) the more tea leaves you will need. In China and Taiwan, the usual amount is three grams of leaves per cup.

Steeping time is also a consideration. For green teas, the recommended steeping time is between 2.5-3.5 minutes. Oolong teas can provide many infusions and can be steeped for 5-6 minutes. For black and rooibos (red) teas, steeping time is 3-4 minutes. For pu-er teas, the longer you steep, the smoother they become. For compressed leaves, steep 6-8 minutes; for loose leaves, steep 3-4 minutes. Herbal teas vary according to the part used. Flower top teas (chamomile, red clover, echinacea) can be steeped 5 minutes or more. Flower petal teas (rose hips, hibiscus) take much less time. Root teas (ginseng, kava) require a significant amount of time 10-15 minutes. Steeping time not only brings out the flavor of the tea, but also releases the antioxidants within the leaves.

Lori Glenn, Coordinator