Tea Time


Reader Donna suggested that we share information on the benefits of tea. Good idea, Donna! Tea is incredibly healthy and is an easy way to get a daily dose of beneficial antioxidants. While we’re at it, let’s discuss the types of tea, too.

Tea Types

There is only one tea species. White tea, black tea, green tea, oolong – they all come from a single plant (camellia sinensis for you Latin nerds). The basic difference boils down (get it?) to how processed the leaves are and the level of fermenting involved. White tea is the least processed and the “freshest”, so it is highest in antioxidants. Yes, there is something better than green tea!

Antioxidant Potency

The differences are really not as extreme as is believed. All tea is healthy for you. However, the more processed teas are lower in antioxidants and much higher in caffeine. A hierarchy:

1. White

2. Green

3. Oolong (Really difficult to make – not for you, for the artisans. You boil it like any other tea leaf.)

4. Black


Top: white tea

Lower: jasmine pearls green tea – yum!

Top: green tea

Lower: oolong tea

Top: black

Lower: the ultra-rare (and uber-snobby) pureh

Pureh is pretty special stuff. Though popular in China, it’s rare here – we haven’t tried it yet. Have you?


Of course, boiled water poured immediately over the leaves, and 3 to 5 minutes of steeping time, will yield the best-tasting and most nutritious pot. Microwave is sacrilege and will invoke the wrath of the tea gods, so don’t even think about it!

Shopping Time

We had a lot of fun trying out many different types of tea from a local purveyor of some pretty fancy drinkable foliage. If you’re looking for flavor and health, white tea is even more delightful than green, but it’s very grassy and greeny, and definitely leaves a pucker. Black is nice in that “I grew up on it” way, but since coffee offers more caffeine for you addicts and other teas offer more antioxidants, black seems like sort of a sad little compromise. Still, many people prefer it, and there’s arguably nothing tastier than black tea with a little cream and honey.

Green teas are more varied than you might think. Our favorite was a special hand-rolled blend of green tea and lavender and jasmine similar to jasmine pearls. It was soothing, herbaceous, floral, and tasted like drinkable perfume. That is, if you could drink perfume (please don’t do this). This was a handcrafted tea, so it isn’t available everywhere, but jasmine pearls are a popular and high-quality offering available in many stores.

We also had a blast (and bounced off the walls) with a chocolate and mint infused black and green tea mix. It tasted like a peppermint patty! This was pretty strongly caffeinated and very flavorful. It would make a great after-dinner tea if you are entertaining and you and your guests plan to stay up late talking or watching a movie. It tastes like dessert!

Herbal teas are not really teas at all, of course, but dried herbs and flowers. They offer their own unique digestive, immune-enhancing and stress-relieving health benefits (just to name a few). Herbal teas are really more like natural medicinal treatments. Hey, that would make another great shopping expedition! (Looks like we just gave ourselves an assignment.)

Despite being a single species, teas are incredibly varied by region and processing technique. Try them all!

What’s your favorite tea beverage?



Why Green Tea Is Great

Imperial Tea (photos and information)

TAGS:  smart fuel

About the Author

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

24 thoughts on “Tea Time”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. mark i like tea but i could only have organic tea because i get headachs if its not organic.It took me awhile to figuer that out. I bought you damage control.And i love it Iv notice that i’m not craving much chocolate anymore.And have more energy. Thanks mark keep up the good work.

  2. i hope lemon grass dont have after affect on health.
    can i add ginger and garlic to lemon grass as tea

  3. On a trip to a tea plantation last year,
    we were told that when boiling water is added to tea leaves, the caffeine is out in 20 seconds. For a lower caffeine drink, pour off the first water and refill cup or pot. A friend who used to live in Singapore told me the Chinese there always treated their tea this way.

    1. This is how I’ve been preparing my tea since I gave up caffeine 3 years ago, and I love it. One of the marks of a high quality tea is that you can brew the leaves many times without losing flavor. I feel so much better now that I’m free of my caffeine addiction!

      1. I have read a Dutch blog that has tested that theory and it turns out that you need 3 minutes of steeping to remove up to 70% of the caffeine. A 30 second “wash” doesn’t do the trick. The 2nd and 3rd time you brew the leaves, you will have indeed pretty much gotten rid of the caffeine.

  4. Mark, I definitely recommend puerh. The raw variety is, like white tea, minimally processed, and the best stuff comes from wild tea trees. The “cooked” variety is pre-fermented, maybe probiotic? I drink it every day (it helps that I live in China!). It’s also the cheapest good quality tea per gram.
    Also, according to Chinese medicinal beliefs, green and white tea are cooling and so need to be consumed in moderation. Aged puerh is said to be more balanced, while offering the same polyphenol content as green or white tea. Or so I read once…
    If anyone’s interested I can offer some links.

  5. Also, I would guess the antioxidant content of oolong depends on if it’s roasted and, if so, how much. Some oolongs are very heavily roasted, others are about as much as green tea. So I’m guessing the greener the better.

  6. Hey Mark, nice summary and lovely pictures. I just wanted to point out your article would be easier to read if you correct “pureh” to “pu-erh” or even better the modern romanization “pu’er”… I keep having a double/triple take when I see “pureh”, it slows my reading speed to a crawl!

      1. I thkin you rea mssiing the pnoit.

        For a speaker of Chinese, living in China, who reads pinyin natively, it is seriously confusing to see transposed letters in a name of something which is a common item. Pu’er is as cheap and common as other teas in some parts of the world, my friend… so who’s the snob?

        I hpoe this clraifies my stnace. I jsut dddin’t konw waht Pureh was.

  7. What about herb tea? I like the mint teas that are caffeine free, but I don’t know if they are any good or not.
    How do these mint/herb based teas fit in with this?

  8. Hi,

    i like most kinds of tea.

    Pu-ur is fermented/aged. it can be green or black.

    snobby? only for those rare, limited production. i have seen aged > 10 year Pu-ur that came from a tea plant that is 1000 years old in a boutique store ($$$$$).

    Pu-ur (supposedly) has lowest caffeine of all teas; it also many other health benefits due to fermentation. (i find it a bit moldy for my taste tho; so it’s certainly an acquired taste)

    my favorite is “green oolong” (10% – 20% oxidized).
    A friend who’s family owns a plantation told me that only oolong has what they call “bouquet” (due to semi-oxidation).
    green tea or black tea don’t have the it (green tea is more vegetal tasting & 100% oxdiation destroys the “bouquet” ).
    oolong is hardest/tricky tea to make due to the various degree of oxidation.

    the oxidation process also introduce other good stuff. so while may loose some anti-oxidants, it gains in other areas.

    in summer, i like “orange green oolong” i make it cold.

    i was told high quality tea usually have lower caffein, as the leaves are plucked in spring or winter when young.
    summer tea (older leaves) tend to have more caffein.


  9. It’s always great to have such information regarding tea and its benefits. So many varieties and benefits drinking tea regularly.

  10. I’d also like to point out matcha, and I’m a bit surprised I didn’t see it mentioned in this post! It’s a DELICIOUS, finely-ground green tea. By far my favorite tea 🙂 You’re eating the whole leaf so big ups on the nutritional front and it’s also lots of fun to incorporate the powder into pretty much everything, with the additional awesomeness of a bright green hue 🙂

  11. EGCG is a very powerful compound found mainly in green tea that inhibits fat cells to grow AND actually causes their death.

    Knowing this, I drink green tea in the fasted state. The caffeine will boost the catecholemines that burn fat. Fat cells will be stressed to survive since the fasted state depletes them of their fat. The autophagy that is induced during fasting will cause even further acceleration of fat cell apoptosis (cell death). All of this creates a perfect storm that destroys fat cells.

    For more information on smart fat loss, visit my website.

    Matthew Caton

  12. I have just read a study that claims that the caffeine content in all of these teas is the same.

    It is a myth that there’s less caffeine in white and green tea. Tea leaves are tea leaves and no matter how long you ferment them, the caffeine content doesn’t increase. I choose to believe this, because it does sound incredibly logical to me 🙂

  13. I just have to add, that calling black and oolong teas fermented is incorrect in every sense of the word. They are OXIDIZED (allowed to be chemically altered by oxygen) rather than “fermented.”

    ONLY pu’erh tea is fermented. Fermenting takes bacteria and it can take many years for a good pu’erh to be properly fermented. Oxidizing happens much more rapidly, and tea (except pu’erh) is typically kept bacteria-free to keep the tea from becoming contaminated in any way, which could ruin the product.

  14. There is subtlety to be found in tea. You can take one type of tea and steep it with 2 water differing water temps for the same amount of time and get much different flavors.
    I am a bit of a nerd when it comes to tea.
    I would suggest buying a good quality tea and playing around with steeping time and temp to find out the best flavor for your enjoyment.
    For white and green tea warm water to 165 degrees
    for oolong about 175 degrees
    for black and puh er teas you can pretty much use boiling water.
    Water temp is important because water that is too hot for your tea more or less “burns” the leaves and leaves you bland or bitter.