All about tea

TEA FOR BEGINNERS

The best rule about tea is that there are no rules. Tea is very versatile and everyone can find their favourite tea for any time of the day.

This site is dedicated to quality leaf tea from all over the world, e.g. China, India, Sri Lanka, Africa and South America. There are different types of tea, e.g. black, green, oolong, which are all from the same plant. The difference is the way the leaves are processed (see "Tea types and Tea production"). All other "teas" (e.g. rooibos, mate, herbal and fruit teas) are infusions of herbs, fruits, flowers, leaves or other parts of different plants.

In general one can say that black tea is the strongest, in terms of taste, colour and caffeine content, followed by oolong tea and green tea (incl. white and yellow tea). To get the best out of the tea leaves the right brewing technique is crucial. Here are a few guidelines:

- Only cold water should be filled into the kettle.
- If the water quality is very poor (coloured water, lime etc.) use filtered or bottled
water.
- Boil water only once (not longer than 10 seconds). Do not re-boil it, use fresh water every time
- Calculate one tea spoon (hence the name) for one cup (depending on your preferences).
- Make sure the water temperature is right (label on tea bag will give you detailled information).
- Keep the right brewing time. Boling water for black, 65°-80° degrees centigrade for green, oolong in between).
- Never wash the tea pot with anything other than pure water

For further information please read the chapter "How to brew a perfect cup of tea".

For simplicity we divide potential tea drinkers into four groups:

1. no tea drinker or complete beginner
2. tea drinker already who wants to find out more about different teas
3. coffee drinker
4. wants to drink tea because of health benefits

Group 1
If you are new to the world of tea the best thing to do is to try each type of tea to find out which one appeals to you the most. It might help to try a scented tea first and move on from there. Here are some suggestions as to what teas to try:

- Black Assam (a strong, coppery red coloured example).
- Black Darjeeling (a more delicate, lighter tea).
- Wild Cherry ((scented black tea with cherry pieces)
- Green Young Hyson (typical Chinese green tea)
- Green Spring (scented green tea with strawberry and red currant).

To make it easier for you we put all these teas in the "Beginner" sampler pack including a tea net (Euro 10).

Group 2
You are already a tea drinker and it is most likely black tea. Since Irish teas mainly consist of hearty African and/or Indian blends your palate is used to strong brews. In order to enjoy lighter and more fragrant teas we recommend that you explore the differences between the black teas firstly before you move on to the half fermented Oolong and to green teas. Scented green tea might be a good introduction into the world of unfermented tea.

We recommend the following teas:

- Ceylon OP Dimbula (Ceylon superior is even better but more expansive)
- Darjeeling first flush "Tukdah" (other Darjeelings are suitable as well)
- China Keemun (completely different from the two above)
- Temple Dance green (mix of sencha, gunpowder, jasmine and osmanthus tea with orange)
- any Chinese green tea (depending on your budget)
- Formasa Jade Ding Dong Oolong (a little expensive but well worth it).

Try to detect the differences in smell, colour and taste. Give your palate a chance and stay off the strong teas (especially tea bags) for a while. It is like having too much salty food which will overpower any other spice. When you return to your old favourites do you notice the difference?

Group 3
You did not like tea very much in the past but you want/need to replace coffee with something healthier. Start with black teas. Assam sorts (e.g. Assam "Hattialli") and black Yunnan (Golden Yunnan GFOP) are particulary recommendable, because they are strong and aromatic, bit like coffee. They also go well with milk and/or sugar so you do not have to abandon your old habits. If you like what you are drinking you could move on to more delicate teas (you have moved into Group 2 now).

Group 4
Tea was first used as a medicine before it became a drink. It contains vitamins (especially green tea), minerals, essential oils and a group of chemicals called 'polyphenols' (often mistaken as tannic acid). They are responsible for the many health benefits of tea. Please have a look at the chapter "Tea and Health" for more detailled information.

We suggest three to five cups of green tea daily. Which particular tea depends on your preferences and budget (more expensive teas are not healthier). Jasmine tea is ideal after a rich meal (if you order tea in a Chinese restaurant you usually get this one). Pu Erh and Oolong teas are known to be best for reducing 'bad' cholesterol . If you do not like the green sorts, black tea is an alternative.

Please be aware that tea contains caffeine. An alternative would be Rooibos tea which has a lot of vitamin C but no caffeine at all.

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