It’s National Hot Tea Month this January, and to celebrate, we’re sharing our favorite facts about the world’s second favorite beverage, as well as some tips for the best tea-drinking experience throughout your day.
At Saatva, we love tea not just for its delicious taste, but also because it’s the perfect companion to healthy sleep. Whether it’s waking up with a boost of English Breakfast or winding down with a soothing cup of chamomile, tea serves us well both in the morning and at night.
Some Quick Facts
All tea derives from the leaves of one plant: Camellia sinensis, native to China and India. The most common varieties are green tea, black tea, white tea, and oolong tea. (There’s also pu-erh tea, a Chinese delicacy, that can be wildly expensive.) What separates these variations is how the leaves are processed.
But what about other favorites, like peppermint or herbal tea? While these look like tea and can certainly taste like it, they are still not technically tea, but rather the combination of boiling water and dried fruits, flowers, herbs, roots, or other ingredients. Even so-called “red tea” is merely an infusion of leaves from the rooibos plant.
Key Health Benefits
Tea’s purported health benefits come from a high concentration antioxidants called polyphenols. Polyphenols are also commonly found in fruits, vegetables, and grains but tea is especially and uniquely rich in particular types of polyphenols called catechins that may be the most powerful ones of all.
In fact, the most potent of these catechins, known as ECGC, may protect against free radicals that can contribute to cancer, heart disease, and clogged arteries.
Best Time to Drink Tea
First off it’s important to note that all genuine teas have caffeine, and we’ve learned that caffeine is generally not the best idea when trying to get to bed. Second, there is always going to be a personal component when you’re determining what type of tea is best and when to drink it. Maybe one cup a day is all you need! Listen to your body above all else.
With that in mind, here’s an initial guide that will help you develop the tea time routine that works best for you throughout the day and night. For the best flavor, use loose leaves, rather than tea-bags wherever possible.
After a long night’s sleep, our palate is going to be very receptive to the flavor. Ease into your tea routine in the early morning with the more subtle white tea. This tea is among the most delicate, so use warm but not boiling water. If you need more caffeine at all costs, try a black tea like English breakfast for a hearty flavor (you should boil the water here). The Japanese green tea powder, known as matcha, also offers a powerful energy boost if you can find it.
Now that you’ve truly woken up, look to oolong tea which combines the robust, darker notes of black tea with the fresh subtleties of green tea. Use hot but not boiling water.
As your day wears on, think about a transition to green tea. These teas have less caffeine than black tea, but still provide stimulation. Chinese green teas, such as longjin, are roasted, and have a nice earthy, nutty flavor, while Japanese green teas, such as sencha, are steamed, giving them a fresh, grassy taste. Use hot but not boiling water.
At this time of day, it’s a good idea for most people to avoid or limit caffeine intake. Some teas have naturally low caffeine content, like the smoked black tea, lapsang souchong. It’s a unique and acquired taste, but it’s ideal for the evening time when you want to wind down. Alternatively, here’s a handy tip: reduce the caffeine content of your tea by brewing it once, dumping the first batch and brewing it again. Much of the leaf’s caffeine leaches during the initial steep, so the second brew will have less of the first’s stimulating properties. The flavor may vary slightly, but good teas can be brewed at least twice without getting bitter.
We can’t overlook a few caffeine-free herbal teas in our run-down. Peppermint is helpful for digestion, ginger for nausea, and, of course, chamomile can help us ease into a pleasant slumber. If you’re looking for a refreshing, fruity flavor without the sugar of a juice, try hibiscus tea (hot or iced).