Tea Drinking 101

Tea Drinking 101

Posted by Selina Law on May 2nd 2019

Tea Drinking 101

There are certain tea related questions that are repeatedly asked at my tea workshops. It may be a good idea for me to go over them here because they seem to be of interest to many people.

Do white and green teas have caffeine?

Yes, all true teas have caffeine. True teas, such as white, green, oolong, black and puerh, all came from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, and they all have caffeine. In general, the less processed the tea, the less caffeine it contains. Thus, white and green teas usually have less caffeine than oolong, black and puerh.

Most herbal infusions such as chamomile, peppermint, rooibos, etc. are caffeine-free.

Is it right to add milk and/or sugar to tea?

I do not believe that there is a “right” or “wrong” answer for this question. I always say to people that tea as a beverage could be drunk to our own personal preferences. There is no one correct way to drink tea.

It is, however, worth noting that some teas withstand milk and/or sweetener better than others. The more subtle and delicate the tea flavor, the easier for milk and sweetener to overpower its taste. Thus, it is more common to add milk and sugar to black (and sometimes puerh) teas than to other teas, since black (and puerh) teas typically have stronger flavor.

Will milk and sugar diminish tea’s health benefits?

If you are drinking tea for health, it is better to drink it straight without milk and/or sugar. There have been studies showing that the proteins found in milk interact with the disease-fighting flavonoids and antioxidants in tea and reduce their health benefits. Proteins found in soy milk apparently have the same effect.

Sugar doesn’t seem to have anything in it that counteracts with tea’s health benefits. However, sugar itself is linked to a whole list of illnesses and health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease, increased risk of cancer, inflammation…just to name a few.

After pointing out the downsides of adding milk and sugar to tea, I have to confess that occasionally I do find a nice hot cup of sweetened tea latte or chai very comforting, especially on a cold winter day! If you are going to add milk and sugar to your tea, you should try to give your tea enough time to steep, to develop its flavor, before you add anything to it.

Should I boil the water to make tea?

There are different things to consider in answering this question. First, depending on your water source, in some areas or situations you may need to boil your water before drinking it for safety reasons.

Second, there are tea people who strongly believe that water for tea should never been boiled, lest the oxygen and other soluble gases in the water will be removed and the resulting water will make a dull cup of tea. It is with this same belief that if the hot water for tea has cooled down, it will not be re-heated. “Always use fresh water to make tea!” is their moto.

There are scientific studies showing that as the temperature of water increases, the solubility of oxygen and nitrogen in water decreases. However, it is unclear if all the gases are removed at the water’s boiling point, and how this decrease or lack of soluble gases affects the taste of the water, and consequently, the taste of the tea made from it.

Then there are other studies that claim that boiled water actually enhances the flavor of tea by eliminating any bacteria or imperfections that may harm its taste. In places where the water is hard—due to a high level of minerals in water, the tea liquor is very clear and of a very bland flavor. Owing to its hardness, the hot water cannot extract all the flavor, color and fragrance from the tea. By boiling the water, some of the minerals are precipitated and the water is believed to be slightly better for preparing tea.

Whether the water is boiled or not, the most important thing is that when it is used to brew tea, it must be at the right temperature according to the type of tea.

Can I reuse the same brewed tea leaves for a second cup/pot?

Yes!­ Good tea leaves can yield more than one tasty brew. Just add hot water.

Can I use a tea ball for loose leaf tea?

Tea leaves need room to unfurl in order to release flavor. Tea balls usually are too small to give the tea leaves enough space to expand.

If you have other tea related questions that would like to be answered, please feel free to contact me.