Thank goodness fall has arrived! This summer may have been better than last year, but it was still pretty hot here. We have a few more days of heat yet to come, but knowing that cooler temps are just around the corner makes everything better!
We celebrated the fall equinox with some light fare - salad greens over pumpkin pie spiced cornbread croutons, fruit soup and a cranberry/raspberry sorbet. If you are interested, you can find those recipes here. But more than good food, fall means more hot tea drinking! Summers require iced tea. Fall, winter and spring all cry out for curling up with a cup of hot tea and a good book. In fact, hubby and I were out shopping today and I bought two brand new teas that I can't wait to brew! A chocolate ginger and a hazelnut chai.
Today, however, I began my fall equinox morning with a cup of spiced apple chai in a farm themed mug. Seemed appropriate!
There are so many types of tea out there, and often I get asked to explain the differences. I'll try to explain some of it.
Black tea - mature and fully fermented. Has the highest caffeine content
Oolong tea - fermented half as long as black. Rests in between black and green, caffeine wise.
Green tea - dried, but not fermented. Half the caffeine of black.
White tea - dried but not heated or fermented. Light and delicate and low in caffeine.
Herbal - not really a tea. It's true!
Black, oolong, green and white tea all come from the same plant - Camellia sinensis. When it is picked and how it is treated determines if it is black, oolong, etc. Tea contains catechins, a type of antioxidant.Catechins are highest in concentration in white and green teas, while black tea has substantially fewer due to its oxidative preparation. However, research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture has suggested the levels of antioxidants in green and black tea do not differ greatly.
Herbal teas come from flowers and fruits, but not the Camellia tea plant. They typically do not contain any caffeine.
So what the heck is chai tea? Usually a black, but now can be found in green, white and red teas, that is spiced. The most common spices are cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and pepper. You may have heard of a chai latte? That's chai tea with milk. I don't care for it myself, but a lot of people do.
And now I've thrown in red tea. What is red tea? It comes from another plant entirely, and contains no caffeine. It is also known as rooibos and redbush tea.
Brewing time can make a difference in how much caffeine you get, as well. A two minute difference can double the amount of caffeine. Brew whites for a shorter period than greens, brew greens for a shorter time than oolong, brew oolongs for a shorter time than blacks - otherwise the tea can develop what I call a *bite* and for some people, that is unpleasant. If you've encountered someone who didn't like the taste of tea, this could be the reason. Herbal teas can brew as long as you like.
Now, go find a new tea to try!