I built this site thinking everyone knows what herbs are in relation to tea, but after a recent conversation with one of my friends it dawned on me that a lot of people have no clue…
Herbs by Merriam-Webster’s definition is:
- planted parsley, basil, and rosemary in her herb garden
To me, herbs are like gold. The value and health benefits from herbs can buy you far more time here on earth than any other living thing. Herbs are a gift from God, but most people don’t realize just how valuable herbs are. In fact did you know that most plants we consider “weeds” are actually herbs? I may be the only one in my suburban housing development that has a yard full of dandelions. LOL That’s okay, if people only knew right? 😉
Types of Herbs
All teas made from plants are herbal in my opinion, so I’m confused about these sites out there talking about “true tea” vs. “herbal tea”. Let’s not make it more confusing than it is….All teas come from herbs therefore it is herbal. I will say not all herbs and teas are created equal however! You have herbs and teas native to and derived from China, Great Britain, Canada, and India, to name a few. So you might see labels of herbs and teas titled with the country of origin. You have herbs that are for external use, some internal, others aromatic, some should be taken in moderation, and others can be drank everyday. Different parts of the plant are taken for different health benefits.
Herbal Teas you can Drink Everyday include (definitely not limited to):
- Lemon Balm
- Any Green Tea variety
- Most Black Tea varieties
Box Tea vs. Bulk Tea/Herb
Teas in a box can be and are made from a variety of different herbs/parts of the plant whereas just buying the tea in bulk- you are buying either leaf, root, powdered, or flower form, depending on what you are looking for. The leaves and root (sometimes the flower such as lavender) are the most potent and important part of the herb, so in a box you may have stems, etc. which reduces the quality and potency of the tea. I recommend always buying in bulk so you know what you are getting and not buying the mixed variety or flavored tea boxes. If you do buy a variety, Starwest Botanicals has the best mixed variety teas and they are good quality. Personally, I just like bulk better and then I mix my own varieties. Lipton is terrible tea. :\
The Many Colors of Tea
You have black, red, green, and white teas. So what’s the difference?
The longer the leaves of a tea are left to ferment, the darker they become. Black teas have been fermented for a very long time. Black tea leaves undergo a process of oxidation that changes the color and flavor and reduces the content of polyphenols, antioxidant compounds. They are typically higher in caffeine as well. Un-blended black teas are named after the region they are grown in due to the differences in flavor. They all come from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. Here’s a list of good black teas:
Sometimes you’ll find several herbs mixed in black tea blends such as Monk’s Blend, English Breakfast, Irish Breakfast, Earl Grey, and Lady’s Grey. These are a combination of black teas with herbs such as lavender and fruit such as bergamot or oranges. These are traditionally drank with milk.
According to Wikipedia, red tea is “the completely oxidized bud leaves of Camellia sinensis from which black tea is made.” This is what we’d refer to as “black tea” because the leaves are black. The Chinese refer to the color of the infusion calling it “red.” I would also go with the Chinese and prefer to label it the color of the infusion. While most red teas are from the same plant as black, there are a few that are not. Here’s a list of good red teas:
- Rose Hips
These are great herbs to mix with other herbs as a flavor enhancor as these herbs tend to give the tea a nice fruity, citrusy taste.
There are Chinese and Japanese Green Teas. In green tea, the leaves are steamed, rolled and dried. This method preserves the content of polyphenols, antioxidant compounds in the tea. These teas tend to be high in caffeine. Here’s a list of good green teas:
- Oolong (this is between black and green – could be considered either)
- Matcha (my favorite)
Most white teas are derived from China. This is the most least processed form of tea and therefore requires less heat and brewing time as well. It is less bitter than the former teas and has greater antioxidant compounds than green tea. Here’s a list of good white teas:
- Silver Needle (most famous, very pretty, and my favorite)
- White Peony
There are a number of other white tea varieties, similar to the black teas, that are named after the region of origin, others are named for special ingredients added to the leaves and buds.
Tips to Brewing Tea
- Keep the tea covered while brewing so beneficial oils released stay in the tea and do not evaporate.
- Do not buy or use bleached white tea bags or brew with bleached coffee strainers, always use and buy non-bleached products.
- Use stainless steel balls for brewing and stainless steel/glass pot.
- Do not use plastic; either to brew, stir, mix, or hold the tea. Heat releases dangerous chemicals in plastic that can leach into your tea.
Starwest Botanicals sells organic, high quality herbs and teas in bulk and in other forms as well. They also carry everything you need to brew a perfectly good cup of tea. Cheers 🙂