World of Tea has a nice guide to all things tea. Among the highlights:
- Tea only comes from the camellia sinensis plant, so the only valid teas are black, white, green, yellow and the most fun one to say, oolong. Mint, chamomile and the like are not teas at all, even though they’re called “herbal teas“: they’re just flavored water.
- Tea contains an amino acid that has been shown to increase alpha waves in the brain. The combination of this and caffeine produces a “mindful awareness” without the crash coffee comes with.
- Don’t use bags or mass-produced teas, because they’re made from the dregs of the tea leaf society: after all the good stuff has been sold to people that actually know what tea is, they take the leftover chaff, blend it all together, put it in tiny bags, flavor it, package it in pretty boxes, and sell it to ignorant Americans as if it were worth something.
- So only buy loose tea leaves from reputable companies — look for ones that tell you about their process. Good quality teas can and should be steeped a few times, and some up to 20 times.
- The other reason tea bags suck is because they don’t let the tea float around in the water. Ditto goes for pretty much anything that confines the tea, like tea balls and infusers. The best thing is to poor water over the tea, and then strain it out.
- Green tea should be steeped in good-tasting water that’s slightly less hot (180ºF) than black tea (190ºF), which is slightly below the boiling point (212ºF, come on now). Unless you’re a scientist, this translates into: boil the water, take it off the stove, wait a little bit and then steep. For green tea, wait a little longer.
- Black and green tea should be steeped for about a minute for the first two times it’s being used; add about 15-30 seconds for each subsequent time.
From World of Tea