I’ve been drinking a lot of tea lately.
I was sick with a cold last month and the dark, cool nights have me reaching for something warm to sip on. I recently chatted with my friend Dan Johanis, a tea expert in Toronto for his advice on all things tea.
What are some teas you would recommend for a long, cold winter?
For a pick-me-up, nothing beats a great cup of masala chai which is black tea with spices. Simmering it on a stove top with honey and coconut cream is my absolute favourite way of preparing it. It also makes your place smell warm and inviting too!
Another favourite is mine is kombucha. Kombucha is a fermented and naturally carbonated, cold served tea. It’s been around for ages but has been gaining in popularity here in North America in the past few years. Not many people know, but kombucha is made by first steeping tea leaves, so it actually is a tea! It’s a great way to naturally boost your immune system and get your body prepped for cold & flu season.
Which three different teas have the greatest health benefit and why?
Although not technically a ‘tea’ since it comes from a plant other than camellia sinensis, I would have to say Lapacho. It’s also referred to as Taheebo and has been consumed for centuries in South America for its strong medicinal benefits.
I would also grab a cup of green or white tea. Studies suggest that it has a higher polyphenol count than black tea which helps to combat cancer causing free radicals. I’m also going to go with kombucha. I’ve just been getting involved with the plethora of health benefits of this beverage, but they include blood and liver cleansing, gut health (its full of probiotics), reducing inflammation, boosting immune system functions, helping to enhance your emotional well being, hangovers, treating acne, the list goes on.
What’s the difference between the tea bags I buy at the grocery store and more expensive loose-leaf teas?
Traditionally it’s come down to quality. The higher grade teas were sold for more and consumed in loose leaf format. Finer ground teas that usually incorporated poorer grades as well were often sold at auction for less. Buyers weren’t too concerned about the quality or flavour, since they were going to be ground up and used to fill tea bags.
If you compare a traditional tea bag with loose tea you’ll instantly notice the difference in flavour. Lately, there have been more large leaf style tea sachets, which allows you to see the quality of the leaf as it unfurls in your cup. I wouldn’t say that it’s the same as loose leaf, but it definitely is starting to bridge the gap between the two types of tea.
How long can I keep tea for and how should I store it?
Tea really isn’t going to go ‘bad’ per se, as long as you follow a few rules for storing it: keep it away from temperature fluctuations, light, humidity, and oxygen. So keeping it stored in a tin in your kitchen should keep it fresh for a while. Eventually most teas will start to lose their flavour profile so you will notice a degradation in strength and quality though.
How much caffeine is in green tea, black tea and white tea?
Since they call come from the same plant, these three types of tea come down to the finishing process with black teas being the most oxidized out of the three. In a standard-sized cup you’re looking at about 75mg for black tea, 25-45mg for green tea, and white tea is even less, at around 10mg-40mg.
Why the ranges? Well it depends on the terroir of the tea (that is the growing conditions), as well as how long it is steeped, and the temperature of water. As a general rule, the longer the steeping, the more caffeine that will be extracted.
What the difference between all-natural tea and tea with natural flavours added?
I would say that all-natural tea would be tea that has no added flavours. Teas like English Breakfast (a blend of different black teas gives it a distinctive taste) or real jasmine green tea (fragranced with jasmine petals layered over green tea).
Natural flavours could include flavours that are naturally occurring in nature, such as bergamot oil (the main flavouring agent in a real earl grey), or synthetically made in a lab. These days you can find pretty much a naturally labeled flavour for anything – including strawberry shortcake.
Dan Johanis has spent the last 5 years crafting his knowledge of all things tea. In October 2014 he launched Pekoe Kombucha Bar, Canada’s first kombucha bar in downtown Toronto that serves fresh organic kombucha in draught format and in bottles with cold pressed juices. Learn more at: www.pekoe.ca