Tea is the second most popular beverage in the world (the first is water) and it appears to be growing more popular every day. As more health benefits of this drink are discovered, more people are jumping on the tea wagon. In 2009, according to Statistics Canada, Canadians consumed 66 litres of tea per person, and we're sure that number is growing steadily each year.
Legend has it that tea was discovered by accident, around 2737 B.C., when wind blew some leaves into a Chinese emperor's pot of boiling water. Since then, all kinds of customs and protocol have grown around this ancient beverage. But for the casual home tea drinker, here's a primer of how to get more enjoyment out of your tea time.
All tea comes from the camellia sinensis bush; the varieties come from how the leaves are processed. Overall, there are four main families of tea: black, green, oolong and white. Experiment with new ones and you'll discover a wide variety of flavours that go way beyond the Earl Grey you grew up drinking. Also, you may be surprised to know that all tea — even green tea — contains caffeine. The only exception is herbal teas, or tisanes, which are not technically tea, as they are not brewed from camellia sinensis, but from a variety of plants and plants parts: dried flowers, seeds, roots and leaves . One popular tisane example is rooibos, from South Africa.
For quality tea, you should be shopping at tea shops that sell loose leaf varieties. Compared to these, the prepackaged tea bags sold in your average grocery store are like fast food to fine dining.
Fill a kettle with fresh water and bring to a boil. Pour the hot water over your tea leaves (or tea bag) in a cup or pot and let steep for three to seven minutes, depending on your taste or the type of tea you're brewing (check with your tea purveyor for the ideal brew time for your tea of choice). In the case of green tea, you'll want to let your boiling water cool slightly before pouring it into your cup or pot — water that is too hot will singe the delicate green tea leaves.
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