Tea 101

By Wendy Camassar

Recently, I attended a tea tasting workshop sponsored by the Republic of Tea, a brand that manufactures a wide variety of all natural tea, including an organic line (for those who like that extra certification). The event was held at Great Sage (owned by Root’s Market in Clarksville) who put together a series of free workshops called “Roots Cares.” It was like a wine tasting seminar, only for “teetotalers” like me! The Republic of Tea brought out samples of the different “colors” of tea, from white to red, as well as herbal varieties. All types of tea begin with the Camellia Sinensis plant, and have health benefits including flavonoids. These are plant pigments that are beneficial to health (i.e., antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral properties).

Some categories of tea have higher concentrations of flavonoids, while others have lower levels of caffeine. This gives tea consumers plenty of options and choices depending on what you want your tea to do for you. If you want a bit more caffeine in the morning to start the day, you can try breakfast blends that are primarily black tea. Black tea is rolled after the leaf has withered, causing oxidation to occur, which makes it darker in color. Also, it is aged longer and has fermented. Black tea has the highest amount of caffeine, but only contains half the amount compared to a cup of coffee. It is recommended to steep black tea bags for three to five minutes in boiled water for best results.

If you are trying to minimize your caffeine intake, other varieties like white or green tea may be a better option. White tea is the downy bud of the leaf, mostly harvested in the Fujian Province of China. It is hand plucked and carefully dried without rolling to prevent oxidation. White tea has the highest content of flavonoids and is the lightest in color. It contains very little caffeine and should steep for only thirty to sixty seconds (in almost boiling water) for best results. Green tea, on the other hand, is harvested after the bud has bloomed where the leaves are pan-fired or steamed to keep them from oxidizing. It has slightly more caffeine than white with a clean, subtle taste. The Republic of Tea recommends steeping green tea bags for one to three minutes in water (just short of boiling) for best results.

For those of you who don’t want any caffeine at all in your tea, herbal blends and Rooibos would be your best choice.  Rooibos (pronounced roy-boss) is a caffeine-free herb from South Africa with a sweet flavor, and dark red color.  Another caffeine-free tea is Hibiscus or the “Superflower” tea.  It is known to keep the body cool in hot weather, helps lower high blood pressure, and assists in weight loss (you may want to consult your doctor before trying this). And, if you want to learn even more about tea, you can always read up on the subject. With so many choices in tea, it may seem hard to know which one to try, but at least we know there’s a tea for everyone!


Wendy Camassar is an Instruction and Research Specialist at the Central Branch of the Howard County Library System.  Prior to joining HCLS, she worked as a freelance makeup artist for several years.  She enjoys hiking with her family, exercising, reading, and organic foods and skin care products.