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Guide to Tea

Find out the amazing health benefits of this popular hot drink, as well as brewing tips and basic varieties.

Types of teas

Real teas vary widely in colour and flavour, depending on the growing environment, harvest period and processing. Black teas owe their darker colour and stronger flavour to their complete fermentation before firing. Green teas, which are made with dried unfermented leaves, are paler and more delicately flavoured, while oolong teas are partially fermented. Herbal teas or tisanes are actually infusions of dried herbs and contain no true tea leaves.

Health benefits

Tea is a pure natural beverage that has no additives, artificial colouring or flavouring and, when taken without milk or sugar, no calories. Tea leaves contain a good deal of antioxidants that protect against toxins and free radicals caused by too much exposure to sunlight, pollution and stress. The antioxidant content in tea is higher than that of many fruits and vegetables. All teas offer comparable health benefits — even decaffeinated tea offers similar protection!

What about caffeine?

Caffeine content varies depending on the type of tea and how long it is steeped. Generally, an 8-oz. (250-mL) cup of tea has 50 mg of caffeine or one-third to one-half the amount in a same sized cup of coffee. The Canada Food Guide on healthy eating puts the maximum daily dose at 400-450 mg per person. This may vary depending on a person’s sensitivity to caffeine, so enjoy tea in moderation to prevent side effects, such as heart palpitations, headaches, blurred vision and improper iron absorption.

Brewing tips

When brewing tea, use 1 teaspoon (5 mL) of tea for every 6 oz. (170 mL) of water. To enjoy tea’s full, rich flavour, buy loose tea and store it in an airtight container. For maximum freshness, buy tea in small quantities.