For the Love of Tea

For the Love of Tea

I have this theory that anyone who thinks they dislike tea just hasn’t found the right tea yet.  The options for tea are extensive, yet many people outside of a tea culture aren’t exposed to many options. Although I knew I liked black tea and chai tea growing up, my knowledge expanded immensely when I spent a holiday season working in a Boston tea shop. This post will guide you through the types of tea and how to prepare tea.

Tea Types

The most common types of tea in descending order of caffeine include black, oolong, green, and white tea. There are three categories of herbal tea, two of which are caffeine free.  It’s also worth noting that any decaffeinated teas still have some caffeine in them. 

The teas with the most fermenting process have the highest amount of caffeine. Most tea has less caffeine than coffee, and that caffeine is absorbed slower in tea than coffee due to its polyphenols.

Tea can be scented or flavored, with flavors generally falling under the categories of nut, fruit, earth, herbal, and flower, for example.  Also, different types of tea can be blended.  White and green tea is an example of a popular blend combination.

White tea barely has any caffeine in it. Herbal tea technically isn’t a tea because it’s made from herbs, spices, fruit, etc., without any leaves from a tea plant.  However, the brewing process is the same as tea. Herbal teas, including rooibos tea from South Africa, are caffeine free.  The one exception to this is mate from South America.  Rooibos and mate teas come from other plants, and mate has the equivalent amount of caffeine found in coffee.

Some teas come in a powdered form to thoroughly mix in hot water for brewing. Whole leaf tea is higher quality than most tea bags, but tea bags are more convenient. Some tea drinkers also search for organic and fair-trade varieties which are widely available.

If you’re new to buying loose leaf tea, try starting at a local tea shop, where customers are usually allowed to smell the teas and occasionally sample.  Loose leaf tea is usually sold by the ounce, and I order a couple ounces at a time to store in airtight bins. 

Five types of tea


Brewing times for tea are commonly between 1-5 minutes, but caffeine free herbal tea can be brewed for longer without causing bitterness. Also, herbal tea is typically the only tea brewed with boiling water.  White and green tea are brewed around 175 degrees Fahrenheit, and black and oolong teas are around 195 degrees Fahrenheit. Fortunately, most tea purchases come with a set of instructions for brewing temperatures and time.

If I’m making tea away from my kettle that has different temperature settings, I will heat or cool water to below boiling as needed before brewing instead of worrying about the specific temperature. Adding an ice cube to green or white tea leaves before pouring hot water of unknown temperature is another tip.

Many tea pots come with an infuser basket to hold the tea leaves for brewing.  A French press can also be used to separate the tea leaves, as well as smaller infusers and filters for one cup of tea.

A latte can be made by adding milk or creamer (I prefer non-dairy/vegan options). Honey or sugar can be added, if desired, but try to keep the sweeteners on the lower end so they don’t interfere very much with the taste (or your health!).

When brewing iced tea, it’s best to increase the amount of tea being brewed up to 2x to prevent the ice from watering down the tea flavor.  Best practice for consuming hot liquids is to ensure they are below 150 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent burning the tongue or irritating the esophagus.

Note: as an alternative to steeping tea in hot water, some people prefer to make what’s known as sun tea. Since cold or room temperature water is used to brew tea bags for a few hours, the drink is sometimes placed outside to brew in sunlight.  I haven’t tried this method before, and sun tea could have a greater risk to developing bacteria.   A safer option for slow brewing is to let the sun tea steep in the fridge for several hours instead.

My Tea Preferences

The flavors and types of tea are far more than I can present in a single post. There are even tea flavor combinations specifically made for coffee lovers.    Below are some of my favorite kinds of tea:

Black tea 

Because I'm sensitive to caffiene, I’ve cut back on black tea in recent years to decrease my caffeine consumption.  Also, the tannin in black tea can cause some nausea if I haven’t eaten food yet.  However, I’m still a fan of an occasional chai tea latte or black tea latte, along with various flavors of iced black tea.  I enjoy Assam black teas for its rich flavor, and I love the Indian spices found in chai tea. As for iced tea, I don’t think anything beats the standard flavor of black tea.

Green tea

There are many health benefits associated with drinking tea, and the most noteworthy include the antioxidants found in green and white tea. Green tea is my favorite and I have 1-2 cups almost every morning. For the common types of green tea and flavor, I sometimes make green tea lattes with oat milk. I also enjoy the earthy flavors in sencha and matcha green tea. Matcha comes in a powdered form, and I prefer to drink it as a latte lightly sweetened with maple syrup or honey.  Another green tea favorite is jasmine green tea.

White tea

White tea is considered the purest kind of tea, and one of my favorites is the straw-like flavor of Silver Needles.  Due to its very low amount of caffeine, I’m usually able to drink it later in the day without it affecting my sleep.

Herbal or additional tea flavors

I prefer naturally flavored tea to the artificial flavors sometimes added to tea, but with that said, my favorite flavors include: fruits like blueberry, peach, cherry, raspberry, passionfruit or citrus; flowers like hibiscus, jasmine or lavender; and herbs like ginseng, mint or cinnamon.


Iced hibiscus berry tea with coconut milk

Aside from lattes and sweeteners, tea can be mixed with fruit juices like berry or lemonade, turned into a sparkling beverage with some carbonated water, or added into food recipes and craft cocktails. Boba tea is also rising in popularity as a powdered form of tea and sometimes sugar and milk mixed with tapioca pearls. Modern tea parties can be blended with a brunch, picnic, or happy hour. Beyond the standard tea sandwiches, muffins, and desserts, try pairing tea gatherings with a charcuterie board or other appetizers. Some tea connoisseurs take tea and food pairings almost as seriously as wine. 

I admire British teatime and other cultural tea ceremonies across the globe. Afterall, tea is considered the second most popular beverage in the world, behind water. It’s hard to get most coffee-obsessed people--especially Americans—excited about gathering for tea, even though it is a healthier beverage with a wider range of flavor options.  Many Americans stick to iced tea at a meal or the popular southern sweet tea without much thought.

For me, learning more about the world of tea has enhanced my connection with it, both enjoying meditative time alone while drinking a cup or introducing friends to a new kind of tea.

For the love of tea, I end this post to say, give tea a chance!


For some water infusion ideas, read this article on citrus benefits.