A Guide to Premium Teas

Tea is delicious and healthful, but there are so many different kinds it can be difficult to navigate through them to choose the right tea for you. Teas have thousands of different varieties and flavors, and the health benefits vary also among the types of teas.


Most teas today are blends, because pure tea is rarely ever the same. Oolong tea, for example, will vary from being very close to a black tea, to being very similar to green tea, depending on how long the leaves are left to oxidize. Teas will also vary depending on the weather, climate, where they were grown, altitudes, and so on. There are many factors that can change the flavor of a tea.

Why Blends?

Most teas that are widely available in grocery stores and online stores today are tea blends. A common reason to blend tea is to blend higher with lower quality to price the tea at the higher quality level. But the other main reason to blend teas is to create a new, consistent flavor.

Where Tea Comes From

All teas come from the Camellia sinesis plant, which may be surprising considering that there are thousands of varieties of teas. But depending on where the plant is growing, the altitude, weather, climate, and so on, the plant is affected differently. The processing of the tea leaves also affects the variety and flavor of the tea. The tea plants today are grown to about three feet and then harvested; though in the distant past tea plants would grow to be much, much taller. After the tea leaves are processed they are kept protected from air and sunlight so that they maintain their flavor and aroma.

Tea is produced by over twenty-five different countries in the world today, which of course include the main producers: India, China, Sri Lanka, Japan, and Nepal. There are four main types, or varieties, of tea, and they are: white, black, green, and oolong. But among these there are thousands of varieties. These teas all come from the same plant, surprisingly enough, but they vary based on the different climates and altitudes of where they were grown.

The Different Types

But among the four main types the differences depend also on the processing. Black tea is oxidized more than the other types and has a much higher level of caffeine. White tea is the least fermented of all the types. Green tea is sweet with an almost plant-like taste. Oolong varies between being more like black tea or more like green tea, depending on the process.

Green tea has many health benefits. It’s almost like magic. It helps with reducing inflammation, even with keeping teeth healthy. It can improve heart health and has been shown to help lower cholesterol. It can even help prevent or reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. It can help fight off diseases and help prevent cancer, and it can also help boost your energy and metabolism. Teas are loaded with antioxidants and vitamins and minerals. It’s delicious and healthy. Drink up!

Four Main Varieties of Loose Tea

There are thousands of varieties of tea throughout the world, and even among these the tea can be processed in a unique and different way. India’s Assam region harvests the most tea, and second in total world production is Sri Lanka. Among the varieties of tea are oolongs, assam, darjeeling, silver needle, wuyi, gyokuro, sencha, dragon well, white peony, and ceylon. There are thousands of types of teas, and the choices can be overwhelming. Most of these different types fall under four main types. These four main ones are ones which you are probably familiar with if you are a regular tea drinker: green, black, oolong, and white teas.

Do the Different Types of Teas Come from Different Plants?
There is only one type of plant that tea comes from, which may surprise someone who is new to the world of tea. All tea comes from the Camellia sinesis plant. There are some teas, called tisanes, which don’t come from Camellia sinesis. These include chamomile and herbal teas. But a newcomer might wonder how the single plant produces so many different types of teas.

If Teas All Come from the Same Plant, What Makes Them Different?
Anything can change the outcome of a tea. And there is a lot that affects the Camellia sinesis plant. Changes in the weather or different altitudes can impact how a tea turns out. Different parts of the world have different climates and different compounds of soil. These account for very varied types of teas that exist in the world today. A look at the four main types of tea:

Green Tea
Green tea is pretty well known these days and it offers many health benefits. It’s harvested in the spring, and after harvesting the oxidation process is stopped. Green tea is fermented a little longer. Some types are grown in the shade, and some are grown in sunshine. It’s a common variety of tea and can be found in most grocery stores, but there are certain types of this tea which are incredibly expensive. Some types of green tea can cost hundreds for a few ounces.

Black Tea
Black tea is oxidized more than the other three types of teas. The leaves are left to dry until they turn dark. It is also known to have health benefits as the other types. Black tea has much more caffeine than the other types of tea, and is consumed more world wide than the other types of tea.

Oolong Tea
Oolong, also called wu long, has a longer oxidation process, like black tea. Oolong tea varies in taste, but can have a woody or flowery flavor. Oolong is similar to green and black teas, and is a cross between the two.

White Tea
White tea is harvested in the spring, like green tea. It’s sweet in taste and has a delicious aroma. It is the least fermented type of tea and goes through a very simple process. It’s simply left out to be dried by the sun or in a room with specially controlled climate. It has health benefits that include its ability to fight cancer and fight off organisms that cause disease.

Black Tea May Lower Blood Sugar

Many teas have health benefits, and black tea has many such benefits. This tea, which has been used for thousands of years in China, has many positive effects on the body, including lowering blood sugar.

Black Tea and Diabetes
Black tea is known to improve the health of the heart and to improve the immune system. Recent research also indicates that black tea can lower blood sugar. This would help people who suffer from diabetes. Research studies have found a substance in black tea that works in the same way that prescription medication which is used to control blood sugar levels work. These medications are used in patients with type 2 diabetes, and a substance that works in the same way is in black tea. This naturally occurring substance is found in higher levels in this type of tea than in others such as green tea.

How Does it Work?
The polysaccharides found in black tea help to inhibit an enzyme which changes starches to sugars. This decreases blood sugar levels, and this is the same process the prescription drugs use. Polysaccharides help to stop the absorption of sugar, and research has pointed out in the past that this might help people who have diabetes. Black tea also is shown to possibly help prevent cancer and other diseases.

So Can You Drink Black Tea in Place of an Oral Diabetic Medication?
No. Talk to your doctor before ever making a change in your treatment. These studies are not clear whether drinking the tea would be enough for treating diabetes. The study extracted the polysaccharides from the teas using chemical methods, which is not the way you brew tea at home.

Why is the Tea Black?
Traditional teas actually come from the same plant. The difference in color is due to the amount of processing. The black interacted with oxygen until the leaves darkened, in a process called oxidation. The process of the black variety only involves the tea leaves and oxygen. There’s no yeast or fermenting involved in this tea making process.

Black Tea has a Higher Level of Caffeine

This method does, however, leave much higher caffeine content in the tea. Black tea has a much higher level compared to other teas, including green and white teas. A cup of black tea has just about 50% less milligrams of caffeine in it than coffee has. A cup of black tea is used in many parts of the world instead of coffee in the mornings.

Where Can I Buy Black Tea?
Black teas are available at most grocery stores. Organic brands are becoming more readily available in stores, or they can be purchased online or at local health food stores. It may be available as a single tea packet, or in a blend. There are many different brands, and the choices can be a little overwhelming. Try a few different brands and types. Find the flavor you most enjoy. Brew the leaves in a pot-bellied teapot for the most delectable experience of the drink.
And drink up the deliciousness, and know that’s good for you too! The benefits of this drink are many, and it perhaps could lead, with more research and study, to another breakthrough for helping to lower blood sugar.

How Do They Make Decaf Tea, Anyway?

Decaffeinated, which is also commonly referred to as decaf tea, is tea which has undergone a decaffeination process of one sort or another that has removed most of its caffeine. There are many different processes of decaffeinating tea. There are processes that are dangerous and have been made illegal, and ones that are completely safe without any health risks. The different processes in use have an impact on the tea, and can affect its flavor. There is also a process today that still uses a possible carcinogen, so it’s important to learn about the processes of decaffeination which are used on the tea you are buying.

Different decaffeination processes used on tea

Carbon Dioxide
Carbon dioxide or CO2 decaffeination is completely safe, and it’s extremely effective at removing caffeine. It’s also excellent at preserving the flavor. It’s the safest process that maintains most of the flavor. It uses highly compressed CO2 in gas form, which becomes a fluid under pressure. The only negative to this process is the cost; it’s expensive.

Ethyl Acetate
Ethyl acetate is a compound that occurs naturally. It is found in fruits and it does occur in tea leaves, though in very small amounts. This process is completely safe, but removes a little more of the flavor compared to other processes. However, the ethyl acetate process is inexpensive.

Methylene Chloride / Dichloromethane
Methylene chloride, or dichloromethane, is possibly carcinogenic and it is toxic in large concentrations. It is an effective process and does preserve the flavors, but it’s risky. This decaffeination process is legal in the United States and is regulated by the Food & Drug Administration. The low concentration left in decaf tea probably does not pose a large health risk, but there have been analyses of teas in the past which have had levels above the legal limit. It’s difficult to find out which teas come from companies which use this process, as they generally do not make it known due to the negative perception about this process.


Benzene is a process that has been banned and has not been used for a long time. It is a dangerous carcinogenic chemical that can lead to many health problems and is not safe to be used in a decaffeination process.


This is another chemical that has fortunately been banned and has been ceased to be used. It is unsafe for decaffeination, and was banned due to studies showing that it causes liver tumors in mice.

In Summary:
Carbon dioxide decaffeination is the most preferred method. It’s safe and preserves the flavor, though it’s a little more expensive. Ethyl acetate is safe, but doesn’t preserve as much of the flavor. But its decaffeination process is less expensive. Methylene chloride is legal, though it is a little more risky to use. This decaffeination process is regulated by the FDA. Other processes which were used in the past are trichloroethylene and benzene, which have been banned due to the health risks, and are no longer used.

Organic Tea: A Better Choice by Far

Organic tea is a healthy, delicious choice and has been becoming more and more popular in recent years. The demand for organic products has led to these types of teas being available from mainstream tea companies and in most supermarket chains. It’s easier than ever to buy organic tea.

Why is Buying Organic Tea Important?
Avoiding toxic chemicals is one of the main benefits of buying organic tea, and of course there is also the benefit of helping to protect the environment.

Toxic Chemicals:
Non-organic teas may have traces of harmful, toxic chemicals due to the use of pesticides in the production. Much of the tea available in stores comes from China and India, where the environmental regulations are not as stringent as those in the United States or countries in Europe. The toxic chemicals in pesticides can be dangerous to ingest and be a risk to the health of people drinking the tea. There are many benefits to drinking tea, such as properties that may help prevent cancer, but this is outweighed by the toxic effects of the chemicals used in the production. Some of these chemicals are known to have carcinogenic effects and toxins.
The consumption of teas that have used these chemicals in their production can cause health problems for people who drink it. It’s dangerous as well for people who live near the area of production as the areas may have become contaminated by the toxins. By buying tea that has been produced by such methods contributes to the environmental contamination and to the health problems the people in the area suffer from.

Nutrient Pollution from Fertilizer:
Beyond the toxins that are in the pesticides used for production, there is damage to the environment itself. The overuse of fertilizer can destroy the environment. Tea needs fertilizer to grow because as the tea leaves are harvested the organic matter is taken away. Overusing fertilizers can acidify soils and add nitrogen to runoff. This is incredibly destructive, as these damages entire ecosystems in rivers and streams and even in bays near the region or area that grows the tea. The effects of this are devastating and can destroy or damage the fishing industry as well.
Using organic fertilizer helps, but doesn’t completely eradicate this problem.

What does Organic Certification Mean?

Organic certification has certain requirements that the tea is produced without the use of synthetic chemicals. This generally includes pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. The organic cortication does vary depending on the organization that determines the certification, or on the product that is being certified. The certification also prohibits the use of genetically modified organisms. It also requires a certain number of years that the land has had to have been maintained free of synthetic chemicals. The organic certification also requires records to be kept to make certain that organic materials are kept separate from non-organic materials.
In the United States, the USDA is the organization that determines organic certification. In other countries there are a number of other agencies that certify products as organic.

Organic Agriculture is not Perfect:
Of course organic agriculture is not the end-all solution to all environmental problems, but it is a step in a positive direction. There are flaws with the process of course. Some products are falsely marked as organic by some companies so that they can sell them at a higher price. It’s important to check the certification of the teas, to make certain that they do have the proper organic certification. But even when the product has been certified, organic agriculture itself is not without flaws. It can still have some damaging impacts on the environment. And the certification process doesn’t address other problems. There is a need for fair wages for workers, which is not addressed by the organic certification.

Is Organic Tea More Expensive?
It depends. Sometimes it is, but the prices of teas vary. Many organic tea prices are comparable to non-organic tea prices; they may be about the same or even a little less expensive. Organic tea is healthier and better for the environment and is becoming more readily available. It seems like common sense to buy organic. As buying organic becomes more and more common, and then the focus can be addressed to more environmental concerns and public issues. We can begin restoring the earth’s ecosystems, keep toxic chemicals out of our environment, and help people by addressing the needs for fair wages for workers.