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20 FAQs about tea

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20 FAQs about tea

1. What is tea?

Tea’s produced from the leaves of the tea plant. It was first cultivated in China, but later found its way to Japan, Sri Lanka and elsewhere through the endeavours of Chinese monks and European traders. Over 3,000 types of tea now exist, each imbued with its own unique character through where it’s grown.

Black tea differs from green, white and other varieties because of how the tea leaves are processed. Black tea’s fermented (oxygenated) before it’s dried, whereas green tea’s steamed and then dried instead.

2. How can I make the best cup of tea?

Apart from the tea leaves themselves, how good it tastes in the cup depends upon two things: the quality of the water used and ensuring that it is steeped/infused/brewed for the correct amount of time. Here are some recommendations:

  • Pre-heat the teapot or cup.

  • Use fresh, cold water and bring it to the boil. Don’t let it boil for any longer than necessary in order to maintain within it the acidic substances important for releasing the unique aroma of the tea.

  • Black tea requires boiling water, which should be poured over the tea leaves or tea bag. Brew it for 3 minutes before removing the leaves, although it’s possible to infuse it for up to 5 minutes.

  • For green tea and certain other types, allow boiling water to cool to approximately 75 degrees Celsius. Green tea can be infused for up to 3 minutes.

3. What equipment is ideal for preparing tea?

A teapot’s a good idea, made from either glass, china or porcelain. What’s important, though, is the shape. It needs to be round so the tea steeps properly. Of course, tea can be brewed in a mug, so a teapot’s not absolutely necessary.

Using a strainer with loose leaf tea is required, and the bigger it is, the better, because it allows space for the leaves to steep properly. The best strainers are made from stainless steel or porcelain, which can easily be washed in a dishwasher to remove any stains. Bear in mind that it’s recommended to use different strainers for green and black tea. Paper filters are suitable for preparing tea in a cup, as are cotton strainers, but their size is important, as the leaves need space to brew. It’s best to steer clear of plastic strainers as they may negatively influence the flavour of the tea, which is why OXALIS doesn’t sell them. Nor is a shallow tea strainer a great solution, as the tea leaves simply don’t have sufficient room to infuse.

4. How long can tea be stored?

Generally, tea is a product with a long life, at least 18 months. How it’s stored is crucial, however, because tea absorbs moisture and smells from its immediate environment. Usually, tea’s stored in the kitchen, where various aromas combine. This means that tea should be stored inside a hermetically sealed vessel and kept in a cool, dry place. The best way to ensure tea doesn’t lose any of its original quality is to store it in metal containers known as caddies, and OXALIS has many available in a wide range of colours and styles.

5. Is it true that soft water is better for making tea?

In short, yes. The softest water possible is ideal, since it enables the tea to release its typical aroma once it’s infused. If the water’s particularly hard, try boiling the water in an open pan for a few seconds in order to allow the chlorine and phenols to evaporate and the calcium to settle.

6. The water’s very chalky. Should I use a water filter?

Well, it’s not really necessary, although if the water is extremely chalky, then a filter could improve the eventual flavour of the tea. However, a water filter is recommended when using mineral water. This is because the salts within it negatively affect the tea’s flavour.

7. Why are most teas blended?

The truth is that the majority of teas are effectively blends of various leaves and harvests. The reason is that consumers expect any product to always be the same. When you think about it, though, tea’s a natural product. As a consequence, the quality of the harvest differs from year to year, depending on the specific weather conditions experienced. This is why blends are prepared, as it’s the only way to replicate a given tea, time after time.

8. Who determines which teas are blended together?

That’s the job of a tea-taster. They check the quality of the tea and decide which is suitable for which blend. These are experts familiar with the finest nuances of tea, gained from experience and a well honed sense of smell and taste.

9. What is garden tea?

This originates from a specific plantation and isn’t mixed with any other tea. For this reason, the taste and quality of a garden/plantation can vary from harvest to harvest. Garden teas are only available from specialised outlets.

10. What on earth is flying tea?

Flying tea (Flugtee in German) is the phrase coined to describe freshly harvested Darjeeling First Flush. Immediately after being harvesting and fermented, the tea is transported from India to the destination country by air. Obviously, this tea possesses a very fresh flavour and wonderful aroma.

11. What influences the quality of tea?

There are many factors involved, especially the source of the leaves, climate, time of harvest, method of picking the leaves, processing and storage. Consequently, significant differences exist between growing regions, but variations can occur even within a defined area. Another factor to consider is that plantations experience a slightly different harvest every year.

Generally speaking, the quality of tea from higher altitudes is superior, simply because the leaves grow more slowly so have more time to develop substances that are rich in flavour. Nevertheless, teas from lower-lying areas are still of high quality, although they tend to be stronger and darker when infused, examples include the finest types from Assam in India.

12. What are antioxidants and how do they function in tea?

Antioxidants are substances that either slow down the body’s oxidation process or the oxidation of fat. The antioxidants present in tea are called flavonoids, which strengthen systems in the human body against free radicals, and it’s believed they even help prevent cancer and heart disease. Any source of food or drink with antioxidants is going to benefit the body’s natural defences.

13. Does green tea contain more antioxidants than black tea?

Both green and black tea contain a significant quantity of antioxidants. In fact, the levels are so similar it’s hard to definitively say that green tea possesses more.

14. How much caffeine is there in tea?

Generally speaking, a cup (200 ml) of black tea contains 40 mg of caffeine (theine). In comparison, a cup of coffee boasts around twice that amount. Going back to the word “theine”, it was coined after the discovery of caffeine in tea in 1827. However, unlike coffee, theine in tea occurs in bound, not free, form. Consequently, it exerts a different effect on the human organism. Caffeine in coffee is known to make the heart beat rapidly and its influence soon ebbs away, whereas theine in tea has a milder, but longer effect.

15. Is there less theine in green tea than black tea?

In terms of dried tea leaves, theine content is the same in black and green tea. Ultimately, though, it’s preparation that determines the quantity of theine in the finished tea. The actual amount depends on how long it’s left to infuse and the temperature of the water used. Therefore, as green tea’s made from water at a lower temperature and is usually steeped for a shorter time than black tea, the eventual content of theine is lower.

16. Is tea a diuretic?

Yes, due to the presence of theine, but it’s only a slight diuretic. This is simply because theine supports the kidneys and urination, causing increased blood flow to the kidneys. However, this effect is mild and only short-term. So, tea can’t be said to dehydrate the body as such.

17. Is tea good for pregnant women?

Tea tastes pleasant, quenches one’s thirst and contains a number of substances important for the body. This makes it suitable for pregnant women.

18. Does tea have a rejuvenating effect on the body?

The answer is yes! Living organisms primarily age through genetics, and any anti-aging mechanism will help in the fight against it. Current science suggests that an excess of free radicals in the body promotes aging. Therefore, it’s important to regulate the reactions of such radicals. Tea is especially good at this due to the abundance of polyphenols it contains.

19. Does drinking tea compliment a wellness life-style?

Wellness actually refers to internal balance and general physical well-being, not exercising as is widely believed. Naturally, self-awareness and spiritual harmony also play a role in this. Little wonder, then, that tea promotes such positive aspects, thanks to its many great properties.

20. Does tea protect the teeth?

Again, yes! In fact, tea protects the teeth twice over by strengthening the enamel and slowing down excessive creation of acidic substances in the mouth. Various scientific studies have proven that one litre of tea (black or green) contains approximately 2-3 mg of fluoride, corresponding to an adult’s daily requirement. The truth is that no other foodstuff boasts so much fluoride. Moreover, the polyphenols in tea protect teeth from plaque. Said polyphenols slow the breakdown of starch in the mouth by deactivating the enzyme amylase in saliva. The starch stems from food products, for example, those containing flour, which is broken down into glucose, thereby creating a suitable environment for plaque to disseminate. It’s these bacteria that create acids which damage tooth enamel.

So, drinking just a few cups of tea a day might literally keep the dentist away.