Just My Cup of Tea

It's finally cooling off (even in sunny southern California) which means it's now appropriate to sulk in our cozy sweaters and enjoy the comfort of warm beverages. From your staple of hot chocolate to everyone's favorite pumpkin spice latte, there's quite a few options to choose from when you go to your local cafe or decide to brew up something in your kitchen. I've grown up in a family that drinks a lot of tea culturally, whether it was an iced glass on a summer day or a hot mug in the winter. Over time I've developed a love for both the energizing and therapeutic effects of different kinds of tea. Tea comes in so many diverse aromas, flavors, and colors that you can personalize to get your own perfect blend. If you've never drunken tea and think it's a drink for 'posh' people who don't enjoy coffee, I am about to prove you totally wrong because tea can be for everyone.

Because I'm unhealthily obsessed with tea, here's a guide on how to get you started on your path to tealiciousness.

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1. Pick the Strength

Tea can essentially be categorized into four main flavors based on the type of tea leaf: white, green, oolong, and black. In addition to teas made from tea leaves, there are teas made from herbs, flowers, roots, or spices. The strength of tea is determined by how much the tea leaves were allowed to oxidate or ferment before being packaged. The more the leaves ferment, the stronger the flavor. Black and oolong teas are usually bolder in flavor than white or green teas that are more delicately flavored. Each type of tea differs in its health benefits as well as blends or undertones. If you're looking for a bold, rich flavor, go for black teas like English Breakfast or Earl Grey. For a mild, gentle flavor, go for light green teas or white teas like White Peony.

2. CAFFEINE

The caffeine content in tea varies, but typically the darker and stronger, the more caffeinated it is. (Fun fact: tea leaves actually contain more caffeine than coffee beans, but coffee wins once it's brewed). All teas contain at least some level of caffeine, but if you're looking for the best boost to your morning, go for a black tea or green tea. White teas are extremely low in caffeine and herbal teas contain NO caffeine.

3. Stay Heal(tea)

Tea has an incredible amount of health and therapeutic benefits. Now it definitely makes sense that when you were sick, you were always told to drink tea with honey. White teas contain the most antioxidants, which can combat aging and cancer cells. Green teas naturally promote weight-loss and good health because of its high levels of EGCG, a major antioxidant. Oolong teas are said to lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol, as well as aid in weight-loss by boosting your metabolism (That's why it's commonly served in Asian countries after meals in order to lower blood sugar and aid in digestion). Black teas are also full of antioxidants that can maintain cardiovascular health and aid in lowering cholesterol. Finally, herbal teas made from herbs, flowers, roots, or spices are the most renown for promoting relaxation. Herbal teas like Chamomile can help to ease stress and headaches, which can lead to a better night's sleep.

4. How to Steep

If you're constantly running on the clock, I highly recommend that you use your basic tea bags to steep your tea. However, if you have some time to spare, you can make better quality tea by buying loose tea leaves/herbs and steeping it using a pot or the most trendy infuser. Loose tea allows for stronger flavors and aromas because they're able to expand more in the hot water as opposed to tea bags.

5. Brand It

Once you decide how you like to steep your tea, you can begin to choose brands to drink from. For tea bags, my favorite brands are Wissotzky Tea (Israeli tea brand) for its wide variety in herbal teas (my favorite: Green Tea and Vanilla Tea Combo) and Tazo for its bold flavor (my favorite: Chai Tea or English Breakfast). For loose tea leaves, (so far) my favorite brands have to be Lupicia (Japanese brand), but I have also heard of great things about David's Tea and Teavana.

6. Get Tumblin'

The more tea you carry around and drink, the more opportunities you'll have to be able to carry a cute mug or tumbler around with you. Selecting the right teacup may also drastically change the way you perceive the flavor of that tea.

7. Blend It Up

Though there are only four main types of tea leaves, there are thousands of different blends of teas available worldwide. You can even create your very own unique blend at tea shops. You can combine chamomile and mint a very calming herbal tea or cinnamon with apple for a very spicy and sweet flavor. The options are endless so let your crea(tea)vity go wild!