5 Things You Didn't Know About Tea

Tea KettleYear-round, we drink tea-the beverage that results from steeping leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant in water. The plant, native to Asia, has been consumed in China for at least 3,000 years. Of course, tea has since spread to the west, and in the U.S. dozens of jars of tea leaves line the shelves of specialty shops. Still, a mystique clings to tea. We drink it for health, taste, warming in the winter, and cooling in the summer. Here are five things you may not have known about the ancient beverage:

1. All tea comes from the same plant.
White, green, and black teas all come from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, an evergreen. Leaves are picked every one to two weeks, depending on the kind of tea desired. Whether the tea is white, green, or black depends on how the leaves are processed and oxidized. Herbal teas, such as mint or chamomile, are a separate category (tisanes). So are red teas, made from a shrubby plant native to South Africa.

Related: 5 Drinks to Warm You Up

2. Tea is the world's second most popular beverage.
Globally, water's the only liquid we drink more than tea.

3. Different teas have different brewing times and temperatures.
Delicate white teas do best when steeped for two to three minutes in water of about 180 degrees. Green tea requires a solid three minutes at a slightly hotter temperature. Black, herbal, and red teas develop their fullest flavor when brewed for five to seven minutes in water that has just reached a boil.

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4. If you like green tea, you'll love matcha.
In Japan, high-grade green tea is ground into a powder, called matcha, and dissolved into water using a bamboo whisk. A spoon also does the trick when making this robust, grassy tea. Because a cup of tea made from matcha contains whole but pulverized tea leaves, the beverage has, relative to standard green tea, a thicker mouthfeel and a stronger caffeine kick.

5. Tea may have extraordinary health benefits.
By drinking two cups a day, you may be at less of a risk of heart attack or stroke. Additionally, as we note in 7 Years Younger, those two daily cups may boost your immune system, fight cancer, protect the enamel of your teeth, and combat the memory loss that often comes with aging. Green tea contains a trove of antioxidants that may improve skin texture and inhibit wrinkling.

Related: 15 Slimming Foods To Try in 2013

If you're a tea drinker, read our review of 24 electric tea kettles and find out which ones ranked the best. Looking for a snack to go with your tea? Try baking a batch of English Tea Cakes.

What's your favorite kind of tea? Let me know in the comments!

-By Christofer Malloy

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