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Friday, October 31, 2014 | Last updated: 5:49am

Get your antioxidants with this beginner's guide to tea



Tea is revered for its tremendous health benefits as well as its calming effects. If you aren’t a tea drinker yet, this is one habit you’ll want to pick up.

There is something inherently good about sitting down to have a cup of hot tea, feeling the warm mug in your hands as the aroma of steeping leaves drifts into the air. But we’re not talking about tea bags, we’re talking authentic, loose-leaf.

Where to get it
The Scented Leaf is a wonderful teahouse located on University Boulevard. Owner Shane Barela takes pride in providing the highest grade of loose-leaf teas.

Seven Cups on Sixth Street embodies the calm atmosphere of Chinese tea drinking.

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If you want to buy some tea leaves to steep at home, try Maya Tea Company, which can be found at farmers’ markets like St. Philips Plaza and Tucson Farmers’ Market East.

Steeping it yourself
If you want to make yourself a pot or a cup of loose-leaf tea at home, you’ll need some sort of mesh tea infuser, either one that fits into your tea pot like a cup or a little ball that opens up for individual steeping. Different temperatures are preferred for different teas, but about 175 degrees is optimal.

Black and oolong steep better at just slightly higher temperatures, around 195-200 degrees. Then just pour the hot water over the leaves into your cup or pot, wait a few minutes and take the tea leaves out.

As a general rule of thumb, for every eight ounces of water, use one teaspoon for green tea, one and a half teaspoons for white, one teaspoon for black or one teaspoon for oolong. Here are some common types of tea:

Green
Green tea has an earthy flavor and is slightly bitter, but completely refreshing. It is also one of the healthiest teas and is full of antioxidants.

Add a teaspoon of honey to your drink if the taste of straight tea seems too bitter, but you may grow to love the taste of tea alone.

White
White tea is sweeter and more delicate in its flavor, making it a perfect match for fruity or flowery additions like peach, acai berry or lavender.

Also rich in antioxidants, white teas are known to help reduce fevers and help treat various skin ailments.

Black
Black tea has a harsher, bitter flavor but is the perfect pick-me-up when in need of some energy, which is why people drink black tea in the morning. The amount of caffeine in black tea is just enough to promote healthy blood flow to the brain without overexciting your heart.

Oolong
Oolong has a smooth, soothing taste with no bitterness at all. It’s like a huge breath of fresh air. Depending on the variety, oolong teas can have slightly fruity, flowery or earthy tastes and aromas. They mix well with almost any other flavor.

Oolong tea, again, is chock full of antioxidants and may promote heart health and weight loss.


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