Assam Black Tea – One Of The Best Breakfast Teas

A tea garden worker plucks matured tea leaves in Nagaon, India which is in the Assam region.

A tea garden worker plucks matured tea leaves in Nagaon, India which is in the Assam region.

What is Assam tea?

Assam black tea, often just called Assam tea or Assam, refers to black tea produced in the Assam region of India. Although the Assam region produces a tiny amount of green and white tea, an overwhelming majority of teas produced in Assam are black teas, and the term “Assam”, when used alone, is synonymous with Assam black tea.

Assam tends to have a strong flavor and a rich aroma that is usually described as malty. However, there is a great deal of diversity among Assams, owing to both small and large differences in altitude, soil conditions, and growing methods between the different estates and gardens that produce tea in the Assam region. In general though, Assam tends to be a stronger black tea, which leads into our next topic.

What makes a good breakfast tea?

There are numerous different types of breakfast teas on the market. The most common varieties are named English breakfast and Irish breakfast; less commonly one will see other types, like Scottish breakfast or Chinese breakfast. The main characteristic that these breakfast blends have in common is that they tend to be rich and strong in flavor.

“English breakfast” is a term that is mostly used in the United States, and refers to what the English just call “tea”. This style tends to be a robust, powerful black tea, full-bodied, strongly caffeinated (although still much less than coffee). Irish breakfast tends to be stronger, and accordingly, it often contains more Assam. Some Irish breakfast teas are made exclusively from Assam; this is a lot less common with the English breakfast style.

Where is the Assam region?

The Assam region is located in northeastern India, at the center of the part of India that is somewhat detached from the rest, surrounded by Bangladesh, Nepal, Tibet, China, Bhutan, and Myanmar (Burma). Assam lies in a river valley, at a lower altitude than the other famous tea-producing regions in this area (which include Darjeeling). The lower altitude is one of the major factors that lead to the characteristic flavor and aroma of Assam, but Assam tea also tends to be grown from a different cultivar of the tea plant, called the Assamica cultivar. It is both the particular cultivar and the climate of the region that contribute to the strength and characteristic aroma of Assam black tea.

Teas similar to Assam:

There are two regions of the world that are often considered to produce teas “similar” to Assam. I place the word “similar” in quotes because tastes are subjective and I am sometimes skeptical of these claims, especially after having sampled numerous black teas from all of these regions. But the two regions that come to mind most strongly are Yunnan province, which produces Dian Hong or Yunnan red teas, and Kenya. Personally, I think Dian Hong, black tea from Yunnan province, is the closest tea to Assam that is widely available, whereas Kenyan black teas are a bit more different. Some Ceylon tea (from Sri Lanka) also has similar strength and characteristics as well. Both Yunnan and Kenyan teas are also common ingredients in breakfast blends like English or Irish breakfast.

In summary:

Assam is a particular type of black tea grown from a region of India, at a lower altitude, and from a particular cultivar of the tea plant. Assam tea tends to be strong and tends to have a malty aroma. Most breakfast teas contain some Assam and the strongest ones, such as Irish Breakfast, often contain more of this tea. Similar teas include Yunnan Red (Dian Hong) and Kenyan black tea, and Ceylon can also be similar. If you like strong breakfast teas, you would likely enjoy Assam, either on its own or blended with other teas.

 

Alex Zorach is the creator of RateTea, an interactive website where anyone can rate and review teas. This site has a database of teas classified by brand, style, and region, with a wealth of information about different varieties of tea. Visit this site’s page on Assam black tea to read reviews and locate different sources for buying Assam, including both blends and single-estate teas.

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Caffeine-Free Herbal Teas That Taste Like Black Tea

Blueberry and raspberry tea, warming and delicious.

Blueberry and raspberry tea, warming and delicious.

Black tea is a popular drink produced from the fully oxidized leaves of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis. Black tea naturally contains caffeine; although the levels of caffeine in all tea are much lower than coffee, some people wish to avoid all caffeine, or need to for medical or religious reasons.

This article explores caffeine-free herbal teas that offer a flavor and aroma profile similar to that of black tea. There is no exact match to replicate the qualities of tea, but there are some good options that can get you close.

Rooibos: South African red “tea”:

Rooibos is not strictly a kind of tea, as it is produced from a herb that is not closely related to the tea plant. Rooibos is produced through an oxidation process which is in many ways similar to that used to produce black and oolong teas: after harvesting, the leaves are allowed to oxidize, in this case, turning them a rich red color.

Many tea drinkers describe rooibos as being most “tea-like” among caffeine free herbal infusions. The flavor profile is similar to tea, perhaps slightly less bitter, and the aroma is rich and earthy, with some fruity tones.

Red raspberry leaf:

Red raspberry leaf is best known as a medicinal tea used to promote women’s health during pregnancy. However, unlike some herbal infusions recommended for women, raspberry leaf does not show evidence of changing hormone levels, and it is a mild herb, widely considered safe, so it is safe for both men and women to drink regularly as a beverage.

The cup produced by steeping red raspberry leaf in water is a rich dark color, much like a cup of black tea, and the aroma also shares certain characteristics in common with black tea. In spite of the fact that this drink is produced from the same plant as raspberries, the aroma and flavor of the brewed cup bears little resemblance to raspberries: instead it is earthy and herbaceous, somewhere between the qualities of a strong black tea, and the fresh smells of a leafy raspberry patch in summer.

Other herbs, and my personal summary:

Although rooibos and red raspberry leaf are the two herbs that come to my mind when thinking of caffeine-free alternatives that most closely resemble black tea in flavor and aroma, there are a myriad of other naturally caffeine-free herbs out there that produce delicious infusions. Even if you do not find them to closely resemble tea itself, you may enjoy may other ones too. I would encourage you to explore different herbal teas and decide for yourself which you enjoy most.

 

Alex Zorach is the founder and editor-in-chief of RateTea, an online community where anyone can rate and review teas, and the web’s authoritative source for information about tea. RateTea has a searchable database of teas and herbal teas, classified by brand, style, and region, and articles on tea, health, sustainability, and related topics. Browse RateTea’s pages on caffeine-free herbal teas to find more alternatives to black tea.

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Varieties of Chinese Tea From Fujian Province

Tea plantation in Fujian Province in China

Tea plantation in Fujian Province in China

Fujian province is one of the key Chinese provinces in tea production. Located on the southeastern coast of China, the subtropical climate and hilly topography make Fujian ideal for tea production.

Varieties of Oolong Tea from Fujian:

Tie Guan Yin Tea

Tie Guan Yin Tea

Fujian has two areas famous for producing oolong tea: the Wuyi mountains, in the north of the province, and Anxi county, farther south. Anxi tends to produce green oolongs, tightly rolled into small pellets, whereas Wuyi tends to produce darker ones, with larger, more wiry leaf.

The most famous Anxi oolong is Tie Guan Yin, usually translated as “Iron Goddess of Mercy”, but Anxi also produces numerous other oolong varieties, including ben shan (original mountain), mao xie (hairy crab), rou gui (cinnamon), huang jin gui (golden osmanthus), and qi lan (profound orchid). Together, the varieties other than Tie Guan Yin are often lumped together under the label “Se Chung” or “Se Zhong”, which means “colorful variety”. Se chung oolongs, being less well-known, often are inexpensive relative to their quality, and can offer outstanding value when compared to Tie Guan Yin.

Wuyi oolongs include a number of varieties also produced in Anxi, including rou gui and qi lan, as well as a number of varieties more specific to the region, such as da hong pao (big red robe), xiao hong pao (little red robe), and shui xian (water sprite).

One other region of Fujian important in oolong production is Yongchun county, which produces yongchun fo shou (Buddha’s palm) oolong.

Varieties of black tea from Fujian:

Enjoy a cup of whole leaf lapsang souchong tea, a rich smoky flavored tea.

Enjoy a cup of whole leaf lapsang souchong tea, a rich smoky flavored tea.

In China, black teas are called “red teas”, reflecting the dark reddish color both of the dry leaf and brewed cup. Black teas from Fujian province include Lapsang Souchong, a smoky tea produced by drying the tea leaves over pine smoke, and golden monkey, a tippy black tea with golden-colored leaf. Many of these black teas also originate in Wuyi.

Types of white teas from this province:

White Chinese tea - "Silver Needle white-haired" Elite tea is produced from the upper leaf buds.

White Chinese tea – “Silver Needle white-haired” Elite tea is produced from the upper leaf buds.

Fujian province dominates white tea production, not only in China but worldwide. In Fujian, white tea is mostly produced in a specific region, the northeast, in Fuding and Zhenghe counties. The three most well-known varieties of Fujian white tea are shou mei (longevity eyebrows), bai mu dan (white peony), and bai hao yinzhen (silver needle). In order, these teas range from darker to lighter, and lower caffeine to higher caffeine. Fujian also produces other types of white tea, however, including xue ya (snow buds), a variety more similar to green tea than most white teas.

Green teas from this region:

Green Tea

Green Tea

Although it is best known for oolongs and black and white teas, Fujian produces a lot of green tea as well, including mao feng and mao jian, as well as examples produced in the style of teas originating in other regions, such as bi luo chun (green snail spring), and sencha (a standard Japanese tea).

In summary:

Fujian produces a tremendous variety of teas, producing (and being the origin of) many different types of white, green, black, and oolong teas. This article barely scratches the surface; to truly get a grasp of the diversity of teas Fujian has to offer, you need to sample them for yourself.

 

Alex Zorach is the founder and editor-in-chief of RateTea, an online community where anyone can rate and review teas, and the web’s authoritative source for information about tea. RateTea has a searchable database of teas and herbal teas, classified by brand, style, and region, and articles on tea, health, sustainability, and related topics. Visit RateTea to learn more about Fujian tea varieties.

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Buying the Best Chamomile Tea

How To Locate the Best Brands to Buy This Herbal Tea From

Chamomile Tea

Chamomile Tea

Chamomile, also spelled camomile, is a popular herb for use either on its own in herbal teas or in blends. When buying chamomile tea, there are a number of questions and factors to consider.

Tea company or bulk herb company?

Chamomile is sold both by tea companies and bulk herb companies. Tea companies tend to have higher prices, but, in some cases, have selected high-quality batches that are better for brewing as herbal tea. Check the company though: some of the better herb companies have extraordinary

Blend or pure chamomile?

Chamomile Tea

Chamomile Tea

Not all teas labeled as “chamomile” are made exclusively from the chamomile plant; many of these herbal teas are actually blends which contain mostly chamomile, but also contain other herbs or flavorings.

Some people actually prefer these blends, because the pure herb can have a rather bitter aftertaste. These sorts of blends are typically sold by tea companies, and less commonly by bulk herb companies.

Loose-leaf herb, or tea bags?

Another major distinction when buying any type of tea or herbal tea is the question of whether to buy loose-leaf or tea bags. Tea bags offer the primary advantage of convenience. However, when buying tea bags, a large portion of what you are paying goes to the industrial packing process and the packing materials themselves. When buying loose-leaf herbs or tea, you are paying primarily for the product you wish to buy, with only a small amount of packaging. Loose-leaf or bulk herbs are also more sustainable, in that they use fewer resources to obtain the same end result, and they result in less waste. Lastly, loose-leaf tea and bulk herbs often offer superior quality.

For this reason, if you are cost-conscious and concerned with quality, I would recommend buying loose-leaf or bulk chamomile from a tea company or herb company, rather than buying the standard tea bags available in supermarkets. When buying in bulk, I recommend the whole dried flowers, rather than powdered herb. For brewing, if you do not have one, purchase a strainer or tea filter. My favorites are basket infusers with a stainless steel mesh that sit inside a mug or teapot. Tea balls also work but are less optimal.

Look for whole, intact flowers:

Dried Chamomile Flowers

Dried Chamomile Flowers

Freshness is of prime importance when buying any sort of tea, herbs, or spice, and chamomile is no exception. The best sources of chamomile usually show whole, intact flowerheads attached to small stems. If the flowerheads are crushed up into finer pieces, this does not necessary mean that the batch you are looking at is necessarily lower quality, but keep in mind that finely broken herbs lose their flavor more quickly, so such batches are less likely to be fresh or stay fresh than batches consisting mostly of whole chamomile flowerheads.

Conutry of origin?

Chamomile is produced in a number of different countries. Much of the commercially available herb originates in Egypt, but it is also relatively common for it to be grown in Europe, such as in Germany and France. Country of origin does influence flavor, and is worth looking at if you have nuanced tastes. And In general, companies selling higher-quality herbs will identify the country of origin of each herb.

 

Alex Zorach is the founder and editor-in-chief of RateTea, an online community where anyone can rate and review teas, and an authoritative source for information about tea. RateTea has a searchable database of teas, classified by brand, style, and region, and articles on tea, health, sustainability, and related topics. Visit RateTea to find chamomile tea reviews.

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Osmanthus Tea – A Traditional Floral-Scented Chinese Tea

Sweet Osmanthus

Sweet Osmanthus

Osmanthus tea is a type of scented tea originating in China. Most tea drinkers are familiar with jasmine tea, a scented tea produced by repeatedly layering tea leaves with jasmine flowers so that the leaf absorbs the jasmine fragrance. Osmanthus tea is produced by a similar process, but uses osmanthus flowers instead of jasmine.

What exactly are osmanthus flowers?

Osmanthus is a genus of flowering plants in the olive family, mostly native to southeast Asia. The species of osmanthus used in scenting tea is called sweet osmanthus, and has the scientific name Osmanthus fragrans, named in reference to its pleasing fragrance.

Osmanthus flowers are used for a number of other purposes, and their scent is sometimes used as an ingredient in perfumes.

Osmanthus Tea:

Osmanthus tea is made with any number of different Chinese teas as the base, including black, green, pouchong, oolong, and even sometimes white or Pu-erh. Green tea or greener oolongs such as pouchong (bao zhong) are common bases as they blend well with the osmanthus blossoms’ fragrance. The best osmanthus teas are produced by a time- and labor-intensive layering process, in which the flowers are placed in a tight area together with the leaves, which are allowed to absorb their fragrance. This process is then repeated several times.

Although the production process is similar to that used to produce jasmine tea, and both could be described as floral, the aroma of osmanthus, and thus osmanthus tea, is very different from jasmine. One of the benefits of this distinct aroma is that people who strongly like or dislike one tea may have a very different reaction to the other. Enthusiasts who wish to explore and sample new teas may find osmanthus tea to offer a new and interesting aroma to explore.

Another “osmanthus teas” that is pure (unscented):

There is another type of tea, other than the scented one, that bears the name “osmanthus”. This tea is called Huang jin gui, in Chinese, which can be translated as “golden osmanthus”. Huang jin gui is an oolong, a se chung oolong to be specific, meaning that it originates in Anxi county of China’s Fujian province, and comes from a different cultivar from Tie Guan Yin oolong, one of the most well-known varieties of Chinese oolong.

Huang jin gui is a pure tea, made only from the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) and containing no scenting or flavoring or other ingredients. Astonishingly, the aroma of huang jin gui is strongly floral and closely resembles that of osmanthus flowers, leading some to confuse or mistake it for osmanthus-scented tea. The similarity in aroma is a result of years of careful selective breeding, and a specially-developed production process that brings out certain qualities in the aroma. The affinity of the aromas of green se chung oolongs and osmanthus flowers have led some tea producers to use osmanthus flowers to scent these green oolongs, resulting in a seamless blend of fragrance in which it is impossible to tell where the floral scent ends and the tea’s aroma begins.

Where can one buy or obtain osmanthus tea?

Osmanthus tea, unfortunately, is not as well-known in western countries as jasmine tea or any number of other pure or flavored teas. However, it is available online through a number of specialty tea companies and online retailers. Occasionally, it can even be found in stores, especially those that specialize in Chinese teas. With a little effort, osmanthus tea is not difficult to locate.

 

Alex Zorach is the creator of RateTea, an interactive website where anyone can rate and review teas. This site has a database of teas, classified by brand, style, and region, with a wealth of information about each style and region. On this site you can read more about osmanthus tea, and locate different sources of buying either osmanthus tea, or huang jin gui, the other tea mentioned on this page.

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Irish Breakfast Tea

Irish Breakfast Tea – Ingredients, Caffeine Content, and Health Benefits

Certified Organic Camellia Assam Tea

Certified Organic Camellia Assam Tea

Irish Breakfast tea is a popular style of strong black breakfast tea. In Ireland, this style of tea is referred to as just “tea”, whereas in the U.S. and other countries, it is referred to as “Irish Breakfast”. This article gives an in-depth overview of this type of tea.

Ingredients: what is used to produce this blend?

Irish breakfast is usually, but not always a blend of black teas produced in different regions. Common types of teas used to produce the blend include Assam, produced in the Assam region of India, Ceylon, produced in Sri Lanka, and Kenyan black teas. Teas from other regions, including China, other countries, and other regions of India, can also be included.

Irish Breakfast is usually characterized by its high proportion of Assam, or teas with a similar character to Assam (such as those from Yunnan, China, or from Kenya). Some Irish-style breakfast teas even are made exclusively from Assam. If you are looking to blend your own tea in the Irish style, or purchase single origin teas that have a classic Irish flavor profile, I would recommend Assam.

Caffeine content:

Because this style of tea is valued for its powerful character and strong “wake-up” quality, teas selected for use in breakfast blends tend to have a higher caffeine content. However, the higher grades of tea which have a greater caffeine content often tend to have a smoother, mellower flavor, so lower grades with a stronger, bolder flavor are also often included in the mix too. The net effect of this tradeoff is that Irish Breakfast blends tend to be high in caffeine, but are generally not the highest in caffeine among all pure teas. Caffeine content also varies by brand and by method of preparation, but in most cases tends to be considerably less than a typical cup of coffee: 60-75 mg for a typical cup of strong tea, contrasting with 85-135mg for a typical cup of coffee.

Health benefits:

Because of its variable composition, it is hard to draw many conclusions about the health benefits of Irish Breakfast tea, but it is reasonable to assume that these benefits are similar to typical strong black teas. Although green tea often gets more attention in association with health benefits, the association of green tea with health is largely a historical accident, and can be attributed in large part to the fact that most of the early research on tea and health was conducted in Japan, where people drink almost exclusively green tea. Subsequent research has found that black tea also carries potent health benefits as well, so this and other strong, black breakfast blends are good options for people looking for a healthy drink as well.

Locating the best Irish-style breakfast teas:

There is only so much that can be written about Irish Breakfast tea; if you are interested in this type of tea, one of the best ways to learn about it is to buy some yourself. You can buy blends labelled as “Irish”, but you may also enjoy venturing into high-quality loose-leaf Assam, which has a similar character, bold, strong, and dark. I personally find that many of the best teas in the style of Irish Breakfast are the single-estate Assam teas, sold by companies specializing in loose-leaf.

 

Alex Zorach is the founder and editor-in-chief of RateTea, an online community where anyone can rate and review teas, and an authoritative source for information about tea. RateTea has a searchable database of teas, classified by brand, style, and region, and articles on tea, health, sustainability, and related topics. You may be particularly interested in the Irish breakfast tea reviews.

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Best Black Tea Brands – My Personal Favorite Tea Companies For Loose-Leaf

cup-of-teaBecause they have different tastes, tea lovers rarely agree on which teas are best, and they also do not agree on. This article aims to address the question of what the best brands of black tea are, but rather than offering a global answer to this question, it presents my own personal opinion, of my favorite tea companies from which to buy black tea.

These brands focus on loose-leaf tea. If you came here looking to buy tea bags, you may not be in the right place: I’m a lover of loose-leaf tea, and I think that the best teas are usually only available in loose-leaf form.

Upton Tea Imports:

If I had to pick a single tea company that is my favorite, there is no doubt that it would be Upton. Upton has a massive catalogue, and although it offers many different types of tea (including green, white, oolong, Pu-erh, and even herbals), I think that Upton’s true strengths lie in their black teas.

With over 420 varieties of loose-leaf tea, an overwhelming majority of which is pure, single-origin black tea, Upton is one of the best places to find black tea. Although there is a broad range of prices, prices are relatively low across the board. I also like that each tea is offered in small sample sizes, usually large enough to brew 5 or more cups, and that the samples are very affordable.

My favorites from Upton are mostly Darjeelings and Assams, although they also have very good Chinese black teas (which they list as “congou”), as well as selections from Africa (Kenya, Malawi, and Tanzania), and a few from other countries including Vietnam.

Other brands and companies:

Another new company that recently got my attention is TeaVivre. TeaVivre ships directly from China, and, although they carry greens, oolongs, and whites, I found that their black teas were very good. Harney and Sons is a US-based company that sells some very good black teas. For a complete change of pace, I’d also recommend Rishi Tea, which excels in the area of sustainability, with a huge portion of their catalogue both organic and fair-trade certified. Arbor Teas is another company offering black (and other) teas along these lines. And if you want some high-quality tea at an extraordinary low price, I would recommend Ahmad Tea, a London-based company oriented towards the Middle-eastern market, which sells loose-leaf Ceylon and Assam that is rich in flavor and unparalleled in its price range. Yet another company that comes to mind, a new launch owned by Republic of Tea, is Rare Tea Republic, with some unusual offerings, all from the Himalayan region.

These are only a few of the companies that come to mind; I have undoubtedly omitted many top-notch companies from this list.

In summary:

My personal favorite source of black tea is Upton Tea Imports, which I prefer for their consistently fair prices, and the fact that each item in their catalogue is offered in affordable samples. But there are many other companies that I would also recommend as sources of loose-leaf black tea.

 

Alex Zorach is the founder and editor-in-chief of RateTea, an online community where anyone can rate and review teas, an authoritative source for information about tea. RateTea has a searchable database of teas, classified by brand, style, and region, and articles on tea, health, sustainability, and related topics. Visit RateTea to find black tea reviews and learn more about what to buy.

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Ceylon Black Tea

Black Ceylon Tea

Black Ceylon Tea

Ceylon black tea, often called just “Ceylon”, refers to black tea that has been grown in Sri Lanka. “Ceylon” is simply an old name for Sri Lanka that has remained in use in the tea world, but fallen out of use elsewhere.

Ceylon is a mainstay of British culture, where it is frequently consumed on its own, as well as one ingredient among many in the classic English Breakfast blends. Ceylon comes in a wide variety of different grades; the standard grade is orange pekoe. Most people are familiar with the tea bags for sale in mainstream supermarkets, but single region and single estate loose-leaf Ceylon tea is popular among connoisseurs, as well as cost-conscious shoppers looking to save money, as loose tea can offer considerable savings. Because they tend to be reasonably priced, these single-harvest teas, grown in small batches from particular gardens can be an affordable luxury good.

Caffeine content:

Although this may come as somewhat of a dismay to readers, there is little that can be said about the caffeine content of Ceylon black teas. Because Ceylon refers to a growing region, and not a varietal or grade, tea sold under the Ceylon label can come from a wide variety of grades and cultivars.

As a general rule, however, an overwhelming majority of Ceylon tea is of a standard or average grade, orange pekoe, which tends to have a fairly typical caffeine content among teas (often around 60mg per cup, contrasting with the 85-135mg per typical cup of coffee). Tippy ceylon, containing a higher portion of leaf bud, common in higher grades of tea, will tend to have a higher caffeine content. Stronger-tasting Ceylon tea does not necessarily contain more caffeine: some of the higher grades of tea have a lighter flavor, but can actually contain more caffeine. If you are especially concerned with the caffeine content of a particular batch, you need to verify this information with the company selling your tea.

Health benefits:

Although green tea has gotten the lion’s share of the attention when it comes to the topic of health benefits, there is a growing body of evidence that black tea is healthy as well. There have been few studies comparing Ceylon teas to teas produced in other regions, but as Ceylons are typical among black teas, and span a wide range of grades, until any research suggests otherwise, there is little reason to assume that the health benefits of teas produced in Sri Lanka differ substantially as a general rule from other standard black teas.

Learn more:

The best way to learn about Ceylon black tea is to sample it from yourself. My personal recommendation is to buy single-estate, loose-leaf Ceylon tea from companies that specialize in high-end, British-style teas.

 

Alex Zorach is the founder and editor-in-chief of RateTea, an online community where anyone can rate and review teas, and an authoritative source for information about tea. RateTea has a searchable database of teas, classified by brand, style, and region, and articles on tea, health, sustainability, and related topics. Visit RateTea to read Ceylon black tea reviews, and try some of these teas for yourself.

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Tulsi (Holy Basil) Tea Reviews

Tulsi (Holy Basil) Tea Reviews – My Reviews Of Loose Leaf Tulsi And Tea Bags

Tulsi Tea

Tulsi Tea

Tulsi tea, or holy basil tea, is an herbal tea made from a species of basil plant that is a cousin of the familiar sweet basil plant used in much of Western cooking. This article gives some of my personal reviews of tulsi tea that I have sampled from various sources.

Tulsi, a potent relaxing or stress-relieving herb, can be rather hard to find; it is not anywhere near as widely available as other relaxing herbal teas such as chamomile. In most locations, the best options for buying tulsi are online; in this article I review these options, as well as the mainstream Organic India brand which is more widely available.

Tulsi from Upton Tea Imports:

Upton Tea Imports, a company that I like primarily because of their outstanding and reasonably-priced selection of Indian black teas, offers a small variety of high-quality loose-leaf herbal teas in their catalog, and among them, three distinct varieties of tulsi.

My favorite of these is BH02: Holy Basil Purple Leaf, incidentally, the first tulsi I ever tried. This particular batch has a strong warming quality to it, a smooth, gentle flavor, and a complex, spicy aroma. My second favorite tulsi from Upton is BH03: Wild Forest Holy Basil Organic , an organic-certified Vana tulsi (incidentally, a different species from the other two). The wild forest tulsi has a strong licorice or anise quality to the aroma and is quite distinct from the green and purple varieties. The third offering I would recommend is BH06: Holy Basil Green Leaf, which has a stronger, more pungent quality to it, and a sharp, clove-like aroma.

Organic India’s Tulsi:

Organic India is a brand that is fairly widely available, even sold in a number of supermarkets. Their pure tulsi, which is available both in tea bags and loose-leaf form, is a blend of purple, green, and vana varieties of holy basil. I found it to be the most balanced and easily accessible offering among the samples of tulsi that I have been exposed to. I would recommend it as another good choice.

Maya Tea’s Holy Basil:

Maya Tea is not as well-known a company as Upton Tea Imports or Organic India, but it also had a tulsi that I have sampled recently, and that is worth mentioning if only because it is quite distinct from the other two. The holy basil from Maya Tea had a more lemony quality, and less of the characteristic clove quality.

In summary:

My favorite tulsi that I have ever tried was the purple-leaf variety, BH02, from Upton Tea Imports. Incidentally, this tea has a 98th percentile ranking on RateTea, based on my review and two other reviews, as of my writing this article. However, there are many other good options for tulsi or holy basil out there, and I also find the Organic India brand to be a very good option.

 

Alex Zorach is the founder and editor-in-chief of RateTea, an online community where anyone can rate and review teas, and the web’s authoritative source for information about tea and herbal tea. RateTea has a searchable database of teas and herbal teas, classified by brand, style, and region, and articles on tea, health, sustainability, and related topics. You can also find more tulsi tea reviews on RateTea.

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How To Make Great Iced Tea at Home

jar-of-iced-teaHomemade iced tea is a delightful and refreshing drink that is especially popular in summer and in hot weather, but can be enjoyed at any time of year.

Q: Why is homemade iced tea better than bottled tea?

A: It is healthier, more affordable, and tastes much better!

Tea is widely regarded as a healthy beverage. Much of the discussion of the health benefits of tea centers around the fact that tea is rich in antioxidants. However, the antioxidants begin to break down shortly after the tea is brewed. Bottled (or RTD/”Ready to Drink”) tea has been sitting on the shelf for days or weeks before you buy it, and a large portion of the antioxidants have already broken down by the time you drink it.

Most bottled teas on the market also are sweetened. There is no way to remove the sweetener. Sugars or high fructose corn syrup add empty calories, but sweetened “diet” bottled teas are not necessarily much better as they contain artificial sweeteners, synthetic chemicals many of which have been implicated in various health risks. Some bottled teas also contain other artificial ingredients which may be harmful to health.

When you make your own iced tea at home, you are able to ensure that your batch is fresh and all natural, with no artificial ingredients. You can drink it within a day or two of brewing, so that the antioxidants in it do not have time to break down. And you can refrain from adding sweetener, or use a small amount of a natural sweetener like sugar or honey if desired. Making homemade iced tea also helps you control or limit your intake of sugars, other sweeteners, and artificial ingredients.

How to make homemade iced tea:

With the exception of teas specifically made for cold brewing, tea generally must be brewed with hot water. For black teas, it is usually best to use boiling water, and for green teas, somewhat cooler water (160-180F, or 71-82C) generally produces better results.

The simplest and easiest way to prepare iced tea is to brew a single cup of very strong tea, and then dilute it with ice water to make a large batch. This method saves both time and energy: heating only a small amount of water can be done quickly and with minimal energy usage. In the summer, this issue can be important as generating unnecessary heat warms your house and can either make your kitchen or home uncomfortably hot, or require your air conditioner to do extra work.

Q: How much leaf to use, or how many bags? In general, you can use the same amount of leaf as you would in preparing hot tea. Use about one teaspoon of loose-leaf, about 2 grams of dry leaf. Use one tea bag per cup, unless you are using tea bags meant for brewing more than one cup. Sometimes, especially when using high-quality tea, you can get away with using less leaf or fewer tea bags, and using a longer steeping time, while preparing a large batch of iced tea.

Q: Which types or varieties to use? You can make any kind of tea into an iced tea, but the best options tend to be to use high-quality loose-leaf tea. For a classic flavor, consider using a black tea such as a Ceylon or Assam. Darjeeling produces a more delicate cup, and Keemun a more fruity flavor. Green teas, whether Japanese, Chinese, or from other regions, can also make outstanding iced tea. Lastly, you can also ice herbal teas: spearmint and peppermint are favorite choices for summer, with their cooling, refreshing taste.

Q: Can I add anything else for flavor or sweetener? Of course! Besides honey or sugar as sweetener, favorite things to add to iced tea include a slice of lemon or lime, or a sprig of fresh mint.

Go and make your own iced tea!

This page is just an introduction to the wonders of homemade iced tea. You do not need to use a fixed recipe: experimenting with making your own iced tea is one of the best ways to start. Try different varieties and methods and figure out what you like best!

 

Alex Zorach is the creator of RateTea, an interactive website where anyone can rate and review teas. This site has a database of teas classified by brand, style, and region, with a wealth of information about each variety and region. On this site you can learn more about making iced tea, and browse different teas for drinking either iced or hot.

Article Source: EzineArticles.com