Monday, September 5, 2016

5 Things About Tea Everyone Thinks are True

I've heard the same old misconceptions about tea repeated over and over again. Most often it's the news media that gets these things wrong but I've even seen books that perpetuate myths about tea. Some of the points on this list really grind my gears! So many tea drinking newbies are misled and misinformed until someone shows them the light.

1. Any dried plant material brewed in hot water is tea.

A lot of people don't realize that tea is an actual plant, called the Camellia Sinensis to be exact. It doesn't help that our grocery store shelves are full of things labeled "tea" that contain no actual tea leaves. Rooibos, mint, chamomile and other herbal infusions are all wonderful things but they are not tea since they are completely different species. You might also see these sorts of brews referred to as tisanes. This misconception is a constant struggle for me because my blog focuses exclusively on true teas (those made from Camellia Sinesis). I receive several inquiries every week from companies who don't understand why their herbal blends don't fit that criterion.

➣ For more on this check out my blog post: Does All Tea Really Come From the Same Plant?

2. Green tea doesn't have caffeine and black tea has the most.

One line I hear from others on an almost daily basis is that belief that green tea does not contain any caffeine. This could not be farther from the truth. All tea, regardless of the type, contains caffeine. The amount can also vary quite a bit within each category. For example, a Chinese Dragonwell and a Japanese Gyokuro will have very different concentrations. I think this is a particularly important misconception to address because it can cause real issues for someone with medical issues concerning caffeine. It's also a bit of a half-truth that black tea has the most caffeine. The amount of caffeine depends on a large number of factors including weather, growing conditions and the plucking standard.

➣ While we're on the subject of caffeine, you might want to check out: Is It Possible to Decaffeinate Tea?

3. Green tea is the healthiest.

One misconception that I see often in the media is that green tea is the healthiest. While green tea does generally contain a higher concentration of antioxidants it is possible for other types of tea to be just as high, if not higher, in antioxidants. It is important to look at where our information comes from. Tea is generally not considered a topic of great importance (outside of our own little tea world) so most of the scientific studies being done in the United States are privately funded. For this reason, the types of studies that are done are generally very skewed. If Unilever wants to make a green tea face wash, they would find it very advantageous to find that their product has potential health claims.

➣ For more on how I feel about health benefits and tea, check out this oldie but goodie: Health Benefits, Smealth Benefits

4. Tea makes you lose weight.

Tea is a very wholesome beverage in and of itself, especially when compared to soda and energy drinks. It contains zero calories or sugar unless you add something to it. As such, tea is complementary to a healthy diet and lifestyle. That being said, tea is not a magic cure that will suddenly make someone lose a ton of weight without other life changes also taking place. There are many teas sold as "diet" teas such as puerh and oolong but this is grounded more in marketing hype than actual facts. I always joke that if tea really helped us to lose weight that effectively, I would completely disappear since I drink so much.

5. Loose leaf tea is too hard to make.

It's definitely a common misconception that loose leaf tea is extraordinarily harder to make than tea bags. The truth is that tea can be as complex or as simple as you want it to be. The mechanics are not a whole lot different from tea bags. You just need a way to remove the leaves from the water. When I first got into tea the only brewing method I had was a simple mesh infuser basket. This trusty tool served me well all through my college years until I had the time and space to dedicate to accumulating more advanced gear.

➣ If you're new to making tea, you might want to check out my primer: How to Brew Loose Leaf Tea

Are there other misconceptions that you've heard of? Let me know about them in the comments! I'd love to tackle them in future blog posts.