Seven teas to taste


This is not black tea with milk, but white leaves drunk without milk or sugar. Black, green and white tea come from one plant; the difference is the processing: black undergoes a lengthy process of withering, fermentation and desiccation; green is withered and desiccated; white is only withered, thus undergoing the least tampering, and as a result contains the most antioxidants and the least caffeine. Recent studies show white tea is the best at preventing streptococcus and inhibiting colon cancer in rodents. Loved for its gentle flavour and hue, it's what Kakuzo Okakura celebrated in the cult 1960s Book Of Tea ("the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence"). It's readily available, but for the best go online: for Anemone (balls that open into flowers, £7.15), for jasmine mix (Silver Jasmine, £15.95) and for various whites, including sublime Peony (£6).


South African rooibos (pronounced "roy boss" and meaning red bush) is perhaps the best caffeine-free alternative to black tea, since it tastes similar, is taken with milk and is readily available. However, it lacks the guts of black tea. Some people like this mildness, but add a shard of cinnamon if you want to beef it up. It has an antioxidant content that has prevented cancer in rodents. New on the tea scene is green rooibos. It hasn't been fermented for long periods and is therefore more nutritious and contains more antioxidants; try Mirabelle (, £4.05), scented with yellow plum.

South American

South America exports two wonderful teas: Lapacho and Mate. Lapacho is a bark that rainforest tribes make into milky tea; it's a caffeine-free, detoxifying antioxidant, and tastes of vanilla and almond (, £3.45). Mate is a holly that contains more antioxidants than green tea, plus saponins, which boost immunity, and has recently inhibited cancer growth in cell trials. It's full of xanthines, which belong to the caffeine family and are thought to up concentration levels without making you edgy. It smells wonderfully smoky (Cruz de Malta Mate, £2.99, from healthfood shops or


A calming, comforting tea that soothes shock. Infuse rose petals (from branches of Neal's Yard) in hot water or buy a rose mix (such as Red Flower, £18, at Calmia 0845 009 2450) - as the petals soak, they seem to morph into shreds of silk. To make Afghan tea, mix rose with cardamom, milk, sugar and green or black tea.


Pu-erh is a rather eccentric tea: the leaves are aged and, though most available are one to four years old, connoisseurs hunt down ones that are aged 60. It is the tea of the moment, but it's not as healthy as everyone might think - since it's heavily processed, it contains a lot of caffeine. Westerners drink it to lower cholesterol (proven) and aid weight loss (not proven), while the Chinese have it after big, boozy meals to ease bloating and hangovers (, £3.95).

Designer green

It's fashionable to drink tea and those in the know don't just sip anything. They know their Gunpowder from their Jade Dew and are willing to pay 10 quid a cup for it in London tea rooms. When it comes to green, they're all drinking high grade (low in caffeine and high in nutrients) - there's no squeaky residue, characteristic of cheap greens, on trendy teeth. One of the best quality is the fragrant Dragonwell (, £10).


With its bold taste, this makes a refreshing change from peppermint, and is the mint drunk in Morocco, where, several times a day, they drink it fresh-leaved with green tea and plenty of sugar (from most healthfood shops. A cheap, caffeine free alternative is to use fresh mint from the supermarket or garden).

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