Mzansi let’s have some tea talk. Did you know more people around the world are choosing tea as their drink of choice? This is according to Adele du Toit, the spokesperson for the South African Rooibos Council (SARC). And what better time than now with the chill in the air.
Du Toit tells Health For Mzansi that tea has become so popular but few really know the difference between their teas.
“Most South Africans still have the habit of referring to all leafy beverages steeped in hot water as tea, but strictly speaking, the word ‘tea’ only refers to a beverage that comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant, which is native to Asia,” she clarifies.
“The most common tea varieties are black, green, white, oolong, purple, Pu-erh and herbal infusions. “Black and green teas are all derived from the Camellia Sinensis plant, the leaves are just processed differently. Black teas are oxidised, which gives the tea it’s dark colour, while white teas are left to dry. Oolong is shaken in bamboo baskets to lightly bruise and dry the leaves.
“Herbal teas are referred to as tisanes (pronounced ti-zahn), since they don’t come from the Camellia Sinensis plant,” Du Toit explains.
Drinking rooibos could help to:
- improve heart health
- maintain blood glucose/sugar levels
- reduce stress and anxiety
- improve certain skin conditions
Sip on this
If a tasty cuppa has left you speechless, a flavour wheel will help you to categorise certain characteristics of a tea or tisane, Du Toit says. “Start by determining the general taste and aroma of the tea or tisane, like the base notes. Depending on the format of the flavour wheel, you can either start from the inner circle and move progressively outwards or start from the outer circle and move towards the centre. This will help you to refine the language used to relay your sensory experience.”
“If it tastes fruity, determine whether it’s more citrussy or berry-like and so on. The best way to start is to choose what you’re familiar with and then branch out.”
She says rooibos’ flavour profile is unique. Although it brews into a cup of intense red, the flavour is very different from black teas. “Most of us have enjoyed rooibos in a ‘red’, fermented form, but it’s equally satisfying in it’s unfermented, ‘green’ guise.
“On the other hand, green rooibos is more delicate and has a vegetal, yet sweet note.”
She points out that when taste-testing the “liquor” of tea or tisanes – which occurs during infusion instead of sipping – you should slurp or suck in the brew to maximise the impact on your taste buds.
How to brew your perfect cup
Du Toit says rooibos should ideally be steeped for 5 – 10 minutes for greater antioxidant release. “Since it’s naturally sweet, you can drink it as is or you can add honey or sugar to it for a sweeter taste.”
Tea and tisanes are rich sources of antioxidants called flavonoids. These help the body to rid itself of free radicals that damages cells. Various teas and tisanes need to be steeped differently to extract enough flavour and antioxidants so you can get the most from every cup.
White and green teas taste better when steeped in slightly cooler water for shorter times. If you over-steep or burn green tea with water that’s too hot, it spoils the sweet and vegetal (botanic) taste and will become bitter. Black tea, on the other hand, can handle hot water and may be steeped for longer.
- Black tea (Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Assam, Darjeeling): steep for 5 min at 95°C.
- White tea (Silver Needle, White Peony): steep for 4 – 5 min at 79°C.
- Green tea (Matcha, Sencha): steep for 3 – 4 min at 79°C.
- Oolong tea (Ti Kuan Yin, Dan Cong): steep for 3 – 5 min at 91°C.
Keep in mind that water boils at 100°C, so it’s best to let it cool for a few minutes before pouring it over the tea bag/leaves.
- Dried tisanes (rooibos, chamomile, hibiscus) can handle hotter water: steep for up to 15 minutes at 100°C.
- Fresh tisanes made from chopped up fruit, roots or spices need to steep for up to 30 minutes at 100°C.