Think you know your tea? Think again.
Here are some of the common myths about the humble cup of chai.
1 Tea bags are a British invention
Wrong. Although there were primitive versions in China, the tea bag was invented in the US by merchant Thomas Sullivan in the early 20th century. The intention was that the loose tea should be removed from the sample bags by customers, but they found it easier to brew the tea with the tea still enclosed in the porous bags.
2 Organic tea tastes better
While it’s great for the environment in tea-producing regions like Darjeeling in India, organic is really just a label. Like other food and drink industries, there has been too much focus on this label, with large companies with the organic label guilty of more unsustainable practices than smaller farms that can’t afford to change. And until recently, organic tea wasn’t produced to the same standards as non-organic, due to the challenge of adapting to new farming processes.
3 There are different kinds of tea plant
Wrong. Although there are four types of tea – black, green, white and oolong – they all come from the same plant. Camellia sinensis, to give it its latin name.
4 Black tea has more caffeine than other kinds of tea
There’s just too much variety to make a sweeping statement like that. It varies from tea to tea, and a cup of black tea can have anything between 25-90 milligrams per cup. On top of this, the brewing process can vary the caffeine strength on top of this.
5 Black tea should be steeped longer than green
Conventional wisdom states that black tea should be brewed for around five minutes, while green and white tea should get no more than a minute or two. But there are other factors at play: the kind of tea, the amount of water, and the size of leaf being just a few.
6 Herbal tea is tea
Not strictly true. Herbal tea is not derived from the camellia sinensis tea plant, but from flowers and even the bark of other plants.
7 Green tea is better for you than other types of tea
While it does contain more antioxidants than black tea, there’s still far too much uncertainty around the question of what those antioxidants actually do. More of the media focus has been on green tea, but that doesn’t mean you should believe everything you read.
8 Adding milk reduces the health benefits of tea
A study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that roughly the same amount of catechins (antioxidants linked with a reduced risk of some cancers) were absorbed from tea with milk as from plain black tea.
9 You can store tea for as long as you like
You might think that gift box of Indian tea you brought home six years ago is still as good as ever. But a 2009 study in the Journal of Food Science showed that catechins in green tea decreased markedly over time, by around 30 per cent after six months. Freshness is an important factor when it comes to tea.
Myth busting is thirsty work. Tea, anyone?