Drink Your Tea: Types, Health Benefits, and How to Brew a Perfect Cup


Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "There is a great deal of poetry and fine sentiment in a chest of tea." On any given day 158 million Americans drink tea — and for good reason. Different types of tea have been shown to boost the immune system, regulate cholesterol, and fight cancer with significant supplies of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Plus, tea in its many forms feels comforting and tastes delicious. (See also: The Best Online Tea Merchants)

Brewing the perfect cup of tea requires attention to the type of tea, the length of time it steeps, and the temperature of the water. Each type of tea requires a unique mix of these variables to maximize health benefits and flavor.

Below are six common types of tea, their characteristics and health benefits, and instructions on how to steep each one perfectly. Tea can either be loose and placed in an infuser or steeped in pre-packaged tea bags. The brewing instructions are the same for both. The longer tea steeps, the stronger the flavor. (See also: Delicious Homemade Tea Recipes)


Primarily grown in China, white tea comes from the traditional tea plant, Camellia sinensis, and is very lightly oxidized. This means that the leaves are left in a climate-controlled environment to be exposed to air. The more oxidation the tea leaves have, the stronger the flavor of the final product. It has been shown to improve circulation and reduce inflamation and while imparting powerful antioxidants. White tea contains caffeine. (See also: 10 Surprising Uses for Tea)

Preparation: Boil water and let it cool for 4 minutes before adding the tea. Steep white tea for 2–4 minutes.


Green tea comes from the same plant as white tea. However, green tea undergoes slightly more oxidation than white tea giving it a slight bitter flavor. It has been shown to support a healthy weight, promote eye health, and improve heart health. It is mainly grown and harvested in China and Japan. Green tea contains caffeine.

Preparation: Boil water and let it cool for 3 minutes before adding the tea. Steep green tea for 2–3 minutes.


Like white and green tea, Oolong also comes from the traditional tea plant. Its distinct and strong flavor comes from pan firing the leaves during oxidation. Oolong tea has been shown to lower blood sugar and cholesterol while promoting heart health. Oolong tea contains caffeine. (See also: How to Reduce Your Risk of Diabetes)

Preparation: Boil water and let it cool for 2 minutes before adding the tea. Steep oolong tea for 2–3 minutes.


Black tea comes from a long fermentation process of the rolled leaves of the traditional tea plant. Then, like oolong tea, it is pan fired to give it a strong flavor. Black tea has been shown to increase mental alterness and enhance blood flow. Black tea contains caffeine.

Preparation: Boil the water and add the tea immediately. Let black tea steep 4–5 minutes so that it has time to develop its complex flavor and aroma.


Herbal tea usually does not contain any tea leaves and instead consists of different combinations of dried or fresh herbs. Different herbs provide different benefits. For example, chamomile tea is known to calm the nervous system and help induce sleep, hibiscus lowers cholesterol, ginger reduces inflammation, and peppermint reduces nausea and aids digestion. Most herbal teas are caffeine free.

Preparation: Boil water and add the herbal tea immediately. Let all herbal teas steep 4–5 minutes.


Like herbal tea, Rooibos is not technically tea. It is made from the red leaves of the Rooibos plant native to South Africa. It has been shown to reduce blood pressure, and support healthy liver function. It does not have any caffeine.

Preparation: Boil water and add Rooibos immediately. Steep it for 5–6 minutes.

No matter which type of tea you choose and whether your drink it hot or iced, take time to savor the flavor and aroma, knowing that this beverage has nourished people all over the globe for centuries. Enjoy!

What's your favorite way to brew tea?

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Guest's picture

It is also worth noting that there are pretty large differences within a type of tea in terms of bitterness and caffeine content, etc. Thus, someone who tried a green tea or an oolong tea, for example, and did not enjoy it, might very much enjoy a different green tea or oolong tea. Basically, there's something for everyone.

Christa Avampato's picture

Great point, Daniel. Thank you for saying that. Different brands and blends can vary greatly within a kind of tea.