Everything You Need to Know About Tea

By Samuel Sprague
Public Policy Major, College of Humanities and Social Sciences

A tea bag being dipped into a cup

State and Local Public Policy Major, College of Humanities and Social Sciences

There are many types of tea, but what most people don’t know is that “tea” comes from the same plant (called camellia sinensis). Herbal teas (also known as herbal tisanes) are not technically tea, since they consist of herbs, spices, flowers and other plants. Tea leaves are all prepared differently, giving them distinct flavors, aromas and health benefits.1. White tea: The leaves are in their least processed form, air-dried and slightly oxidized.
2. Green tea: The leaves undergo roasting, steaming or toasting to preserve flavor.
3. Oolong tea: The leaves are partly oxidized, leaving a strong, sweet aroma and flavor.
4. Black tea: The leaves are fully oxidized, making it the strongest tea.
5. Pu-erh tea: The leaves are fermented and aged before being pressed into a cake. Pu-erh tea is sold by vintage.

The different preparation of tea leaves results in many differences between the flavor, brewing technique and caffeine content. Exploring each of these is important, since no one style is everyone’s cup of tea.

Tea Safety

Students should be aware of how to drink tea safely. Different styles of tea have different caffeine counts, which helps narrow down which drinks are best for a late night and which to avoid if you are sensitive to caffeine. For reference, the average cup of coffee can be anywhere from 95-110 mg of caffeine. An adult can safely consume around 400 mg daily, but the effects of caffeine are different for everybody.

1. White Tea: 30-55 mg
2. Green Tea: 35-70 mg
3. Oolong Tea: 50-75 mg
4. Black Tea: 60-90 mg
5. Pu-erh Tea: 30-70 mg

Apart from caffeine content, black tea is rich in oxalates (a compound associated with kidney stone formation). Unless eating or drinking large amounts of oxalate-rich foods (spinach, berries, coffee), it’s safe for most people to drink two or three cups of black tea every day.

Loose-Leaf or Bagged?

When considering convenience, tea bags are an obvious choice. Most students will choose bagged tea since it’s accessible and inexpensive. For these reasons, tea is a good option on busy mornings and late nights.

Those seeking quality find that loose-leaf tea is a clear victor at the loss of some convenience. Loose-leaf tea is fresh (or freshly dried), whereas bagged tea can be stored for months before brew. When using loose ingredients, the leaves expand and release more flavor and aroma. Many find that this full flavor removes the need for lemon, honey, milk and other flavorings that offset unbalanced flavors in bagged tea.


When using bagged tea, brewing is just a matter of following the instructions on the box. Loose-leaf gets a big more complicated, since quality can be lost easily when using fresh ingredients. The first thing to consider when brewing any tea is water quality. Using tap water can lead to mineral contamination that interferes with the flavor of the tea. For the best flavor, go with filtered water.

Brewing loose-leaf tea is more complicated than pouring boiling water on leaves, since scalding water can damage the leaves and reduce health benefits. Every tea has an ideal steeping temperature and time.

1. White Tea: 1-3 minutes at 175-185 degrees Fahrenheit
2. Green Tea: 3 minutes at 180-185 degrees Fahrenheit
3. Oolong Tea: 3-5 minutes at 185-206 degrees Fahrenheit
4. Black Tea: 3-5 minutes at 206 degrees Fahrenheit
5. Pu-erh Tea: 3-5 minutes at 212 degrees Fahrenheit

Hot or Iced?

In the Arizona heat, iced tea is a cherished commodity. The only trade-off with iced tea is a loss of some antioxidants. There are many ways to make iced tea, but the most common method is to brew hot tea and either refrigerate it or pour it over ice. When making iced tea, it is important to brew at double-strength because ice will dilute the tea.

Some alternative methods to brewing iced tea are cold brewing it in the refrigerator overnight and making “sun tea,” which involves filling a sealed jar with water and a bag or loose ingredients and setting it outside to brew in the summer heat.

However you like your tea, these tips are everything you need to know to make the perfect cup. Making sun tea and experimenting with different types of tea is a great way to beat the Arizona summer heat and chilly winters at Grand Canyon University.

Students at Grand Canyon University enjoy high quality in the beverages at the Grand Canyon Beverage Company and in academic enrichment. Learn more about GCU and all its campus has to offer by visiting out website or clicking on the Request More Information button on this page.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.