Tea doesn’t necessarily seem like an edgy or exciting beverage; however, if you have not tried a steeped cup of loose leaf tea, you are missing out on a treat for the taste buds and the body!

Recently, I stepped into a tea store that had over 100 different kinds of loose leaf tea. I was given a fascinating introduction to the different types of loose leaf teas, and was briefed on some of the healing and wellness properties. Loose leaf teas are packed with unique flavors, aromas and textures – plus they are full of healthy healing antioxidants. Some blends have as much energy enhancing goodness as a cup of java, but without the jitters or caffeine crash. After my visit to the tea store, I walked away with a healthy cup of tea loaded with energy and antioxidants, and a new appreciation for an old world drink.

There are several different types of tea which can be mixed together for a multitude of flavor and healing benefits. All teas come from the Camellia sinesis plant, except for herbal infusions and blooming teas. The processing of the tea determines what kind of tea the leaves become. The different kinds of teas are created by withering, steaming, shaking, rolling, drying, pan frying, firing and/or fermenting. The eight basic teas include black, green, oolong, white, herbal, rooibos, mate, and blooming teas. Teas have many wellness powers: they can lower cholesterol, help with blood pressure, curb appetites and boost the body full of cancer preventing antioxidants, as well as improve your menstrual cycle and encourage fertility.

Black tea helps prevent heart disease because it stops the absorption of cholesterol into the blood stream. It is also known to be good for regulating blood sugar and preventing tooth decay.

Green tea is often thought of as the “healthy” tea, it is packed with antioxidants which help to prevent cancer, but can also help to regulate blood sugar and lower blood pressure.

Oolong tea is used for suppressing the appetite and improving digestion.

White tea is the healthiest kind. It has a higher amount of antioxidants than green tea, and is known for enhancing the complexion and reducing wrinkles, as well as lowering cholesterol.

Herbal teas include rooibos and mate teas, which are loaded with Vitamin C. Typically they are made up of flowers, fruits and herbs. In fresh loose leaf tea, the flowers and fruits used can be seen and even eaten right out of the tea mix.

Rooibos tea is made from the Aspalathus linearis plant and is one of the best antioxidant teas; it is known for its ability to treat allergies and digestive problems.

Mate tea tastes a lot like coffee and has the same energy boost, but will not cause a caffeine crash like coffee does. It has 21 minerals and vitamins, and also aids in weight loss.

Blooming teas are created by binding tea leaves and flowers together into a bundle with cotton thread. Once the tea bundle is steeped, it will open up to release an aromatic scent or flavor and will create a beautiful design.

Loose leaf teas have an amazing range of flavors-from berry, to nutty, to smoky to minty. The colors of loose leaf teas are vibrant and the aromas are strong and fresh. There is a difference between loose leaf teas and store bought teas in tea bags. Loose leaf teas are 100% tea leaves, whereas tea bags often contain pieces of tea leaves and filler. This can cause the tea’s true flavor and scent to be greatly compromised. Loose leaf tea allows you to mix tea blends easily to experience the same taste again and again. With the extensive variety of flavors and aromas, a cup can be brewed for any palate.

The steeping process is an important part of a good cup of tea. Water is warmed in a tea kettle with a thermometer to ensure a specific temperature. Most tea shops will recommend a temperature and time for their teas to be steeped. The water is poured from the tea kettle into a tea pot, and the tea leaves are put into a basket in the tea pot and steeped. The tea leaves are then removed from the tea pot basket and the tea pot is put on a warmer to maintain temperature. It is not recommended to keep the tea leaves in the tea pot because excessive steeping can cause the tea to become bitter. If a stronger taste is desired, more tea should be added instead of increasing steeping time. Tea leaves are sensitive to heat, moisture and light, and thus should be stored in an air tight container to maintain the flavor, scent and integrity.