Tea 101: Everything You Need to Know

Here is everything you need to know about tea! From black tea to herbal tea, there is a type of tea for everyone!

A Tour de Tea: An introduction to tea drinking // Feast + West

2022 Update: This post was originally written by my friend Beverly Bean! We share a mutual love for tea and she shared her favorites in this post. I updated it with a bit more info about types of tea and how to make it to help you make a great cuppa!

From Beverly: Tea is the greatest beverage in the history of ever. It’s a rare occasion for me not to have at least one cup during the day.

It’s comforting, delicious, easy to make and has many healthful qualities. Tea originated in China and is the most popular beverage in the world. Rightly so!

Whether you’re drinking black, white, green, herbal or another one of the million-and-one variations, there is a tea for everyone.

A Tour de Tea: An introduction to tea drinking // Feast + West

Types of tea

There are lots of types of tea out there, but these 5 are the most common.

1. Black tea

The strongest of all types of tea, black tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. It is more oxidized than other types of tea, and it has lots of flavor and has a deep color when steeped.

Some common black teas include:

  • English Breakfast tea
  • Earl Grey tea
  • Darjeeling tea
  • Chai tea
  • Ceylon tea

2. Green tea

Green tea is also made from the same Camellia sinensis leaves and buds that black tea is made from, only it is not oxidized.

Some common green teas include Matcha tea and Jasmine green tea. Sometimes it is brewed with other flavors like mint and ginger.

3. Oolong Tea

Oolong tea is another type of tea made from the same Camellia sinensis plant that black tea and green tea are made from. It is oxidized, but not as much so as black tea.

4. White tea

White tea is a very delicate type of tea. It is made from young and/or minimally-processed leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, and has a very light, delicate flavor.

5. Herbal tea

Herbal tea doesn’t actually contain the tea plant, but is instead an infusion of other flavors.

Beverly loves herbal teas, with her favorites being peppermint, chamomile and rooibos! She says:

I love having peppermint tea when I’m feeling a little under the weather. It’s refreshing and delicious to have with some honey and milk.

Chamomile tea is perfect for any evening when you want something calming. Again, add some honey and milk and you’ll have the perfect cup!

Also called red tea, Rooibos tea is my favorite tea of all. I can’t get enough of this African red bush! I love having rooibos plain and pairing it with a chocolate treat. It goes well with lemon and honey.

A Tour de Tea: An introduction to tea drinking // Feast + West

How to make the perfect cup of tea

All you really need is hot water to steep your tea of choice to perfection. For herbal teas, you should steep the tea bag for about 5 to 7 minutes. Other teas usually only need about 3 minutes.

If you leave it steeping much longer, the tea can start to taste bitter. A lot of times you can stretch a single tea bag for to 2 or 3 cups!

Adding milk or lemon

The British are known for adding milk to their cups of hot tea. Just a few drops to make it nice and creamy.

Favorite additions include dairy milk or almond milk, but you can use your favorite kind of milk.

If not adding milk, you may want to add a squeeze of lemon or lime to your tea. This is great for herbal teas and iced black tea.

Adding sweeteners

Adding milk and a sweetener are all bells and whistles for your tea. You don’t need them, but sometimes you want that sweet and creamy cup.

I like to add honey or regular white sugar. You can also add simple syrup or even a flavored simple syrup, which is perfect for iced tea. Here are a few you might try:

You can’t go wrong with putting more love into your tea!

a hand pouring milk from a glass milk jar into a glass of thai iced tea

Other tea drinks

Iced tea is the most popular kind of tea drink out there, but there are so many ways to enjoy tea!

  • Thai Iced Tea — Thai Iced Tea is an icy drink made with Thai tea and sweetened with sweetened condensed milk.
  • Bubble Tea/Boba Milk Tea — Invented in Taiwan, this tea drink features black tea or flavored tea that is sweetened with milk, simple syrup and/or tapioca pearls.
  • Kombucha — Kombucha is a fermented tea drink that can be made with any type of tea.
  • Russian Tea — My family’s favorite non-alcoholic warm tea punch made with citrus and tea for the holidays

Tea cocktails

If you are in the mood for a cocktail made with tea, try one of these tea drinks:

Culinary uses for tea

Tea has tons of uses besides beverages. It works especially well with baked goods, especially chai tea which uses a flavorful spice blend. Here are some tea recipes to try:

Savory recipes work too! Try this Sweet Tea Oven Fried Chicken or these tea-poached pears over noodles.

a glass of iced tea

What to eat with tea

There are so many great recipes you can enjoy with a cup of tea.

If you are serving a High Tea, you will want to serve a teapot of tea along with a bunch of sweet and savory finger foods. Try macarons, tea cakes (which are cookies) or cucumber tea sandwiches.

I grew up enjoying a snack with tea, such as a vanilla scone, a slice of ginger ale cake or a ginger cookie.

With iced tea in the summer, you can enjoy sweet and savory foods. It’s perfect alongside barbecue, watermelon and even seafood.

After all this tea talk it’s high time I make some and snuggle in with a book. Remember, it’s always tea time!

What are you favorite types of tea? Do you add anything special to make the perfect cup? Share in the comments!

decorative icon of a beer stein.

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  1. Sarah Shotts says

    I’m a classic English Breakfast tea girl myself. Brewed strong with two sugars and a splash of milk. It became part of my daily ritual when I lived in London earning my Masters degree. I still miss being able to order tea after any meal.

  2. Jennifer says

    Tea is my absolute favorite! I tend to like black tea (w/ almond milk) in the morning and herbal tea (peppermint, usually) in the afternoon. 🙂

  3. Susan the farm quilter says

    I seem to only drink tea! Hot in the morning – my fav is Bengal Spice by Celestial Seasonings (their chai tea, herbal with no caffeine) with milk and sugar. When it warms up, then it’s time for iced tea (decaf) with sugar.

    • Beverly says

      I love that you drink tea regularly Susan! Isn’t it fantastic how versatile it is? Hot in the winter, iced in the summer. There’s no season where you can’t have a perfect tea to hold + sip. And Celestial teas are wonderful! They have so many delicious flavors.

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