By Maria O’Connell

I have recently assumed the habit of tea-drinking.  When I caught a terrible cold in the heart of flu season this winter, I needed something warm to soothe my aching throat and coffee was not appealing.  Therefore, I raided my friend’s tea cabinet, and much to my surprise, had my first satisfying experience with tea.

Since then, I have been drinking tea (in addition to my coffee). And just this week, I had the thrilling privilege of ordering my first glass of tea in a public venue – a local coffee shop. During my college career, I spent many hours in the comfort of a café sipping coffee and working through my homework. Yet I never once ordered a glass of gourmet tea. Ordering tea was an entirely new experience. In my tea ignorance, ordering tea proved to be quite a challenging endeavor.

Standing in line at JP’s, scanning the exhaustive list of teas that the barista handed to me and feeling overwhelmed by the options, I learned a fascinating fact. Reading through my tea list did not deter me from eavesdropping on the woman in front of me in line. She too was ordering a glass of tea. Hoping to pick up some tips, I not only hung on every word between the barista and the woman, but carefully noted each movement that she made. Pretending to be quite distracted by my list of herbals, greens, and blacks, I quickly made mental notes to help me in my big debut. The woman made deliberate selections as she brushed her way through the barista’s questions. The very last decision she made left me with a look of fascination. The barista inquired: what steeping temperature would you prefer?  The tea that the woman ordered did not have an ideal steeping temperature (or the barista just did not know it). I still do not know why, but I was completely struck by the simple fact that different teas steep best at different temperatures. Spurred on by the joy this little piece of information gave me, I did a little more research on my new favorite drink. Stolen from a great website,, the following is a short list of fun tea facts:

  • Legend has it that tea was first discovered by a Chinese emperor around 3000 BC. At the time, he made a law that all water must be boiled before it was drunk to ensure sanitation. As he was drinking his boiled water one day, some leaves from a nearby tree fell into his bowl, changing the color of the water. The emperor, who was also a scientist, took a sip, liked the flavor, and found that the leaf had restorative properties. The rest is history.
  • Tea is the second-most consumed drink in world, second only to water.
  • All teas come from the same plant – a plant called Camellia.
  • “Chai” quite simply means “tea” in Hindi.
  • The ideal steeping temperature for black, dark oolong and herbal teas is 212F; the ideal steeping temperature for the more delicate green, light oolong and white teas is 180F.
  • The ideal steeping time for most black teas is 5 minutes, while dark oolongs and whites can stand about 7 minutes, and light oolongs and greens should only steep about 3 minutes.
  • ALL teas (remember they come from the same plant) have been shown to assist in weight loss, the prevention of cancer, immune strength, lowering cholesterol, and giving better breath.
  • Herbal teas are not actually tea, as they are usually derived from dried flowers, fruits, or herbs.

If you drink tea, I would encourage you to learn a little more about the drink. It is really interesting. is a great place to start. If you do not drink tea, why not give it a try? The drink has great health benefits. Who knows? Maybe you will find, as I did, that you actually enjoy it.