Tea. Just the word inspires images of let’s-pretend parties, classy English afternoons, and cozy evenings with a Jane Austen novel. It’s a drink that has invaded every corner of the globe… in fact, I’m drinking a cup of tea as I’m writing this.

Tea is my absolute favorite drink, in fact, and it’s on its way to becoming the drink of choice amongst twenty-something women everywhere. It’s healthy, comforting, and downright yummy. But with so many options, I’ve decided to give you a glimpse into the wide world of tea so that you can “pinky up” in no time.

The Chinese began drinking tea in the 10th century BC, and as you probably know from your history courses, it soon spread rapidly through colonial trade. Today’s tea-drinkers have tons of flavors and types of tea to choose from, but for the sake of brevity, I’m going to stick with hot teas, which come in both loose and bagged forms.

Loose vs. Bagged Tea

Though loose leave teas are more time-consuming to prepare, they are generally more flavorful. Serious tea drinkers — or those looking for more obscure flavors — should choose loose teas, but you will need to prep yourself with an infuser, tea pot, or tea ball.

If you don’t have a lot of time or materials, or you just feel like keeping it simple, choose bagged teas. I use both: bagged for when I’m on the go or need a quick pick-me-up, and loose when I want to unwind and try something flavorful.

Types of Tea and Health Benefits

Green tea is the most popular type of tea (especially in bagged form), and is probably the one you’re most familiar with. It’s a great source of antioxidants, and has about 5-10% the amount of caffeine that a similar-sized cup of coffee would have. Green tea comes in many varieties — I favor mine with mint or peach. (Try the Bigelow varieties if you’re going for boxed flavors.) This is a great choice if you’re trying to watch your weight or are mainly looking to drink tea for its health benefits.

You’re probably also pretty familiar with black tea, which has about 20% the caffeine you’d find in a cup of coffee. They maintain cholesterol levels and help with your cardiovascular and circulatory functions. Plus, I’m pretty sure they’re the most delicious teas imaginable because they feature the bold flavors you’d expect from coffee. Earl Grey is a black tea, and chai is usually made with black tea is well. (If you’re looking for a great boxed black tea, I suggest Awake by Tazo! It’s my absolute favorite.)

Oolong tea is what you’ll find if you’re eating at a Chinese restaurant, and it is often linked to weight loss, as it increases your metabolism. Like other types of tea, oolong tea is also valued for its heart-healthy properties. One of my good friends loves Darjeeling tea, which is a well-known type of oolong. These teas have a 10-15% caffeine ratio to coffee, and are really flavorful if you’re looking for something sweet.

There are several other types of tea that are less popular but equally classy. Herbal teas (made up of rooibos tea, which are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, mate teas, and herbal infusions), blooming teas, white teas, and tea blends. Though all have their benefits, if you’re looking for something with very little caffeine and a more “natural” (read: less processed) background, choose white tea.

White tea is also known for keeping your skin glowing and young — it’s never too early to start watching your skin, right? If you’re having nervous shakes just thinking about skipping your 2 p.m. (and 3 p.m., and 4 p.m.) Starbucks run, try a mate tea. They give you the same about of energy and can also help to healthfully curb your appetite. Blooming teas make great gifts, because they actually “bloom” as they steep, making them perfect for your romantic dinner date or just a girl’s day with mom.

Brewing Times

It’s important to remember that brewing times vary depending on the type of tea you’ve chosen, so make sure you read the directions or do a quick Google search before steeping! (Don’t be afraid to steep something for a shorter or longer period of time, though, if you like your tea a different strength. I often drink the tea with the bag still in the cup — I like my tea as strong as Chris Hemsworth. Yum. If you want to make iced tea, let the tea cool down before pouring it over ice, or else you’ll end up with a watered-down mess. Or, freeze some tea ice cubes to instantly turn any drink cold.

Now you’re probably bouncing in your seat wondering where you can run for these awesome teas! I’m fortunate enough that there’s a speciality loose-lead tea store a few blocks from my campus, and I bet if you look, you’ll find that a lot of “downtown” areas have similar shops. It’s a niche market that is thankfully being answered in college towns nationwide. Don’t be afraid to shop for tea at your local grocery store or even Target or Wal-Mart, both of which boast wide collections of bagged teas. (And even some loose!) I also love Wegman’s, which has its own tea section. Right now I’m drinking their Zhena’s Gypsy Vanilla Chai organic black tea.

Tea-accessories

Can’t get enough of tea? Here are some of my favorite teapots, teacups, and tea accessories for you to sip on — all from Etsy!

Custom Lavender Coffee Cosy from KnitStorm

Lavender Earl Grey from Wildroot

Lionel Richie Teapot from MrTeacup

Make Tea Not War from RockThatCustardPrints

Also, be sure to check your area for tea rooms, which is always a fun weekend outing with your girlfriends or mom.

What are some of your favorite types of tea? Tell us in the comments below!