Would you like a cup of Oolong?

ImageBlack tea, green tea, oolong tea. . . If you’ve been down the tea aisle at your grocery store you might have looked at all of these names and wondered what they mean. What’s the difference? Today I’m going to explain the difference between some of the common types of tea, so next time you go shopping for tea you can know exactly what that vanilla rooibos chai is.

True Tea vs. Herbal Tea

The most basic distinction between various teas is whether a tea is a true tea, or an herbal tea. True teas are only those made with the leaf of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis. The four main kinds of tea are: Black tea, oolong tea, green tea, and white tea (I will explain the differences between these teas a little later on). True teas are naturally caffeinated. Herbal teas are much more varied, as they can be made from all sorts of fruits and herbs. Some examples of herbal teas are: chamomile, rooibos, and even pine. Herbal teas are naturally caffeine-free.

The four main types of True Teas

The main difference between teas is how the leaves are oxidized. In the oxidization process, enzymes in the tea leaves are exposed to oxygen, causing the leaves to darken and produce a bolder flavor.

Black tea, the most common variety of tea, is the most oxidized of the four types of tea, this results in stronger, more full-bodied flavors, and a dark brown color. As with all teas, caffeine levels vary, but a cup of black tea typically contains about 1/3-1/2 the caffeine of a cup of coffee.

Oolong tea is oxidized like black tea, but for a shorter period of time. The flavor can vary depending on the amount of oxidization, but is lighter than black tea. Again, the caffeine levels vary, but are lower than in black tea.

Green tea is minimally oxidized (if at all). The freshly picked leaves are pan-fried or steamed to kill the enzymes and prevent oxidization. Since they are not oxidized, green tea maintains its natural green color, and has a much lighter flavor than black tea (some describe the taste of green tea as “grassy”). As you might expect, the caffeine content in green tea is lower than that of black and oolong tea.

In regards to oxidization white tea is similar to green tea, it experience very little oxidization. What sets white tea apart is the method of harvest. While other teas are produced from mature tea leaves, white tea is produced from young tea leaves and unopened buds on the tea plant. White tea has a pale yellow color and a very light, delicate taste. White tea is the least caffeinated variety of tea, containing very little caffeine.

Common types of Herbal teas

Herbal tea, also known as Tisane, is a naturally caffeine free beverage that can be made from basically any plant material steeped in hot water. There are even herbal teas made from the leaves of coffee plants! Some of the more popular types of herbal tea are:

Chamomile tea, often used to relax and aid sleep. Chamomile tea is brewed from Matricaria chamomilla, a relative of the daisy that can be found wild in Europe, Asia, North America, and Australia.

Rooibos tea is made from the needle-like leaves of Aspalathus linearis, a member of the legume family commonly known as Rooibos (surprise!), found only in the Western Cape province of South Africa. The Rooibos plant is a shrub similar to the Scotch Broom plant seen in North America, Australia, and New Zealand. The leaves of the Rooibos plant are gently oxidized to give them their well-known red color. Rooibos tea has a sweet flavor.

Pine tea, popular among outdoorsmen, is made from steeping young, green pine needles. Pine tea is high in vitamins A and C.

Popular tea blends

As you may notice when looking through the tea aisle, there is more to teas than simply black, green, herbal, etc. Multiple ingredients are often blended in tea to make more complex flavors. Some of the more common tea blends are:

Earl Grey tea (the favorite of Captain Jean-Luc Picard of Star Trek) is a blend of black tea and the oil of Bergamot, a fragrant citrus fruit similar in size to an orange.

English Breakfast Tea is a robust tea made from black tea leaves grown in Assam (a northeastern state if India), Sri Lanka, and Kenya.

Chai tea is a spiced black tea originating in India. The spices used in Chai include cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and ginger. Chai tea is commonly mixed with boiled or steamed milk and sweetened with honey. Chai tea lattes are a popular beverage in many coffee shops and are commonly made by mixing a sweetened chai tea concentrate with milk and are either steamed or served over ice.

Decaf Tea vs. Caffeine-free

Like coffee, tea can often be found in decaf varieties. Decaf teas are put through a special process to remove most of the caffeine from the tea. As in coffee, decaffeination does not remove all of the caffeine. Decaf tea will still contain a small amount of caffeine, so if you are trying to avoid caffeine completely, decaf teas and coffees should be avoided. Herbal teas, on the other hand, are naturally caffeine-free, meaning they never contained caffeine in the first place

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about tea. As an avid tea drinker, I find tea a very interesting subject and I enjoy exploring the many varieties of tea available. Have any tea-related questions you’d like answered? Are there any tea varieties I didn’t discuss here that you would like to learn more about? Feel free to leave questions and comments in the comment section. I began my research for this topic on the Twinings USA webpage, and there is a lot of interesting information there that I didn’t cover in this post, so if you’re interested, I highly encourage taking a look around there.

Happy Learning!

-Lizzie

Merry Christmas!

Wise Men

So, in honor of Christmas, today’s lesson is going to focus on the Twelve Days of Christmas, and a little holiday in January called Epiphany.

For years I thought that the Twelve Days of Christmas were the twelve days before Christmas, and I think it’s safe to say that many other have believed that over the years. This idea is perpetuated by all sorts of Twelve Days of Christmas sales and TV specials and whatnot. The truth is, the Twelve Days of Christmas actually begin on Christmas Day. In Western Christmas tradition, the Twelve Days begin on the evening of December 25th and end on the morning of January 6th.

So, now that that’s straightened out, the question is: What are the Twelve Days of Christmas for? Are they just a continuation of Christmas Day? Or do they have their own meaning? Well, the tradition varies greatly by region and culture, but essentially, the Twelve Days are a festive time period connecting Christmas and Epiphany. So what is Epiphany? Epiphany is a holiday that falls on or around January 6th depending on culture and region. In Western Christian churches, Epiphany commemorates the day the Wise Men (AKA the Magi or the Three Kings, etc.) arrived to see Jesus which, contrary to popular belief, was not believe to be on the night of Jesus’ birth, but rather about two years later. Alternatively, in Eastern Christian churches, Epiphany commemorates the day Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River.

The celebration of Epiphany varies greatly from country to country, but it frequently involved religious ceremonies and feast. The tradition that interests me most as a Spanish major, is the tradition of Epiphany in Spain. In Spain, Epiphany is known as “El Día de los Reyes” meaning “The Day of the Kings.” In Spain they celebrate the arrival of the Kings with parades, and often enjoy a special bread or cake. Also, this is traditionally the day that children receive their gifts, as opposed to Christmas Day (although in modern culture it is common for children to receive gifts on both days). On the eve of January 6th, children polish their shoes and leave them out, and much like Santa leaves gifts under the Christmas tree, the Kings leave the gifts under the children’s shoes.

Now, before I let you go, I thought I’d share with you one more interesting tidbit about the Twelve Days of Christmas: Every year since 1984, PNC Wealth Management has calculated the total value of the gifts given in the Twelve Days of Christmas song. This year, the total value adds up to $25,431.18, which is the first time the value has exceeded $25,000. For more information on the PNC Christmas Price Index, as well as a fun little activity, visit the PNC website here.

Well, this concludes today’s special Christmas lesson. For more information of the various Epiphany traditions, you can check out the Wikipedia page, here. And finally, for a special Christmas treat, click here.

Merry Christmas, and Happy Learning!

-Lizzie

This may come as a surprise, but. . . pterodactyls aren’t dinosaurs.

I know, I know, I was just as surprised as you are when I heard this is my Dinosaurs class this quarter. If you asked my what my favorite dinosaurs were when I was a kid, pterodactyls would probably be on that list, and many of you might have said the same thing. Then there’s the matter of dinosaur toys, books, coloring pages, sticker sheets, and so on. Probably most of the dinosaur related things you may have owned or seen as a kid included pterodactyls in the group. But the truth is, pterodactyls (as well as some other famous reptiles you may have heard of) are not dinosaurs.

Well if they’re not dinosaurs, then what are they?

Well, dear reader, to help answer that question, we’ll start by looking at what a dinosaur is. Merriam-Webster defines a dinosaur as: “any of a group (Dinosauria) of extinct often very large chiefly terrestrial carnivorous or herbivorous reptiles of the Mesozoic era.” If you look closely, you may be able to spot the word that excludes pterodactyls from this group. Did you catch it? The word is “terrestrial,” which means they lived on land. And of course, what is one of the most important characteristics of a pterodactyl? They fly. So, now that we know why a pterodactyl isn’t a dinosaur, what is it? Pterodactyl is the common name for Pterodactylus, a genus belonging to the order Pterosauria. Pterosaurs are closely related to dinosaurs, but the order consists of ancient flying reptiles. Other genera (plural of genus) in Pterosauria include Anhanguera, Quetzalcoatlus, and many others.

So dinosaurs live on the ground, and pterosaurs live in the air, what about the water?

There are actually several orders of Marine reptiles, two of the most famous orders are Ichthyosauria and Plesiosauria (some people believe that the fabled Loch Ness Monster is a plesiosaur), but there are many more. You can read more about the many types of marine reptiles here.

I hope you enjoyed learning a bit about dear old pterodactyl. And I hope I didn’t completely shatter your childhood. 🙂 Feel free to leave questions and comments in the comment section, and if you’d like, share some of your favorite dinosaurs. If this inspires you to do some more reading about ancient reptiles like dinosaurs and pterosaurs, I would love to hear about some of the things you learned that you found interesting.

Happy Learning!

-Lizzie

It all started with a Facebook post…

Hello there internet wanderer! If you’re reading this, it appears you have discovered my little experiment. In order to introduce myself, why don’t I answer a few basic questions?

Who am I? My name is Lizzie, I am a 21-year-old girl about to graduate with my Associate’s in Arts and a Hispanic Studies certificate.

What do I do? Well, I have been a college student for the last three years, and I am not finished with my intended studies but I am just about to finish my Associate’s Degree. Next, I will be taking some time off to work, so I will be temporarily transitioning from a college girl to a working girl. But as soon as possible I will be transferring to a four-year college to finish my Bachelor’s Degree. I am a Spanish major, and I currently work at my community college as a Spanish tutor.

Why am I blogging? It all started on Facebook. I like to make posts from time to time about things I’ve learned, or share little grammar lessons. One day I made a post explaining the “why” behind a particular grammar error and what the proper phrase is, and my friend Kelsey, who has a blog of her own over at crunchycook.com, shared it. That lead to a joking conversation about how I would now be expected to make such posts regularly, and Kelsey casually mentioned that is sounded like a topic for a blog. So, I gave it a little thought and decided to go for it, and here I am. The timing is actually quite perfect, as this next week I am finishing up my last week at community college and will be taking the next year or so off from school to save up some money. Since I’ll be having some homework-free time in the coming year, why not give myself a new project in the form of this blog? So, there you go, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I have no idea what will come of this, but I’m giving it a try.

What is the idea behind this blog? Well, as a homeschool student from birth through High School, I was raised to look at all of life as a learning opportunity. I like to learn, and I look to learn from all sorts of things. In this blog, I’m going to share with you some of those lessons I’ve learned. Be they lessons on “would of” vs. “would’ve,” the history of Christmas traditions, how to bake a mug cake, or just life lessons on how life works, my goal is to share the lessons I learn with you, and hopefully we can learn together. 🙂

Well, that’s about it. Is there anything I’ve forgotten? Fell free to leave a comment about anything else you’d like to know about me (within reason, I like to maintain some privacy). You could also leave a suggestion on something you’d like to learn about, and I’d be happy to share what I know, or even do a little research for you, and maybe you’ll see it in a future post. I’ve got a few posts planned already, but inspiration is always welcome.

Thank you, and Happy Learning!

-Lizzie