Rooibos is being heavily hyped by producers and distributors as a new health beverage. Unlike true “tea,” it is caffeine-free and low in tannins. It contains minimal amounts of calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, magnesium and much less fluoride than found in real teas. Studies have shown that Rooibos does contain antioxidants and therefore might have some of the health benefits of green tea, but very little research has confirmed this. I found only 17 scientific studies of Rooibos compared to more than 1,000 on green tea. So far, none suggest that Rooibos is the health equivalent of green tea.
Matcha comes in several grades that aren’t officially regulated, but the most important distinction is between ceremonial and culinary grade matcha. Ceremonial grade is made from the youngest, most tender tea leaves and is smooth and fine in texture. Use it when you’re planning to drink pure, unadulterated matcha or a top-notch latte. Culinary matcha is a less expensive and made from comparatively older leaves. It is best for baking, cooking, or making blended drinks where the matcha flavor is not imperative. (“Premium” or “select” matcha is somewhere in between the two major grades, and you can find organic versions of matcha in each category.)
Because matcha is prone to clumping (that’s why you’ll see instructions to sift it before whisking in the water or milk), you’ll want to take the same precaution in your baking experiments: Saffitz suggests combining the matcha with other dry ingredients like sugar or flour to avoid bitter lumps in your dough or batter. And use it sparingly, she suggests: Even a few teaspoons can create an intense flavor (and color).
Grown under shade for three weeks prior to plucking, gyokuro is one of the most exclusive varieties of tea produced in Japan. The shading technique imparts a sweeter flavor, and produces a particularly rich color thanks to the higher amounts of chlorophyll in the shaded leaf. Gyokuro tea is associated with the Uji region, the first tea-growing region in Japan. It is often made using smaller-leaf cultivars of the tea plant.