Monday, April 9, 2012

Learning to Like Tea, part 1

(Learning to Like Tea Part 1, Part 2Part 3, Guest Post: Types of Tea, Guest post: Getting the Best Cup of Tea)

You've heard the rumors: All writers love tea. You're a writer. Therefore, you must love tea.

Only you don't.

Having trouble falling in love with tea? Trying to develop a taste for it? Part of the process is just figuring out what teas will fit your taste. So let's talk about where to start.

I'm going to separate teas into 5 flavor aspects: fruity, floral, natural, nutty, and spicy. I'm sort of making these up, but these 5 aspects will help me direct you down the most likely to appeal to your tastebuds.

Some flavor aspects are more common (spicy, nutty, and fruity). You'll encounter these in places other than teas, so you probably already have an idea of which you might like to try first. Floral and natural tastes are less common outside teas, so you may have to experiment a little.

Most people who are unaccustomed to tea will probably appreciate starting with a herbal tea. Although technically herbal teas aren't tea, they'll get your taste buds accustomed to the strength and start building your palate. Do follow the directions on preparing your tea; herbal teas are more resilient than traditional teas, but black teas can become bitter if they're steeped too long.

Also, I am going to suggest beginning with bagged teas. Why? Because loose-leaf teas tend to be more expensive and more difficult and time-consuming to prepare. I personally don't suggest making the investment until you're starting to enjoy teas on your own, because there's always a chance you might just not like tea.

Each tea I'll list will be listed with either LH or MS. LH means make it with lemon & honey if you need a sweetener/flavor. MS means I recommend making it with milk & sugar. For your first cup of tea, I do suggest sweetening if you at all like sweet. Then, as you get used to the tea, cut back on sweetener to get a stronger sense of the tea's normal taste, or continue using additives for a mellower taste.

Also listed will be brand abbreviations. Brand does make a difference, and we all have our own preferences. These are my recommended brands, the ones I happen to like best, but don't be afraid to branch out to whatever floats your boat. CS=Celestial Seasonings; T=Twinings

Good beginning teas:

  • Raspberry Zinger (LH/CS)
  • Lemon Zinger (LH/CS)
  • Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride (MS or unsweetened/CS)
  • Peppermint (MS/CS)
  • English Breakfast, Lady Grey, or Earl Grey (MS/T)*
  • Pumpkin Spice (MS/CS)

You'll notice that I don't include chai teas or green teas in this list. A well-made cup of either is just delicious, but they're both somewhat difficult to make if you haven't made them before. I might suggest buying a chai tea at a coffee shop; one taste and you'll be hooked. Green tea can be more difficult; cultures that drink a lot of it are more tolerant of the bitterness that develops when it's steeped for a long time. Get someone who has experience making it sweet to make your first cup, or wait until my post on how to keep your green tea from becoming bitter.

*English Breakfast is a traditional tea, not an herbal tea. It's also the only one on this list that contains caffeine. If you drink coffee and enjoy it sweetened with milk and sugar, you may be ready for milk & sugared cup of English Breakfast. Lady Grey and Earl Grey are both variants on traditional black tea. My favorite is Lady Grey, which I find to be the mildest in flavor.

What kind of teas do you like? What do yo recommend for a first-time tea drinker? For new tea drinkers, what do you think of the teas on this list?

(Learning to Like Tea Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Guest Post: Types of Tea, Guest post: Getting the Best Cup of Tea)


  1. Don't test tea at Starbucks, though, go to a trusty local shop. I could barely taste the chai for all the sugar they put in there.
    Lipton actually has a fantastic line of teas that taste delicious (so long as you don't overbrew them). They're boxes of pyramid-shaped tea bags. The Black Pearl tea has a nice sweet taste to it without adding sugar. (natural)
    If anyone feels like trying a slightly more upscale tea, Yogi Tea makes a Mayan Cocoa Chai that almost tastes hot chocolate when prepared with milk and sugar. (spicy)

    1. You know, I never got into Lipton. I guess it's leftover bad will from the years of 'sweet tea' made from regular bagged Lipton. Never liked cold tea, not even with sugar, not even now. (Except green tea ice cream. That's pretty awesome.)

      Mayan Cocoa Chai? That sounds excellent! I'll have to try them. :)

    2. I think this particular line was Lipton's foray into "finer" teas and they did it right. As far as warm, unsweetened, black tea with no added flavors goes, Lipton Black Pearl is by far the best I've ever tasted.
      I mostly prefer Tetley for sweet tea (leftover good will from my Nanny using it), but Lipton's blackberry black tea is deeeeelicious as a sweet tea.

  2. I've never been very into tea, stereotype or no. My parents were huge on it, so I drank it by the bucket growing up and lost my taste for it at some point.

    Coffee on the other hand . . .

    1. It's not for everyone. Can't stand it cold, myself. I do so love hot tea, though! Unlike coffee. My tastebuds won't even stand for it in candy, which is unfortunate, because it smells so good.