Monday, April 16, 2012

Learning to Like Tea, part 2

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

On Monday, we talked about first teas to try. But eventually you'll be interested in expanding your repertoire.

Let's assume you're wanting to move on to traditional tea (don't surprised if it takes a few months - especially if you don't drink tea every day!). Before you do, we should talk about preparing your tea.

Brewing your tea too long or using water that is too hot may burn the leaves and turn your tea bitter. Black tea and herbal teas are usually fine with boiling water. With black teas, don't brew them for more than five minutes unless you like a bitter flavor; in most cases, 2-4 minutes is sufficient, even if longer is listed on the package. For stronger tea, use more tea bags.

Black tea often contains caffeine (unless you purchase decaf!), but less so than coffee. It is also frequently flavored with nutty, spicy, or floral accents. It's also pretty easy to make, and there's lots of good options. For chai teas, I recommend adding a high percent milk (2% or whole) or cream, or just go ahead and steep your chai in steamed whole milk if you've got the magic touch that heats milk without scorching it.

For green or white tea, you want water that is cooler, about 175 F or 79 C. Either pull your water off the stove before it boils, or let it sit a few minutes before pouring. One good way to avoid scorching your tea leaves if you think your water may be too hot is to put two ice cubes on top of the tea bag, and pouring the water onto the ice instead of the bag. For green tea, steep less than two minutes (45-80 seconds); for white tea, 4-5 minutes.

Many green and white teas will taste lightly sweet when brewed for the shorter time range. This is my own favorite way to drink them. It's white and green teas that have the most antioxidants, so if that's why you're getting into tea, these are the sorts you should be aiming for. Green and white teas are often flavored with fruit or floral accents, so if you don't like the traditional flavor, try a flavored kind.

Good beginning black teas:

Earl Grey (Twinings)
Lady Grey (Twinings)
English Breakfast (Twinings)
Chocolate Hazelnut (Stash Tea)
Vanilla Nut Creme (Stash Tea)
Chai Teas, with lots of milk & sugar (Stash, Twinings, and Celestial Seasonings all have good versions at reasonable prices)
Black Pearl (Lipton - thanks Lady Aritê!)

For green and white teas:
For these, you'll get the best taste from more expensive brands. Yes, I know. But white and green teas are more expensive, and I find it's worth the investment. Nor do you have to break the bank; the brands I recommend I can find for less than $10, even the most expensive ones, and Stash is often less than $5. I suggest going with either a classic green or white tea, or one flavored with either jasmine or a fruit of your choice.

Good bagged brands to try:
Two Leaves and a Bud
Mighty Leaf

Note: I do not personally like Mighty Leaf's Earl Grey (the only one of their black teas I've tried), but the other brands have good black teas, too.

Okay, and now let's break that down by "Tastes." Remember my last post, when I separated the 5 tastes of tea into floral, fruity, spicy, natural, and nutty? If you had a favorite taste, this is what I'd most recommend for your second (third) type of tea to try:


Green tea with jasmine (Try Mighty Leaf or Two Leaves and Bud)
White tea with jasmine or rose
Black tea with lavender


White tea with a fruit accent
Green tea with a fruit accent
Black tea with a fruit accent
(I'll let you choose your own - there's a billion to choose from!)

Green tea (any unflavored green, brewed short, unsweetened)
White tea (any unflavored white, brewed short, unsweetened)
Peppermint white tea (Try White Christmas by Stash)
Black tea (Try new brands. Cut back on the milk & sugar until you get the natural taste. Try brewing with lemon and honey as a variation.)


Black tea with hazelnut (Chocolate Hazelnut by Stash)
Black tea with almond accents (Vanilla Nut Creme by Stash)


Any Chai tea with milk & sugar
Lemon-ginger tea

Do you have any brand of bagged green tea you'd particularly recommend? Any favorites flavors? What about favorite black teas?

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

1 comment: