High time we discussed tea, no? Not only is tea intended to be an integral part of this here little site, but it's also the linchpin upon which every one of my Sundays turns. There are two types of foodies in this world: coffee snobs and tea snobs. You, dear readers, are lucky enough to have one of each in my household. There are roughly 50 types of tea in my cabinet right now and Tim has some truly space age devices for brewing coffee. I've visited tea plantations in Asia and had high tea everywhere from London to Marrakech and I am learning new things every day. In the months to come, I'll be showcasing some of my favorite teas, unique tea houses and events, and all matters tea related (with a coffee review here and there where appropriate). Let's begin by getting on the same page.
The very basics:
White Tea: Very minimally processed. It's usually picked and air dried. Harvested early in the spring. Traditionally Chinese in origin. White tea is loaded in antioxidants and has a nutty, sweet, light taste. It's also one of the lower caffeine options. White tea also mixes well with fruit. I'm looking forward to trying this one that's mixed with elderflower from David's Tea.
Green Tea: Everyone by now has heard the health benefits of green tea. For green teas, the leaves are picked and heated either by firing or steaming soon after they are harvested. The most common varieties come from Japan and China. It has a more grassy taste. Adagio Teas has a great selection of loose leaf greens. One is even called Sleeping Dragon.
Oolong Tea: Picked, partially oxidized, and often bruised. Oolongs typically have larger leaves. The flavor is generally somewhere between green and black but there is a big range of flavors. There's even an oolong rumored to be picked by monkeys. It's not, it's a legend but...well I bought some in Thailand.
Pu-erh Tea: The most fermented tea. The leaves are aged for years and then packed into cakes, balls, bricks, or birds nest shapes. If properly stored, pu-erh is a "living tea" and holds its flavor decades. There are three main types: young raw or a green variety, aged raw, and a ripened or black variety. Pu-erh has a history of over 2000 years and originated in the Yunnan Province of southwestern China. I don't have a favorite pu-erh but I'm told one of the most reputable vendors is Yunnan Sourcing.
Black Tea: Fully oxidized tea leaves. Typically the most caffeinated of all the teas but again, there's a range. Earl Grey, English Breakfast, a smokey Lapsang Souchong ...there are so many. You really can't go wrong with an Earl Grey especially one in a tin like this one from Sloane Teas.
Rooibos: Means "red bush" and it's technically not tea as it comes from a South African plant in the legume family. Caffeine free it has a whole host of medicinal benefits such as being an anti-inflammatory. Rooibos tea is rich in many mineral contents such as iron, calcium, potassium, copper, fluoride, manganese, zinc, magnesium and alpha hydroxy acid. Personally, I really like the Rouge Sahara from Mariage Freres but this particular flavor is impossible to find in the US so far so you simply must go to Paris. Their tins are classically beautiful too.
Herbals: Again, not technically a tea but for those who are caffeine sensitive, there is a world of perfectly balanced possibilities out there. Fruity, herby, medicinal, have at it. I like an Egyptian chamomile like this one from The Full Leaf Tea Company.
Here's a little brewing guide from one of my favorite brand of teas, Harney and Sons. Try their Bangkok green or stop by their shop in Soho in New York for a tea float. Tea plus ice cream equals a surprisingly good treat. I went there weekly when I worked in Soho.
You will always have a better cup of tea if you use loose tea. Honestly, just avoid teabags unless, of course, they're these fillable goldfish teabags I found on Buzzfeed.