Sipping a hot cup of tea for many is a way to stop, relax, and enjoy the golden liquid warming body and soul. We have been tea drinkers since our mothers introduced us to Lipton yellow label black tea as something comforting to drink when we were under the weather.
Whether our moms knew it or not, the plant compound polyphenols found in tea indeed may offer a variety of health benefits. As a longtime tea evangelist, Sue continued her tea journey by collecting teas from all the places that we traveled, paying extra close attention to the local teas.
A Tea For Every Taste
As tea lovers, we are not alone. It turns out that tea is the second most sipped drink in the world, right behind water. While black tea leads the pack on consumption, there are thousands of tea varieties from which to choose. There literally is something for everyone.
Set The Stage For Tea Tasting
Before you begin your own tea tasting be sure you set aside some time. Tea is best enjoyed slowly. Take the time to prepare a proper cup. Every tea has a unique brewing time and water temperature. We use our Hamilton Beach Temperature Control electric tea kettle to get the perfect temperature every time. You’ll need a tea infuser for loose leaf tea and your favorite teacup.
The following is a list of tea categories we’d recommend you include in your tea tasting experience.
1. Black Tea, From China, India, Sri Lanka, And Turkey
A strong tea that has many varieties can be found in most countries. Like green and white tea, black tea is made from the Camellia sinensis plant. Black teas are loaded with flavor and caffeine. Earl Grey, Lady Grey, English Breakfast, Irish Breakfast, Ceylon, and Assam teas are all black teas. Even Lipton Yellow Label is a black tea. Each has its own distinctive taste and color. Try doing a tea tasting of different black teas to see which ones you enjoy best.
2. Green Tea, From China And Eastern Asia
Green tea is a milder tea that also uses the Camellia sinensis leaf but does not go through the same oxidation process as black tea. There, again, are many different types of green tea. One of our favorites is Gunpowder tea. Green tea is also caffeinated. A word of caution: Do not over-steep or use a rolling boil on green tea or it will become quite bitter. A short steep of two to three minutes at 175 degrees Fahrenheit is best.
Another green tea to try is matcha. This is a powdered Japanese tea. It comes in culinary and ceremonial grades for use in cooking and drinking, respectively. For the best tea tasting, use a ceremonial grade and whisk the tea until it blends into the water. Many people enjoy a matcha latte or an iced matcha, which provides a steady subtle lift without the burst and crash of coffee.
There have been many studies on the medicinal benefits of green tea. Catechins, natural antioxidants which may provide many health benefits, are abundant in green tea.
3. Oolong Tea, From China
This is a tea commonly served at American Chinese restaurants. Oolong teas are typically oxidized between 8 and 85 percent. The tea leaves are curled and twisted after this process, creating layers of flavor. Oolong has complex aromas and, depending on where it originates, can be sweet, fruity, or earthy. We love the China Milky Jade Oolong Classic from the Teahaus in Ann Arbor, Michigan. A tea from the Fujian Province, it’s produced by placing the leaves over a bath of milk and water for a smooth, delicious, perfect morning brew.
4. Pu’erh Tea, From China
On our trips to China, we visited many tea shops and this is where we were first introduced to Pu’erh tea. It’s a fermented green tea with large leaves produced mostly in the Yunnan Province of China. It has a strong earthy taste and smell. Shaped into discs and “cakes” made it easy to transport. This tea was so valued it was once used as currency. Along the trade routes in China, Pu’erh tea was used to trade for horses.
Pu’erh is also said to have many healthful properties. You will find many Chinese people sipping on their tea throughout the day. Stronger teas like Pu’erh allow you to steep your cake several times over, getting as many as seven or eight cups of tea from one cake. The longer Puerh teas are aged, the more intense the benefits and the higher the price.
5. White Tea, From China, Taiwan, Thailand, And Nepal
Also made from the Camellia sinensis tea plant, white tea is very young or mildly processed tea producing a lighter, slightly sweeter white tea. A stringent process is followed so that these youthful leaves produce a high-quality white tea. White tea is lower in caffeine and because it is minimally processed it makes a delicate, fresh-tasting cup of tea.
We’re fond of an Organic Persian Peach White tea we discovered at the Great Lakes Tea and Spice store in Traverse City, Michigan -- proof that you can find delicious teas whether you’re traveling far away or staying close to home.
6. Turkish Tea, From Turkey
In Turkey, you can’t go shopping anywhere without someone offering you a cup of tea. Sitting and sipping your tea while vendors bring out their wares is a well-loved custom. There are “tea boys” who deliver tea to shops in the markets to be sure tea is available throughout the workday. Turkish tea is a strong black tea served in small tulip-shaped glasses held by the rim to avoid burning fingers on the hot brew.
Preparing the tea is a little different in that there are two teapots, a small one that sits on top of a larger one. The larger one is filled with hot water and the smaller one holds the tea leaves and a small amount of water. The smaller pot is refilled with the larger pot as needed. We bought this lovely Turkish Tea set in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar and have used it for many dinner parties. It always brings us joy and sparks lovely memories of our trip to Turkey.
Another popular tea in Turkey is apple tea. Typically served sweetened, it’s a wonderful substitute for those avoiding caffeine.
7. Herbal Teas
Many people want to drink tea without the caffeine that is naturally in many teas. Herbal teas, also known as tisanes, don’t have caffeine. Technically, they are not teas but rather infusions from plants other than the Camellia sinensis plant. Even water drinkers want other ways to hydrate themselves, and herbal teas are a nice way to add flavor to daily water intake. There are many types and flavors of herbal teas. Fruit teas such as lemon, berry, apple, and others are quite popular and refreshing.
Herbal teas made from mint, elderberry, ginger, and lemongrass are all very common. Many herbal teas are used as “medicinal” drinks with benefits that range from relaxing to energizing, boosting immunity, settling upset stomachs, and reducing inflammation. You can research which ones may have benefits for you.
We enjoy a cup of chamomile almost every night. It helps with digestion and has a lovely calming effect as well. There are now even teas with CBD added to enhance the potential benefits.
Fits You To A Tea
It’s not hard to taste your way around the world through tea leaves. This multifaceted beverage has been around for over 2,000 years and continues to expand its uses and advocates. Ask about local tea growers and tea blenders wherever your travels take you. You’ll be surprised at the varieties you’ll discover and teas you’ll want to bring home to share with your friends and family. You can explore the wonderful world of tea and find your perfect cup.
Pro Tip: To learn which teas you prefer, have a tea tasting for each new category of tea you try. Take your time steeping, sipping, and getting to know each one. You’ll be surprised how much each tea and each brand has its own unique personality.