I don’t drink coffee. My caffeine of choice is tea. A friend recently posted on Facebook about “not being a coffee snob” and I commented that I totally will claim my tea-snobbery. I am a tea snob. THEN another friend private messaged me and said they are trying to cut back on sodas, what tea would I recommend.
I literally spent about two hours trying to respond with a tea recommendation. Because it isn’t that simple. In my snobbery of tea, I have to say – there is no one “best tea.” There are teas that are better for a specific place and purpose (if you are serving an English high tea, you should probably serve a black tea – it’s traditional). And teas are such a specific flavor palate that I can’t just say “you WILL like this one.”
So if I have to give a tea I highly recommend, I love me the Tao of Tea’s Ginger Peach Black tea. My other favorite is Culinary Tea’s Monk’s Blend tea. Those are my “caffeine of choice” teas. The ginger peach is a robust black tea with hints of sweetness and sour from the peach and ginger. I don’t know what’s in Monk’s blend is also a black tea with sunflower and marigold (I think that’s the 2nd flower in it). Not too sweet alone, but a little sweeter.
English Breakfast is good for a just simple black tea. Matcha is bright and invigorating. Genmaicha is one of my favorite green teas – it has toasted rice piece in it and has this warm, earthy taste. I love chamomile and mint herbals (not true tea, and as a tea snob I won’t call it TEA).
I hate Earl Grey tea. I don’t like bergamot. I have yet to have one of the “blooming pot” tea flower things that I thought even had flavor much less a good flavor. It’s a pretty table decoration, but it’s not one I want to drink.
So to my friend I asked them what they drink when they don’t drink sodas. They drink sweet tea (the only use for Lipton black tea in my world – it makes a respectable southern sweet tea). They drink milk. So I immediately wanted to zone in on either teas that sweeten well (Genmaicha doesn’t, it’s too grounded). Because they are trying to replace the high-caffeine of soda, I didn’t go with something like rooibos – which is one of the sweeter options for a tea-like drink (and arguably a tea, but that’s because of historical use as a tea).
And this is where I faltered again. In a normal world, I would absolutely either invite them to meet me at Teavana and have them smell and taste some teas or I’d invite them over to my house for the same purpose. Because it is so hard to find that final step without their nose.
Smell is a huge part of taste (70% or something?) and I think this is triply true for tea. I don’t know why. Let’s say it’s because of the steam. And smell and taste are so personal, it’s hard to make a recommendation purely off just their other preferences. Do they like flower sweet or fruit sweet or honey and sugar sweet post-brewing. Most of the time, I like flower sweet. fruit and sugar are often TOO sweet. Honey in specific times and places… but it’s very personal.
Do they want complex flavor like an intricate chai? (it’s not chai tea – chai is the word for tea so chai tea is tea tea. Don’t say it to me. I can’t help it, I will probably correct you. A chai combo can be a great transition from soda. They tend to have a more “punchy” and “in your face” taste, which I think helps people step back from the strong sugars of soda. This is actually what I ended up recommending to her – trying Oregon chai which we can get in a concentrate from our local grocery store. It is damn sweet (in my opinion), very strong flavors, but a good way to break from the soda-habit. My next recommendation was a strawberry tea (and I recommended Culinary Tea because they are high quality).
When we can hang out again, I’ve offered to host a tea party for the two of us and let her try every tea on my shelf and see which ones she likes and which one she doesn’t. Maybe in the meantime, since reading is apparently not something I can accomplish right now… maybe I’ll start reviewing the teas in my collection.
None of the links in this are sponsored. If Culinary Tea or Tao of Tea wanted to sponsor me trying and reviewing specific teas – I would love to.