Newborn tea fiend
October 1, 2009 7:27 AM   Subscribe

I thought I hated tea (the drink), but I really just hate tea (the plant). Help me discover herbal tea!

Green, black, white, I had tried tea a million ways and I just could not get into it. It's bitter in a totally different way than coffee, a way I DO NOT like. I figured I had given tea a fair shot, and I had totally given up on it.

Then, just for the hell of it and to see if it worked, I picked up a box of this 'moon cycle tea' stuff. It worked (I think), but more to the point, it tasted great! Not bitter, not sweet, almost savory in fact, and very complex and tasty. Spurred by my surprising success, I went back and got a box of this licorice mint tea by the same guys, and it's even better. Sweeter than the moon stuff, warming, and just generally unlike any other drink I've ever had. I have been going through two cups a day of this stuff! It's been years since I even considered tea, but MAN have I come around.

So, yeah, I want to explore the hell out of herbal tea. Specific brands and general types, individual herbs and complicated blends, sweet or savory, medicinal or just tasty- I don't care! My only requests: I want stuff I don't have to add milk or sugar to, and I'm not big on strong fruity flavors- I tried a pomegranate red tea and it sucked. I wanna taste the herbs themselves.
posted by showbiz_liz to Food & Drink (33 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
My GF just came back from Jordan, where they make a tea with sage--phenomenally delicious. I think that it may actually be based on a black tea (which you apparently don't like) with sage leaves added. However, you should try buying a tea ball and making tea with sage leaves (high quality--maybe dry your own fresh sage--DO NOT use junky dried sage from the spice aisle).

Also, if you have a penny to spend and are curious about some lovely tisanes, you might try the great line of teas from Marriage Freres.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:39 AM on October 1, 2009

My favorite herbal tea is a blend of peppermint, spearmint, chamomile, lemongrass, rooiboos, and red clover. I usually just put a pinch of each in a teaball, with no particular attention to ratio. Maybe an extra bit of spearmint, because I really like it's flavor.

Also, Good Earth Sweet & Spicy caffeine free is amazing. Warm and cinnamony goodness!

Also, Peet's coffee's Xiao's blend is another of my favorite teas.
posted by mollymayhem at 7:43 AM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Definately hit a real tea shop. We had some "chinese flower" tea. Rosehips, orange peel, etc. It was wonderful. There is even lavendar tea that is supposed to be awesome.
posted by stormpooper at 7:43 AM on October 1, 2009

I hate regular (black, white, green, red) tea.

I love Celestial Seasonings Blueberry, Mint Magic, Roastaroma (coffee-ish, but no caffeine). They also used to make a nice English Toffee and Vanilla Hazelnut but I haven't seen them lately. I just got the Sleepytime Vanilla but haven't tried it yet.
posted by Pax at 7:45 AM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I was coming in to recommend Mariage Freres.
I've never liked tea much before, always dismissing it as simplistic - to me it tasted like lightly flavored water. Mariage Freres has completely changed that for me.

Rouge Bourbon is probably my favorite blend but we are also currently enjoying Nil Rouge, Wedding Imperial and des impressionnistes.
posted by vacapinta at 7:45 AM on October 1, 2009

(yeah, my suggestion is amateur hour, but it's so cheap and perfectly fine).
posted by Pax at 7:45 AM on October 1, 2009

I used to be all about Earl Grey and coffee, but can't really deal with caffeine anymore and had to find something else.
Now I drink various herbal or fruit teas most of the time. I don't know how available they are outside the UK, but Twinings do a range of fruit teas with a cherry and cinnamon one I really like. And Dr Stuart's Apple and Ginger tea is really, really nice - a little spicy but with a nice apple flavour and not too much sweetness.

I also do a nice one with cinnamon, cloves, pepper, cardamom and a little ginger if I fancy it. I also got all kinds of into drinking chamomile tea, though totally understand the people who can't stand it.
You might want to try rooibos at some point. It gets used in place of both tea and coffee, and some people really rate. I've only tried it the once and I wasn't convinced I could stand it, but haven't written it off yet.
posted by opsin at 7:47 AM on October 1, 2009

Seconding stormpooper's advice to go to a Chinese tea shop. I love chrysanthemum tea. It's just the dried flowers without any added spices or herbs, but it ends up tasting a little bit vanilla-y and nutty.
posted by twoporedomain at 7:55 AM on October 1, 2009

If you like the way lavender smells, I highly recommend lavender tea. Very warming and relaxing. On the opposite end of the spectrum, hot or cold peppermint tea is great. I prefer to brew it hot and let it sit to room temp, then drink with a single ice cube dropped in. Cooling but not cold.

I like Twinings for mint. I don't know if anyone actually makes a bagged lavender tea, but just wrap up dried lavender flower in cheesecloth and pour hot water over it.
posted by caveat at 7:56 AM on October 1, 2009

My GF just came back from Jordan, where they make a tea with sage--phenomenally delicious

Seconded. I never liked tea much, but I had some in college with an unknown dried herb added to it that made it incredible. I spent years trying to figure out what it was until I stumbled upon it in a Mediterranean grocery store: sage. Earl Grey makes a good base.
posted by soma lkzx at 7:58 AM on October 1, 2009

Hibiscus tea is brewed from the dried flowers, and is pleasantly pink, tart, and refreshing. It also has a crazy amount of vitamin C. It is tart and acidic, and I drink it with little sugar, but it's not bitter-- doesn't have tannins like black tea or aged wine. My favorite is a local brand, but looks like these guys ship: Also you can find bulk dried flowers in some mexican markets. Drink it hot or cold.

Moroccan/North African Mint tea is also tasty. Basically, just toss a fist full of dried mint and sugar into hot water. Best hot.

Some people dig lavender tea. I always feel like I'm drinking soap, but if you like floral, delicate flavors try it.

Celestial Seasonings is a national brand and they have several herbal teas. Try sleepy time, it's pleasantly minty, refreshing, soothing. Also see if you have a Teavana near you. They're kinda crazy, and a bit frivolous, but they have lots of herbal tea.
posted by fontophilic at 7:59 AM on October 1, 2009

You're in Chapel Hill, eh? Get yourself to A Southern Season - they have a fantastic tea selection.

Nthing rooibos (unflavored for you!) - my choice is Republic of Tea's Cedarberg Organic.

I also really like Traditional Medicinals' Organic Throat Coat - it's herbal-y and delicious, and great for cold weather. I have the kid's formula with the cute giraffe; they also have an adult version though I don't really know what the difference is.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:04 AM on October 1, 2009

Rosehip hibiscus + Spearmint/peppermint. SO. SO. GOOD.

Also, if you can get it, Japanese Soba tea, made from Buckwheat, is delicious.
posted by olya at 8:06 AM on October 1, 2009

Yes! Soba cha--The buckwheat tea is really warming and mellow. Great on a quiet day. Also, you might consider genmai cha, which is a green tea with toasted rice in it. Very good.

And an observation from my GF's travels in Jordan. While traditional mint tea is made with magic and sugar and delicious fresh sprigs of mint or something, she saw mint tea being made all over Jordan (Amman mostly, but she did travel) with just regular black tea in bags (Lipton, Tetley, what have you), with a sprig of mint thrown in. I've since tried this at home, and it really is pretty good. I think, ironically, it is the very pedestrian Lipton (etc.) that makes it work--a pretty bland tea that lets the mint be the star of the show. You can try this with other herbs, too. I've wanted to try it with fresh basil--I'll report back on that.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:13 AM on October 1, 2009

If you like that licorice and mint you mentioned, you might like Stash's Licorice Spice.

If you don't like fruity, you may find you want to stay away from hibiscus in general, I find that that is the fruitiness that is often in herbal blends that I don't necessarily like.

Celestial Seasonings also does some holiday only blends that are nice. I recommend the Gingerbread Spice one based on what you have liked so far.
posted by freezer cake at 8:31 AM on October 1, 2009

If you live in a climate where lemongrass will grow, how about making tea from fresh lemongrass? Extremely refreshing, either hot or iced. And you can cut your lemongrass leaves right back to the base of the plant & they┬┤ll grow back quicker than you can consume the tea.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:39 AM on October 1, 2009

Look into the full line of Yogi teas. They have some really interesting flavor combinations like Aztec Sweet Chili and Classic India Spice. It's not herbal, but I love ginger tea made with sliced fresh ginger and honey. You can buy ginger tea bags, but it's not the same.
posted by JennyK at 8:42 AM on October 1, 2009

Some types of herbal teas have mild medicinal properties, so just be aware...but in some cases you can turn that to your advantage.

For the record: peppermint tea (just the straight leaves, no other ingredients) is delicious hot or iced, and is also really good for settling indigestion. Iced peppermint tea couldn't be easier to brew, either -- dump a few bags into a jug and fill it with cold water, and just stick it in yhour fridge. Within a couple hours you're good to go. I have a pitcher in the fridge all summer -- it's fantastically refreshing.

Chammomile (again, just the straight chammomile, no other ingredients) is soothing, smells faintly of new-mown hay and is a mild relaxant. Valerian is a stronger sedative - I sometimes have problems with muscle tension in my neck and shoulders, and a cup of that helps. But it's pretty damn strong, so tread carefully (I once left a bag steeping in my cup for about 15-20 minutes, and got pretty groggy and went to bed -- and felt groggy when I woke up again). Fortunately you probably won't be too inclined to have valerian anyway unless you have to -- it smells like sweaty gym socks, alas.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:04 AM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I do like tea (earl grey being my favorite), but herbals/tisanes also, and right now I'm brewing some Celestial Seasonings' Black Cherry Berry. The Blueberry Pax mentioned is also tasty. I love Tazo's Organic Apple Red, which is rooibos-based. Bigelow Raspberry is pretty sweet.

A friend introduced me to Adagio tea, where you can sample tons of ingredients, order blends, or even mix a custom blend to your liking and order it/sell it to other people.
posted by cmgonzalez at 9:13 AM on October 1, 2009

Seconding Southern Season in Chapel Hill - they have some really knowledgeable staff and can probably point you at things to try based on what you liked / didn't like. They also have a very wide selection of herbal teas.
posted by Lady Li at 9:14 AM on October 1, 2009

Seconding Metroid Baby and the A Southern Season recommendation. They rock.
posted by Stewriffic at 9:18 AM on October 1, 2009

I know you said you're not big on fruit teas, but Celestial Seasonings has some really nice ones. I love their Lemon Zinger.

You also might want to check out Steepster, a social network focused on tea. It hasn't been around too long, so the community isn't huge, but it's a nice way to find different flavors by brand (and to check out the mini reviews). =)
posted by Kattiara17 at 9:28 AM on October 1, 2009

A Southern Season has a whole counter devoted to various teas, and a surprisingly interesting selection of infusions/tisanes/herbal teas (I think these are synonymous). From my last trip there, I recommend:

- Orange Ginger Tulsi - tulsi is a green herb, in the mint family, but more similar to oregano (also in the mint family). I *love* this tea.

- Blueberry something-or-other - it _is_ nice iced, just like the lady at the counter said. It's not very strongly blueberry flavored, it's more complex than that.

- They have several types of rooibus (red berry from Africa) - worth exploring

You can also pick up some rose hips from the bulk spice bins at Whole Foods or Weaver St. Market - these are lovely added to or as the base of an infusion. I also am very fond of candied ginger tea, although it can be a little sweet. It's more spicy/gingery, and really, really great for someone with a cold or sore throat.
posted by amtho at 9:53 AM on October 1, 2009

Two herbal teas I really like are hibiscus and rose hip. Also, if you like the Yogi Egyptian Licorice tea, they make a licorice and cayenne pepper tea called Sweet Mexican Chile (which sounds like something your midwestern great-aunt would say when someone told her particularly juicy gossip) that's hard to come by but I really like.
posted by aspo at 10:12 AM on October 1, 2009

Seconding tea made from fresh-cut ginger, with or without honey. Very healthy and delicious.
posted by whiskeyspider at 10:17 AM on October 1, 2009

Oh and how could I forget chrysanthemum tea. It's whole chrysanthemum flowers which makes it really easy to make and tastes amazing. Look for it in asian markets because it will be a ten times the price elsewhere.
posted by aspo at 10:24 AM on October 1, 2009

I enjoy licorice, peppermint, rooibos, and black currant teas. Stash is a decent brand for tea bags -- my favourites of theirs are peppermint and licorice spice.

There are also flowery teas, like hibiscus and chamomile (I don't like these two, but lots of people do.)

Similar to the chrysanthemum suggestion above, I once had a rose infusion at a Chinese restaurant. It was delicious.
posted by Ouisch at 11:18 AM on October 1, 2009

Nthing rooibos, either plain or flavored. I love Mighty Leaf African Nectar, and I like rooibos chai (Trader Joe's has one, and some other brands do to).

Some of my favorite herbal teas are hibiscus and chamomile. I also like jasmine green tea, so I guess I'm a fan of flowers. I generally don't like fruit teas.

I'd recommend getting a sampler of different kinds of teas - most companies make one. Stash and Yogi tea are two of my favorite brands. Mighty Leaf teas are wonderful, but quite expensive (unless you can find them loose).

If you go to a store that sells loose tea (some Whole Foods do, or a specialized tea store will), you can buy small quantities of loose tea leaves for a dollar or two, and try out lots of different types.
posted by insectosaurus at 12:40 PM on October 1, 2009

I am like you in that I hate regular tea. The only tea I can drink without getting serious headaches is peppermint. I buy Mighty Leaf.
posted by alice ayres at 1:12 PM on October 1, 2009

Throat Coat is my favorite herbal tea but I try not to drink it when I'm not sick because it's pretty expensive!

My other favorites are: earl grey, english breakfast, irish breakfast (both of those are blacks but delicious), peppermint, red roobois, herba mate, green jasmine, and oolong.
posted by shownomercy at 1:57 PM on October 1, 2009

Herbal "tea" (or anything that doesn't come from various cultivars of Camellia Sinensis) isn't tea, so you still do hate both the plant and the drink. An herbal infusion is more properly called a tisane. While there are some great suggestions here, I don't think you need to give up on tea entirely! You should be able to brew most teas, including the types you describe, in a way that isn't unpleasantly bitter.

I would suggest trying some good quality oolongs (as well as experimenting with brewing techniques) before giving up on tea for good. Using cooler water, playing around with the ratio of tea to water, etc. can all affect how the brewed tea tastes (as well as the quality of the tea itself, of course). Certain types of pu'er might be interesting if you like earthier flavors, though I suspect most young raw (sheng) pu'er would be a little bitter for you.

I tend to be pretty sensitive to bitter and astringent tastes, and I still drink quite a bit of tea.
posted by PandaMcBoof at 2:08 PM on October 1, 2009

I really like mugi cha, which is just roasted barley brewed up as if it were tea. I think it's always served cold, over ice, but I'm not 100% sure of that. I am sure that it's really delicious, and I have a hard time finding it locally. They sell it on Amazon.
posted by blackunicorn at 3:59 PM on October 2, 2009

I really like a nice black tea (I would recommend trying a whole-leaf Ceylon) with milk and sugar. The milk softens the bitterness and eliminates many of the tannins, leaving a round, smooth flavor. I've been drinking it since I was 2 - I love it.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 7:56 PM on November 6, 2009

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