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January 12, 2010 3:45 PM   Subscribe

What are some blends of tea that absolutely have to be tried before I die?

I'm pretty uncultured when it comes to tea, having only tried the standards (Green, English Breakfast, Mint, etc.), but I recently discovered Rooibos, which is blowing my fucking mind.

The best tea blend I've ever tried is a combination of green tea, mint stalk, and a healthy serving of sugar. But that's a high maintenance drink that I only pull out on special occasions.

I'm looking for two things:

1. The perfect cup of tea. Doesn't matter how long it takes to prepare, just so long as I will murder every person in the room for the last drop.

2. Low maintenance brews. For those mornings on the go, where even adding sugar and milk will slow me down. I've found some Thai and HK restaurants that serve a delicious, low maintenance blend that's served fresh with no additives required.
posted by Christ, what an asshole to Food & Drink (52 answers total) 97 users marked this as a favorite
 
My favorites are:

boricha - Korean roasted barley tea (It also has a Japanese name that I don't remember)
butterfly tea - hand tied green tea bundles that 'bloom' as they steep
and vintage pu-erh - it's the tea that tastes closest to coffee to me and as a nice bonus a few years ago I found some from the year I was born
posted by foodgeek at 3:52 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


For #2, try hojicha-- it's a roasted green tea. Delicious.

For #1: You can make your own blends and use different teas as "bases" and other spices in addition. I recommend Assam for anything where you need a strong black tea to use as a base (if you're using powerful spices).

I also LOVE Darjeeling with milk (YMMV, milk isn't traditional). The black teas with sweeter flavorings added (Vanilla black, etc) are often really good with milk as well. If you can get ahold of Monk's Grenadine, which is Ceylon based with pomegranate, that's amazing with a bit of milk (and sugar, if you're into that).

If you're brewing from bags, try getting loose tea and see if you like that any better-- some people don't care about the difference, some people do. I love the ritual of making it from leaves.

(On preview: The Japanese name for boricha seems to be mugicha.)
posted by NoraReed at 3:56 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pu-erh is awesome, as foodgeek points out, but may take some getting used to. I love it now, but when I first started drinking it (for health reasons) I described it as "really bitter black tea strained through dirty socks."

My absolute favorite, personally? Bog-standard English. Higher-end "English Breakfast" steeped for five minutes or so, and drunk with milk and honey. For added awesomeness or to help you get over a cold, add a splash of blended Scotch whisky (I use Cutty Sark).
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:56 PM on January 12, 2010


Oh, and Japanese genmaicha is awesome: it's green tea mixed with roasted brown rice, and has a really mild flavor that, perhaps unsurprisingly, goes really well with Japanese food.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:59 PM on January 12, 2010


I'm a tea novice myself, but I've ordered from Stash Tea, at http://www.stashtea.com and they have a huge selection. They send out one or two catalogs a year- they're really well written catalogs with interesting photos and there are plenty of little tidbits of info about different teas that are featured. I don't have any recommendations about specific teas, but I would recommend that you request a catalog, it's fun to browse: http://www.stashtea.com/catalog.php
posted by mintymike at 4:01 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Single-estate Darjeelings each have their own character. I enjoy them a lot. I also recommend trying oolong teas; they often seem to be overlooked in favor of blacks and greens, but they have a certain "flowery" finish I really like, combined with a bit of the bite that green tea lacks.

Most good online tea shops offer a lot of samplers and gift sets. Upton sells 15g samples of most of its teas for a decent price ($1, usually). Try these folks:
   SpecialTeas
   TeaSpring
   Upton Tea Imports
Upton has the best prices, while TeaSpring has the best selection of greens and oolongs, in my opinion. SpecialTeas isn't one of my go-to vendors, but they do have some nice teas. They just tend to be a little pricier than I'd like.
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:02 PM on January 12, 2010


Oh jesus. You came to the right place. My boyfriend has an entire COUNTERTOP in our kitchen covered with nothing but teas. It is almost 5 ft long. No, really. (I just measured for new countertops, that's why I know). Adagio Teas is our house favorite, brand-wise, and they sell a lot of little sampler sizes that make it easy to try lots and see what you like (I'm an Earl Grey Bravo girl, myself).

Lots of good info on that site, too. And THIS revolutionized using loose tea for us -- no more cramming it into those little disposal paper bags or fabric ones.

Infinitywaltz's suggestion is good -- this is a nice one.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 4:07 PM on January 12, 2010


I'm certainly not a connoisseur, but lapsang souchong has a smokey flavour that is astonishing.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 4:10 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, I forgot—the most important thing to realize is that you basically only need a teapot and a strainer. Don't fall for gimmicks with tea-balls, in-cup infusers, and so on. A teapot and a strainer. (The in-pot infusers are better than in-cup infusers, but still worse than a strainer.)
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:11 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


It may be a bit pedestrian, but I can't stop drinking Celestial Seasonings' Decaf Mandarin Orchard green tea. The orange flavor is detectable, but delicate. I usually drink it without anything in it, although honey is quite nice too.
posted by usonian at 4:12 PM on January 12, 2010


Genmaicha, yes.
Black tea with roses in the blend.
posted by Nattie at 4:14 PM on January 12, 2010


T makes some great tea blends. My personal favorite is their Russian Earl Grey. Note that they ship from Canada, so shipping is a bit steep, but it's worth it.
posted by jedicus at 4:18 PM on January 12, 2010


Seconding lapsang souchong.

First sip: "What is this?!?!"
Second sip: "This is...delicious?!?!"
Third sip: "This is delicious!"
posted by Schlimmbesserung at 4:22 PM on January 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


I would recommend a tea called kuki matcha. It's made from the twigs, rather than the leaves of tea plants and it has a really awesome creamy flavor. It left my mug smelling like strawberries (although it doesn't taste floral). Definitely hands-down the best tea I've ever had tried. Though my friend who works at a tea shop was the one to serve it to me, and she followed some particular rules about steeping time, temperature of water, etc. It's also a fun thing to say - kuki matcha!
posted by ajarbaday at 4:22 PM on January 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


I buy my tea from a company called "Two Leaves and a Bud". They have some great teas, but I love a green tea they make called Jasmine Petal. I drink all different kinds of teas and that's the only one I like to drink with mo accompaniment.

http://www.twoleavesandabud.com/p_Jasmine-Petal-1.html
posted by fresh-rn at 4:31 PM on January 12, 2010


I am by no means a tea aficionado, and this one may not be up your alley, but I really enjoy Market Spice Tea. It's a citrus/cinnamon blend that is perfect without adding any sugar. Apparently it's being sold as Market Spice Cinnamon Orange Tea now. Comes in bags and as loose tea, and also decaf.

I also enjoy a cup of Jasmine Pearl tea every now and then, with some dried goji berries tossed in while it's steeping, and maybe a little honey, but I couldn't recommend a good supplier. I get mine from a big glass jar at a hole-in-the-wall store in Chinatown.

I've probably just exposed myself as an uncultured boor, but there you go.
posted by Balonious Assault at 4:34 PM on January 12, 2010


I bet you'd love Adagio Tea's Foxtrot. It's an incredible blend of Chamomile, Rooibos, and Peppermint.
posted by violinflu at 4:34 PM on January 12, 2010


My favorite everyday brew (and a contender for my #1) is Kenilworth Estate Ceylon OP. It's sold several places - I recommend Upton Tea or SpecialTeas. Their prices are always good, service is great, and shipping is fast and cheap.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 4:41 PM on January 12, 2010


Nthing genmaicha. It's literally been my favorite tea since the first time I had it.

Lot's of good and creative tea blends (which can inspire you to create your own or you can order from them) at my favorite NYC tea house: Alice's Tea Cup.
posted by Lutoslawski at 4:42 PM on January 12, 2010


Taken with milk and sugar, by the way.For 12 oz of boiling water, I use a rounded sugar spoonful of leaves, and add about 10% milk by volume after it's done steeping (3:30ish).
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 4:43 PM on January 12, 2010


I love gyokuro.
The flavor is hard to describe. Somewhat sweeter than genmaicha or sencha. Just really good. Try it! You'll like it!
posted by grieserm at 4:55 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


My favourite late-night tea/toddy:

-- ceylon tea (I use twinings)
-- two capfuls of decent whiskey
-- one and a half teaspoons brown sugar

Moderation is not the key with this one :)
posted by prettypretty at 4:56 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not a tea aficionado, but for stuff I can get at the grocery store, I really love Gypsy Tea's Sense Of Peace. It's white tea with mint and rosebuds.
posted by padraigin at 5:34 PM on January 12, 2010


I used to love Market Spice Tea, but then I discovered Kobuk Coffee's Samovar tea, which I like a lot more. (In comparison I find Market Spice has an odd "chemical" taste. The ingredients lists artificial flavors but I suspect I'm tasting a binding agent. Kobuk Coffee's Samovar tea is all natural with no "hidden" ingredients.) I have to have sugar with orange/spicy teas, though.

For non-sugared teas I third the lapsang souchong recommendation. I've also liked the roasted green teas I've tried.
posted by D.C. at 5:48 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Although not the fancy loose leaf variety, I've recently discovered Bigelow's Organic White Tea with Raspberry and Chrysanthemum and it makes my mornings warm and fuzzy.
posted by aintthattheway at 5:59 PM on January 12, 2010


I am also not a tea aficionado; but you must try The Republic of Tea - Acai Green Tea

I am even inclined to send you some because since it says Limited Edition on the cap I have stocked up on it twice (each time 6 months worth)... It has been a Limited Edition for a year now, and don't know how much longer they will offer it... (Send me MeFi Mail for samples)

I have this tea with sugar at least once a day; and it's a crazy coincidence that it was one year ago today that I tried this tea for the first time; that's how good it was that I remember... It was in a small coffee shop in Naples, FL and I had to ask for the name as soon as I tried it...

Here is where I order it from: The Republic of Tea - Acai Green Tea @ Suzannes (Cheapest price I have found)
posted by MrBCID at 6:06 PM on January 12, 2010


Jasmine green tea smells wonderful.

I am always a fan of ginger tea, but it is a bit trickier, because the best ginger tea requires boiling fresh sliced ginger root. You can, however, make a big batch and heat it up cup by cup as you want. Spicy and warming. Also more delicious with honey.

Although my supervisor refuses to acquiesce the battle (although he has not yet provided me with any), my koto teacher makes the absolute most delicious green tea I have ever tasted. Have you tried making green tea from loose tea with the water at the right temperature in a traditional tea pot etc. etc.? It is a completely different beast. There are a lot of different sets of instructions on the internet, but I am not sure which is best. Try them all and see!
posted by that girl at 6:09 PM on January 12, 2010


Not a tea snob:

Good Earth Original Sweet & Spicy Tea is excellent -- and it really is sweet, with no sugar. Great hot or iced.

Peppermint tea is probably my favorite non-tea (herbal) tea. Stash makes a good one.

Stash, by the way, also makes a green tea that tastes like the green tea you get in good sushi joints -- very smooth, grassy, nutty.

In the summertime, we like to blend half green tea / half apple juice and keep a pitcher of it in the fridge.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 6:32 PM on January 12, 2010


I think this is like the lifelong quest for tea lovers. I'm currently working my way through the Tay Tea catalog. They have a tea called "better than sex" and I have to say, on a Saturday morning it comes pretty close.
posted by Unred at 6:36 PM on January 12, 2010


My favourite is rose pouchong - it's delicious and beautifully scented. I have it with a little milk and sugar, and it really feels like a treat. I may be biased, as I love practically everything rose-flavoured, but I can't get enough of it! It's lovely to sit with the cup and just breathe it in on a Sunday morning. The kind I have is Twinings.

I really like Yogi's Mayan Cocoa Spice, which I drink as a sort of tea - hot chocolate hybrid. Lovely and sweetly spicy, and somehow a little creamy.

I'd also recommend Lady Grey - again, the kind I usually get is Twinings, but I've not been that adventurous with brands! It's like a more refreshing version of Earl Grey, I think. Good for days when you need to be reminded of summer.
posted by pocketfluff at 6:51 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


T makes some great tea blends.

Hmmm. They sell a tea they call "Classic Orange Pekoe". Orange pekoe is not a kind of tea, it is a grade of tea leaf size. This is like selling coffee as "Classic French Press Grind". It is misleading, and I would look into a tea shop that is more straightforward about the tea they sell. Which is why I always recommend Upton Tea. I like their Rose Scented Congou; Baker Street Blend, which is a blend of Keemun, Darjeeling, and Lapsang Souchong; Rote Grutze; and their Finest Early Grey, which is delicate and fruity with real bergamot.

Disclaimer: my favorite teas change all the time, so who knows if these particular choices will float your boat. However, the lovely thing about Upton is that you can buy sample packets. Their customer service is also outstanding.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:58 PM on January 12, 2010


Oh, I also bought this tea that Tea Spring sells as Lan Gui Ren from a local Vietnamese tea shop where it was called "Orchid People". It's rather sublime.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:02 PM on January 12, 2010


I'd also recommend Lady Grey - again, the kind I usually get is Twinings, but I've not been that adventurous with brands!

There's usually a difference between Twinings Lady Grey and what most tea houses call Lady Grey, and that's the addition of cornflower petals in the Twinings blend. A lot of places call their blend that's most similar to the Twinings version "Earl Grey Royale" or something similar (such as Earl Grey Bravo at Adagio Teas).
posted by thisjax at 7:09 PM on January 12, 2010


Kashmiri Kahwah.

Definitely not low-maintenance, but you'll want to murder every person in the room for the last drop. A nice change from the usual chai in the rest of India, which consists of milk and sugar, with maybe a splash of tea. Not that the usual stuff is bad. But kahwah is really something.
posted by SpringAquifer at 7:21 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Honeybush. No sugar, no milk. Similar to rooibos, but smokier and sweeter.
posted by electroboy at 7:31 PM on January 12, 2010


Rishi chai with milk and sugar. Never disappoints.

Did you totally teabag the question title here? Ick.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:41 PM on January 12, 2010


Da Hong Pao has something of a mythical status among teas. Tea from the original plants, said to be over a thousand years old, is all but unobtainable and has been reported as fetching the equivalent of millions of dollars per kilo at auction. Fortunately almost identical tea from cuttings taken from the original trees is available at slightly more reasonable prices, though often still in limited quantities. The best is grown close by, though Da Hong Pao is sometimes used to refer to any tea taken from cuttings, regardless of where it is grown.

I have some that is hand made by Master Xu, one of the guardians of the original trees, and grown about 400m from the mother trees. It has a roasted earthy taste, backed with a peach like sweetness which lingers with you for some time. Prized for its reputation, as well as its taste, it does taste quite stunning none the less.
posted by tallus at 8:00 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


There are several threads on AskMe about brewing a perfect cup of chai from scratch and I suggest you read through them. Or, you could buy a cup of Masala Chai from any loose tea shop or even a bagged chai from Starbucks. I know the latter is not "authentic," but it will give you the idea to see if you like it.

My favourite flavours:
-Blood orange rooibos
-Lavendar
-Russian Caravan, which is similar to, but milder than Lapsang souchong, which I also like
-"Forever Nuts," a sweet walnut tea i found David's Tea in Toronto (they also have shops in Montreal)
-Chocolate mint
-Earl Grey, hot (what's good enough for Capt. Picard is good enough for the rest of us)
posted by cranberrymonger at 8:02 PM on January 12, 2010


In the summer, I get completely addicted to Peet's brand Mango Iced Tea.
posted by matildaben at 9:04 PM on January 12, 2010


I love me some white teas. They're amazing.
posted by chairface at 9:50 PM on January 12, 2010


Mariage Freres makes the most delicious tea, it is a little hard to find, Dean and Deluca has it and a few other super expensive food stores, you might find it. I've had a vanilla rooibos (called an african red tea there) and a jasmine green tea, both very very good. Also Kusmi Tea has some very strong black teas, try the Russian blends and/or the chai. These are loose tea tins so although they're pricey you can make quite a few cups. Would be great for mornings.

Seconding the Lapsang souchong recommendation if you like smoky foods, it is super smoky and I guess people love it or hate it.. I hated it until I tried adding a little sugar, now I like it fine without.

Herbal teas: lemon verbena, I have some other herbals that I got at an eastern european grocery: fennel (very refreshing) and lime flowers (which is kind of perfumey, an acquired taste I'd say.. I like to try all different kinds of tea and don't mind this).

Hibiscus tea has all kinds of variations.. African style it's called bissap, steep dried hibiscus flowers & add some sugar if you want, make as strong as you like.

Moroccan mint tea is delicious & if you get yourself one of these little teapots and a set of glasses and learn to pour like that when offering to your guests.. even cooler. I guess this would be the mint + green + sugar blend you like?

BTW I'm sure you could find an extra 30 seconds to add milk and sugar to tea, but most kinds are better without, long as you get used to it.
posted by citron at 10:32 PM on January 12, 2010


Oh and if you're planning to make tea and carry with you in a portable mug, brew it completely before you go; don't just put in tea + hot water and head out the door and let the tea steep during your whole commute - if it steeps too long it is going to turn bitter and won't taste good. White teas take a very short time to steep, green teas also not long (and these should be a lower water temperature), black teas longer. I just put a splash of cold water on green or white tea before adding hot water, it keeps the temperature lower. Another tip is, if you don't want to get too caffeinated, rinse the tea quickly with hot water, pour that out, then brew; the caffeine dissolves quickly so this will cut back on it some.

(not snobby I just like tea a lot.)
posted by citron at 10:44 PM on January 12, 2010


I'm not a tea connoisseur but I've done some sampling. My favorite is English Afternoon Tea. It's very aromatic and not so far from the flavors of a traditional black tea that I would consider it exotic.
posted by inmediasres at 10:56 PM on January 12, 2010


Surprised that this one hasn't been mentioned yet: Mighty Leaf Chamomile Citrus Tea
posted by lois1950 at 11:49 PM on January 12, 2010


it isn't a blend ... but a grade ... Broken orange pekoe ... damn fine tea.
posted by jannw at 2:13 AM on January 13, 2010


I've tried dozens of teas, but Stash Licorice Spice has been my very favorite for well over a decade. It doesn't really taste like licorice candy, so if you hate licorice don't let the name/ingredients throw you. Instead, it's sweet on its own and a little spicy.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:17 AM on January 13, 2010


Seconding citron; Mariage Freres has the nicest tea I've ever had, and you can order it online. Their website takes a while to figure out how to navigate (each subsequent subcategory just narrows down from the ginormous selection - and don't miss the 'see them all' button at the top), but they have hundreds of teas, and it is a seriously fancy pants French tea shop so I doubt it's even possible to choose poorly.

When I was there I bought their French Earl Grey Blue, and their The a l'Opera, and they're both unbelievably divine. I can barely bring myself to drink the Opera tea, because I can't get it shipped to Australia, and the thought of running out pains me. (It's possibly in the high maintenance category though - it goes from delightful to horribly bitter if steeped for too long).

Is it just proper tea you're after? I love making tisanes. My favourite is lemongrass - just bash up some fresh lemongrass and cover it with boiling water. So refreshing and calming.
posted by Emilyisnow at 5:13 AM on January 13, 2010


Hmmm. They sell a tea they call "Classic Orange Pekoe". Orange pekoe is not a kind of tea, it is a grade of tea leaf size. This is like selling coffee as "Classic French Press Grind". It is misleading, and I would look into a tea shop that is more straightforward about the tea they sell.

If you looked at the rest of the page you would see that they explain that "Orange Pekoe, which is the most famous of Ceylon teas, is not actually a flavor or type of black tea, but rather refers to a traditional grading term. True Orange Pekoe is comprised of the second leaf on the tea shoot."

So it's not misleading. My guess is that they sell it because a fair number of people, operating under the misunderstanding you (and they) describe, seek out a tea called 'orange pekoe' because they believe it to be a type of tea rather than a grading term.
posted by jedicus at 7:17 AM on January 13, 2010


I am a tea snob, and I think you're pretty well covered. Although, if you haven't browsed any tea shops, do! Smelling loose leaf tea gives you a great sense of what it will taste like, and most shops will sell you one/two cups worth for a very reasonable price.

For a low maintenance brew (#2), I definitely recommend original Good Earth. It's spicy and sweet and happy making.
posted by stoneweaver at 11:33 AM on January 13, 2010


Lychee (laichi) dried fruit with green tea is exceptional. Here's the link to the Wiki.
posted by fook at 1:32 PM on January 13, 2010


Pu-erh is awesome, but you are drinking the wrong stuff if it tastes bitter or resembles old laundry.

Yeah, I was over-brewing the hell out of it. Up to that point I'd only really had black tea from bags and thought five minutes minimum was what it took to steep a proper cup of tea.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:33 PM on January 13, 2010


Not actually a particular tea suggestion, but if you're planning on sweetening your tea and you're aiming for perfection, I highly recommend using raw honey instead of sugar or "normal" honey.

Raw honey, if you've never tried it before, is a completely different experience than other honey: the flavor is complex, and varieties from different flowers have different tastes. Some examples here: http://www.ebeehoney.com/HoneyVarieties.html

Adding raw honey to a good black tea gives it a delightful complexity.
posted by sashapearl at 5:24 PM on January 13, 2010


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