The Everyday Tea Drinker
Guide To Good Taste On A Budget
If you are cold, tea will warm you. If you are too heated, it will cool you. If you are depressed, it will cheer you. If you are excited, it will calm you. ~Gladstone, 1865
I dedicate this page to all who understand the joy of a good cup of tea.
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This site is intended to offer practical information for people just starting out trying different teas while living in the real world. I guess more accurately, this means the beginning tea drinker in small town America. You won’t find a lot of boring snobbish put downs of everyone else’s tastes. You won’t find mention of a lot of gourmet blends that you never heard of, can’t find, or can’t afford if you do find them.
I want this to be about finding an enjoyable cup of tea from your local grocer or corner specialty shop. I do order some of my teas online but they are still affordable and practical teas. The proper tea for you is the one that you will actually drink. Most of what I like is considered quite unsophisticated. That’s ok. The connoisseurs aren’t paying for my tea.
A Little Background to Get Started
Not everything labeled as tea is tea. Technically speaking only tea made from the leaves from a plant known as camellia sinensis is a true tea. There are many products sold that contain various herbs, flowers, and leaves, that while they may taste quite pleasing are not really tea.
Tea is grown mainly in China, India, Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon), and Japan. Many teas are named after the region in which the tea is grown - such as Ceylon, Wuyi, and Darjeeling tea. Tea leaves have been used to make a beverage for at least 3 thousand years. It was introduced in England in 1657 where it quickly replaced coffee as the national drink. Just think, if it hadn’t been for taxation without representation, tea might have become the national drink in America. Maybe then I wouldn’t feel like I was born on the wrong side of the puddle.
It is pretty overwhelming when you stand in the middle of the tea aisle and look at all the available products. There are a great many companies slapping their label on a box with a big variety of tastes inside. Some of them are amazingly good and some of them are horribly bad. Sorry, but the decision on what to buy isn’t as easy as classic Coke verses new Coke.
The way the leaves are processed is the greatest determining factor in defining the taste of a particular variety of tea. Green tea results when the leaves are dried quickly and completely. Green often has a grassy taste to it. For black tea the leaves are allowed to ferment before drying. Black tea is what most people picture when they think of tea. Oolong is somewhere between as it is partially oxidized (fermented) before drying. Oolong is a little hard to describe but reminds me of a forest floor. White tea is similar to green in that it is not fermented but the leaves are picked before they open fully, while the buds are still covered by fine white hair, from which it gets its name. White tastes similar to black but more mellow. Each of these types of tea are made from the leaves of the same plant but each has a completely different taste.
Where a tea is grown, the type soil, the climate, the age of the leaf, when it is harvested, further defines how the tea will taste. One example of this is green tea made from tea grown in Japan has a more grassy taste than tea grown in China. Each company has its own blend of tea leaves from various parts of the world. That is why the same tea from two different companies will taste somewhat different.
While a particular company might use exactly the same blend of leaves in their different teas, due to the processing they taste nothing alike. To further complicate it, many types of tea contain added flavorings to achieve their unique taste. There are many ways to flavor tea, from adding fruit, or spices, and even flower pretals. Earl Grey, being my favorite, adds the flavor from a small citrus fruit.
Don’t worry if this doesn’t mean much yet. It will make more sense as you begin to try new types of teas and different blends from various companies.
Loose leaf or bags?
Acid Reflux and Tea
Tea Economics 101
|I hope you have enjoyed my tea
appreciation page. If you did write me a note about your favorite brand
/ blend and I might just discover a new favorite.