For The Love of Tea, Part 2: My Favorite Teas

Here is Part 2 of my Tea series. Here is a list of some of my favorite teas (besides the usual chai, oolong, and Ceylon teas). These are some of the more unique varieties of tea that I have fallen in love with.

  • Lapsong Souchong: campfire in a cup. This tea is one of my favorites (in fact, I am drinking a cup right now!). Lapsong souchong has an intense smokey flavor that can be a bit divisive: some people love it and some people hate it. This black tea is produced by drying and smoking tea leaves over pine wood embers. Like any tea, some brands of lapsong souchong taste better than others, depending on the quality of the tea leaves and the handling. High quality lapsong is not too overpowering (if brewed correctly), so if you are trying this tea for the first time, spend some money and go for high quality.
  • Milk Oolong: light, creamy, slightly fruity. Milk oolong has no added flavors, but is naturally creamy flavored with light fruity notes. Oolong teas are produced by withering the tea leaves a bit, then rolling them so the outside oxidizes but the inside remains green (semi-oxidized). The unique flavors of milk oolong tea owe to the growing location and the harvest season.
  • Kukicha (Japanese Twig Tea): roasted, toasty. Kukicha tea is made from the roasted twigs and stems of the tea plant rather than the leaves. Kukicha can be a bit expensive, but the same serving of loose tea can be steeped up to 4 times, so this tea can be stretched to last longer.
  • Genmaicha: brown rice tea. One of my absolute favorites, genmaicha is a Japanese loose-leaf green tea that has been mixed with toasted and popped brown rice grains before steeping. Ganmaicha is rather easy to make at home. Simply toast grains of brown rice in a skillet (not a non-stick pan) until they are nicely toasted and some grains have popped. Add to loose leaf green tea and steep for 3-5 minutes. The toasted rice adds a nice nutty flavor to the tea and cuts some of the acidity in the tea.
  • Rooibos (Red tea): This tea has become increasingly popular in America in recent years. Rooibos (pronounced ROY-bos) has a unique, naturally sweet flavor reminiscent of honey. It is caffeine free, making it a good choice for children and a nice before-bed tea. Plain rooibos is delicious by itself, but most rooibos teas are sold as blends of rooibos mixed with other herbs or spices, such as chai spices, vanilla beans., or fruit flavors.
  • Pu-erh: aged and fermented tea. My first taste of Pu-erh was actually just this past weekend when I tried some Numi Chocolate Pu-erh tea my sister gave me. It was very yummy! I have yet to try an unflavored pu-erh, but I am definitely buying some more to try soon!
  • Mate: Mate is a brew made from the yerba mate tree. The leaves of this South American evergreen tree are dried and and chopped then brewed. Mate has a unique flavor and has plenty of caffeine, making it a good wake-up tea for people who don’t drink coffee. Mate contains loads of antioxidants, but a few different ones than traditional tea, so you can get a good variety of phytochemicals by incorporating this tea into your diet. It is important to brew mate correctly or it can be bitter (more on that later!).
  • Matcha: Japanese powdered green tea. Good quality matcha that is properly brewed is not bitter or acrid, but has a mellow, almost grassy flavor. Matcha tea powder is nice, too, because you can add it to smoothies, recipes and baked goods for an antioxidant kick.

Here is a list of some of my favorite brands of tea. By far, Harney and Sons is probably my favorite. They are master tea blenders that provide excellent variety and quality teas. Some of my favorite Harney blends are Paris and Queen Catherine’s Blend.

Harney and Sons

TeaVana

Republic of Tea

Zena’s Gypsy Tea

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