Not all teas are created equal. The production process, cultivation region, and tea master expertise can all change the flavor, consistency, and aroma of teas. In a world where mass production is the norm, it's easy to find low-quality teas lining the shelves of the nearest grocery store. Finding premium teas presents more of a challenge.
Fortunately, there are a few guidelines you can use to select premium teas from a sea of tasteless teabags. Armed with this information, you can find great-tasting teas made from the highest quality ingredients. Read on to learn how to identify premium teas and discover the types you should try today.
Loose-leaf teas are almost always superior to tea bags. That's because loose teas contain whole tea leaves, rather than the ground-up dust and fannings of the tea leaves. Since loose teas contain larger tea leaf pieces, they are also more likely to offer health benefits compared to tea bags.
We can hear you saying, "but tea bags are so convenient!". While tea bags are exceptionally easy to brew, they sacrifice flavor and aroma. Tea leaves need room to expand and infuse flavor when they are infused in water. Tea bags constrict the leaves so they do not develop flavors as fully as loose leaf teas.
If you absolutely must use tea bags, look instead for tea sachets or tea pouches. These bags are typically pyramid-shaped and larger than classic tea bags. This allows the leaves more space to expand and infuse flavor.
These tea bags still don't contain the full leaves like loose-leaf blends. If you want high-quality flavor, but are worried about easy brewing, grab teaware tools that make the job easier. A tea infuser like a ball and chain infuser or a pincer strainer easily contain the loose leaves like a tea bag. Simply open the ball to discard the leaves and rinse. Almost as easy as grabbing a bag and throwing it out, but with exponentially more flavor.
Teas are made using one of two production methods: the orthodox method or the CTC method. The orthodox method involves gently bruising teas by hand to release enzymes that react with oxygen and darken the leaves. This process is known as oxidation and results in rich, layered flavors of true teas. The orthodox method is largely associated with loose leaf teas as the process is gentle and doesn't destroy the whole leaf. The CTC method — also known as the cut, tear, curl method — uses machinery to grind the leaves. This process is typically used to make tea bags and often results in broken bits of leaves.
Teas produced using the orthodox method are considered to be of higher quality than CTC teas. That's because there is an extra level of artistry and greater care is taken to preserve the integrity of the tea leaves.
Teas are directly affected by cultivation processes and terroir — regional climate and growing conditions that add distinct flavors. Pesticides and fertilizers can also alter the flavor of the tea. High-quality teas tend to be organic because the flavor of the tea is not altered by added chemicals.
Matcha is a green tea made by pulverizing the leaves of the tea plant into a fine powder. Matcha tea offers a distinct grassy and vegetal flavor that is umami. The tea brews into a vibrant green hue and is often served as part of traditional Japanese ceremonies. To enjoy it like the locals, brew it in a chawan — a wide-brimmed bowl — and stir it using a bamboo whisk known as a chasen. Whisk in vigorous zig-zag motions to whip the green tea powder into a creamy concoction similar to a latte. Matcha has more caffeine than normal green teas, so if you're looking for less caffeine, try a decaf tea option instead.
Earl Grey is a unique black tea that is spiced up with the addition of bergamot orange rinds. The tea has fruity and citrusy notes that add a little pizazz to regular black tea. The tea enjoys a rich cultural history and can be traced back to early British roles in tea production in India. It also happens to be one of the favorite teas of the royal palace in England so you can enjoy a regal tea, just like monarchs from ages gone by.
White tea is the least processed of the true teas, which include green tea, oolong tea, pu-erh tea, and black tea. It offers soft, floral flavor and a nuanced flavor profile that is perfect for experienced palettes. The tea has an airy and light body and is a pale yellow color similar to the look of sunshine on a misty morning.
Masala chai is an Indian tea that blends several spices with black tea leaves. Most recipes call for cardamom, cloves, black pepper, ginger, and cinnamon though you can also find varieties with star anise and nutmeg. The tea is typically made with black teas from India including Assam and Darjeeling or Ceylon tea from Sri Lanka. Modern takes also use English breakfast tea instead.
The tea is an explosion of spiced flavor that is perfect for fall. The tea offers a warming sensation and emits an exquisite aroma that envelops your senses. Drink the tea as is or add a splash of milk to create a creamy latte.
Chamomile tea is an herbal tea that has long been used as a bedtime tea. The tea has natural calming effects that help to induce relaxation and reduce stress. Some research shows that the tea works on a chemical level to directly influence neurotransmitters and GABA levels in the brain to achieve these soothing effects. The tea also boasts a fantastic flavor similar to crisp green apples.
The flavor profile of chamomile tea also makes it suitable for blending with other tea types. You can blend it with lemongrass stalks or ginger tea for added flavor. It's also a great addition to iced tea recipes when you want to cool off in the summertime.
Rooibos tea is cultivated exclusively in the high Cederberg Mountains of South Africa. The tea plant is known locally as the red bush plant, indicative of its vibrant red leaves. The tea offers a sweet and tart flavor that is perfect for iced teas. The flavor is also well-suited for a base tea in flavored blends. It can be substituted for black tea or green tea in flavored teas for a caffeine-free alternative. The tea boasts ingredients like calcium, zinc, and iron which make it a popular healthy tea.
Hibiscus tea is made from the vibrant petals of the hibiscus plant. Popular in the Caribbean and Hawaii, this tea is known for its magenta hue and flavor that is similar to cranberries. The stunning color of the tea makes it perfect for brewing as an iced tea for large tea parties. This herbal tea is fruity and caffeine-free and offers a lemonade-like flavor that can satisfy a sweet tooth.
Peppermint tea is a classic tea lovers' favorite. This tea is made from a variety of mint plants and offers a refreshing tea drinking experience. The tea creates a tingling sensation on the tongue and a cooling effect that is invigorating. Drink the tea as-is or opt for a touch of Moroccan style by adding a few teaspoons of sugar to the mix.
Butterfly pea flower tea is a Thai tea that changes color when elements are added to the brew. The tea is made from petals of the butterfly pea flower plant and brews into a deep blue hue. If you add a slice of lemon or a dash of lemon juice, the tea turns to a rich purple color. Want even more color options? Brew it with hibiscus petals and your tea will change to a vibrant fiery red.
Add these premium teas to your list and dive into new flavors. If you want to try new teas, opt for a tea sampler or a tea gift set that features a few different types of tea. You can select best-sellers like peppermint and green tea or find something more obscure like rooibos tea. Tea lovers can also opt for caffeine-free herbal teas that help to relax and unwind or high caffeine teas that can boost energy. Brew the perfect cup in your teapot and enjoy all that premium teas have to offer.