If your tea journey is just beginning or if you’re interested in exploring different kinds of tea but not sure where to start, fret not. We’ve compiled a few pointers to help you ease into the world of the camellia sinensis leaf.
Make tea a daily discovery rather than a habit.
Life is anything but constant. Each day brings a new set of feelings and moods, and tea is a great way to enhance or balance those changes.
For example, I turn to masala chai if I’m looking to add a little zest to an otherwise mundane afternoon and brew up a cup of sencha if I’m seeking a dose of mindfulness if I’m having a busy day. Which, for most of us, is more often than not.
Even if you choose to drink the same tea multiple times a week, approach it with a curious attitude. Enjoy the ritual, but learn something new about it: about the tea, about your surroundings, about those you share it with and about yourself.
Don't fear the loose leaf.
If you've never brewed loose leaf tea before, now's the time to start. Many are intimidated to try their hand at opting for loose leaf over bagged tea, but by doing so, your tea experience can be elevated. (It's also super easy; here's how to brew loose leaf tea in three easy steps.)
With many commercial bagged teas, the tea leaves are trapped inside and cannot breathe or thrive or allow water to bring out its true flavors. Poor little tea leaves! Furthermore, many teabags (even those that are labeled as “safe”) leech bits of plastic or paper into your beverage, ruining the taste of quality teas and posing risks to your health.
Do your taste buds a favor and trade those teabags in for a teapot or tea ball.
Develop your palate.
Although it takes time to develop your palate and understanding of tea, you can easily start by doing one simple thing: drinking lots of it.
Start with what you know. If you love chocolate or honey or vanilla, find a tea characterized by those notes and flavors and branch out from there.
Also, don’t be afraid to get out your comfort zone. While you might be put off by the sound of “notes of grass and asparagus,” you might just be pleasantly surprised by what you experience.
Compare teas. Note their differences and similarities and what makes them memorable. Over time, you’ll learn what distinguishes good tea from bad tea, and what works for you.
Learn the basics.
Learn about how steeping times, temperatures and brewing methods vary. Many may be put off by a certain type of tea because it was oversteeped or brewed at too high of a temperature.
Packaged teas will usually come with brewing instructions either right on the label on product page online. It’s recommended – especially if you’re a tea newbie – to stick to the directions to get the desired aromas and flavors from your tea.
That said, don’t be afraid to experiment with different kinds of water and brewing at different temperatures. A nice Japanese green tea slowly steeped over ice is an entirely different experience if brewed at 170 degrees.
While tea experts generally recommended that you shouldn’t add sugar or milk to white, green or oolong teas, it can be fun to go against the grain and whip up your own culinary creations.
Why not put your own twist on one of the world’s unique tea beverages like Hong Kong-style milk tea or Indian noon tea. Or, try blending your favorites, like a nice breakfast black tea and lemongrass tisane. Let your creativity run wild!
Consider the supply chain.
We’ve become pretty accustomed to eating and drinking without thinking about where our food and beverages actually come from. Which is completely understandable, considering how far removed we’ve become from the food supply chain.
But the reality is, there are several social and environmental issues that surround the tea industry, ranging from the widespread use of dangerous agrochemicals to the unfair treatment of tea workers.
When choosing your tea, do a little research on how and where it’s sourced. In the end, it’s all of our responsibilities to ensure businesses are being run with global wellness in mind.
Choose a tea that makes you feel good (and tastes good, too).
While the potential health benefits of tea are an added bonus, don’t drink tea solely for its cancer-fighting, immune-boosting or bone-strengthening properties. Focus on how a tea makes you feel – the memories it evokes, the calm it invites, the relaxed energy it creates.
Choose a tea that you actually enjoy drinking and you’ll forever have a source of happiness in a cup.
Enjoy the journey and happy brewing!