I am somewhat of a tea aficionado. Perhaps, it stems from my mother’s side of the family’s English descent. Who knows? What I do know is tea is my hot beverage of choice! While it’s true I actually acquired a taste for coffee a few years back, tea remains my preferred morning beverage… especially during the wintertime. There are few teas which I have tried that I have not liked, most of these flavored varieties I sampled in my adult years though.
Growing up, when we had our tea, though it wasn’t an official “tea time”, we served it with cream (or milk) and sugar. The primary tea in our house while growing up was the regular, run-of-the-mill black tea (Lipton or its generic). Of course, most people may be more familiar with the teabag saying Ceylon or Darjeeling because rarely is a black tea just a black tea.
Now back to this business of sugar and creamer in tea… it always seemed perfectly normal to me (and to any family that has English descent I suppose), but I learned as I grew older that quite a few people found it odd, like you only did that to coffee. I guess lemon is the American thing to put into tea… whether it’s hot or cold? Cold I can understand as it adds to the refreshing quality of iced tea. But hot? Maybe I’ve just met some really strange people. Is this really a preferred method of serving hot tea in America?
Often when speaking with people they tell me they hate tea, unless it happens to be iced tea. I always chime in with, “What? You don’t like tea?” It’s too bitter they say. In reality tea is no more bitter than coffee. The thing with teas, especially black teas, you have to be careful how long you steep the teabag in the hot water… no matter if it’s in a teapot or cup. Timing is everything! It happens to be a delicate matter with tea. So delicate in fact, it is possible to get the water too hot.
The guy in the following video must LOVE his tea!
The other thing to remember and could be just as important as timing, the use of milk or creamer cuts on the bitterness as well. Besides all that, with all the flavored creamers on the market, you can dress up your black tea any way you like to make it more suited to your individual palate. Also, remember not all teas are the same as black teas. There are white, red (also called rooibos; pronounced roy-bus), green, herbal, and oolong (also called Wulong) varieties. And possibly others I’ve yet to sample. Most of these teas come in various flavors as well as plain and often have little to no caffeine! The only tea I consistently add sugar to is the black variety.
When I don’t feel like having black tea, I reach for an herbal, a red, or an oolong. Two of my favorite tea companies are Stash Tea and Celestial Seasonings. Either brand can be found locally in just about every grocery store or through online retailers. Actually, both have their own website for tea and tea products. (Click on the company names in the following paragraphs to learn more.)
For the person who isn’t convinced about the goodness of tea, I recommend starting with a flavored rooibos or herbal. I have several favorites in those two categories, but two in particular stand out from Celestial Seasonings: Safari Spice and Bengal Spice respectively. The Safari Spice has hibiscus, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and cloves added as well as other spices to make this a sweet and spicy red tea. Bengal Spice, being herbal, doesn’t actually contain any tea leaves of any sort. You may be thinking, “Huh? How’s it a tea then?”
Perhaps, I should take a moment right now to clear up any confusion. You see, herbal teas aren’t actually made from the bush which tea leaves come from… Here’s a definition and explanation from Wikipedia, “A[n] herbal tea, tisane, or ptisan is a[n] herbal or plant infusion and usually not made from the leaves of the tea bush (Camellia sinensis). Like brews made of the tea bush, such infusions are prepared by combining hot water and fruits, leaves, roots or grains.” This actually sums up my little brother’s biggest complaint about herbal “teas”, he says they shouldn’t be called tea when they really aren’t. But dictionary.com has listed as the fifth possible meaning for tea as “any of various infusions prepared from the leaves, flowers, etc., of other plants, and used as beverages or medicines.” So, the argument can still me made for herbal infusions really being teas. Pardon the pun, but what it boils down to is semantics.
Back to my favorites! Bengal Spice has cinnamon, vanilla, ginger, and black pepper (yes, you read correctly), among other ingredients. Not only is it tasty, but I like it hot or cold. Not your cup of tea? 😉 Maybe you’re ready to try something else. How about an oolong? A Chinese restaurant in my hometown serves a delicious hot tea which I am told is a mixture of Jasmine (flowers) and Oolong. Knowing how well I like that tea sent me on a hunt to sample other oolong varieties. My search rewarded with one fabulous and one not so fabulous option. For my purposes here, I will only talk about the fabulous one. This one was a wonderful addition to perk me up from my winter blues a few months ago: Coconut Mango Oolong, made by the Stash Tea company. With the added flavors of pineapple, coconut, mango, and a bit of orange peel, this tea hints at the islands and delights the senses.
Convinced yet? Another option, instead of buying boxes upon boxes of teas to try, find a sampler box which sounds intriguing to you and go that route.
I love tea! Don’t knock all teas based on not enjoying the flavor of black tea alone! One more tip…. with regards to the timing and steeping of black tea, a simple way to avoid some of the pitfalls of uncertainty would be to make sun tea. Take a jar (mason or otherwise because any jar should do… provided it’s clean and odor free), add water, then depending on size add teabag(s). For a small jar, one regular sized teabag will do. For a larger jar, maybe two teabags. And for a grande, add four to six teabags. Simply place your filled jar outside in a sunny spot for a few hours, bring indoors once it has darkened to your liking, and add sugar while still warm from the sun. Add ice or simply refrigerate for a little while. Enjoy!
I use an old pickle jar to make my sun tea in and my mood determines how many teabags to add as well as whether or not I decide to add a couple of mint teabags. For the batch I made last Friday (pictured below), I used two large teabags equivalent to 5-6 regular size teabags and added less than half a cup of sugar to the mix.
All this talk of tea makes me want some! 😀 Happy tea testing!