Where Can I Buy Better Tea?
Dear Lifehacker, I'm ready to take the plunge into making better coffee, and I've got all … Read more Read more
Learn The Types of Tea You Love (and Experiment with Others)
There's a time and a place for experimentation, but before you run out and start spending money, get a feel for the types of tea that you'll enjoy. Think about the teas that you've had in the past. Have they been loose leaf or bagged? Were they black teas, green, or tisanes (aka herbal teas that may or may not have any actual tea leaves in them?) Whatever you remember enjoying, that's a great place to branch out from.
If you're unfamiliar with tea entirely, or you're not sure of the differences between green, black, or white tea actually are (hint, they're all the same plant, but the color is a matter of when the tea is picked and how it's processed before being sold), our hacker's guide to tea will teach your the basics, and then our complete guide to tea offers some suggestions for you to get started.
Coffee gets a lot of attention, but if tea's more your style, tea guru Tony Gebely offers this … Read more Read more
For example, if you're looking to trade your morning coffee for tea, consider Earl Grey, a strong breakfast tea like English Breakfast, or a Japanese roasted barley tea. They all give you a dark, earthy kick and a solid caffeine boost (except barley tea, which is caffeine free, but is still a wake-up flavor punch) early in the morning. If you're a late day drinker and prefer something mild but still flavorful, consider Sencha (a Japanese green tea), an English black tea like PGTips, or Oolong (a Chinese black tea that's light enough to enjoy anytime.) Those are all basics that are easily available, but feel free to branch out from there. You can easily find tea blends, herbals (that are very flavorful but don't actually contain tea leaves), and more varieties we don't have room to mention. Once you have a tea or two you enjoy, branch out from there and try similar styles.
Check Out Local Coffee Shops and Tea Houses
Once you have an idea of the types of tea you enjoy, or even if you're still a little in the dark, head out into the wild and see what you can find. Hit up Yelp or Foursquare and scour your neighborhood for coffeeshops or tea houses. They're great places to experiment, especially under the tutelage of someone who can help you find something you'd like. If you're lucky, you'll find places that specialize just in tea. If you don't, you may find coffeeshops in your area that can make a mean cup of tea as well. Check their menus and see if they have a decent tea selection, and if they serve tea by the pot—that's usually a good sign.
Unfortunately, if the only coffeeshops in your area are chains, you may be out of luck tea-wise. They certainly serve tea, but they'll really just give you a tea bag and a cup of hot water and call it a day.
If you do find a tea house though, then you've found a gem. There was once a time when tea houses were essentially your grandmother's parlor, full of overly fine china, flower-print pots, and doilies. There are still tea clubs like that, but most tea houses these days—especially in cities or metro areas—cater to a younger, more diverse audience, offer broader tea selections from around the world, and are actually places you wouldn't mind hanging out for a few hours with a friend.
Discover Great Tea You Can Order Online and Ship Anywhere
Tea houses and coffee shops are a great, guided opportunity to learn about and try new teas. However, not all of us have one nearby, and the ones that may be near you can easily cost a pretty penny per pot. If you'd rather have your experimentation come to you, consider ordering your tea online—there are more than a few great places worth experimenting with, some of which both ship online and may be on the shelves in your local grocery store.
Here are a few online tea specialty stores you may consider:
- Adagio Teas . Adagio doesn't just sell tea, they also sell tea
brewing equipment, whether you're looking for something to brew a single cup, or you'd like something to brew pots at a time. They also have sampler packs and gift backs you can buy to try a little of several different things to see what you'd enjoy. Teavana . Teavana has a huge selection of teas, including traditional green and black, but also yellow teas, varieties of Oolong, and tisanes like Rooibos. They also ship samples with each order, so you can try a little something new. Good Earth Teas . Good Earth Tea has always catered to the more "all-natural" crowd, but their tea is solid, both hot and iced. They offer tools to help you find and order tea "fusions" that you'll like based on your tastes. MightyLeaf . MightyLeaf offers a variety of great loose leaf teas and premium bagged tea in special bags that ensure good water flow and well-soaked and steeped tea leaves. They also have some pretty interesting flavored teas that you may be interested in a well, if you like hints of herbs or berries with your green or black tea. Zhena's Tea : Zhena's Gypsy Tea is a favorite of mine, partially because they're an independent operation selling tea that they genuinely love to make, but because their circular tea bags are great for both hot cups and iced pitchers. They have a variety of greens, blacks, and flavored teas, and it's not too difficult to get carried away with one variety that you like, and then a half-dozen others that are very similar. Republic of Tea : Republic of Tea is often pricey (but really, not too much pricier than the others here) but they're often available in your local grocery store. Between their selection of teas and brewing gear (including beautiful earthen pots,) there's more than enough there to help you explore the broad variety of teas available.
Many of these brands are available at your grocery store too, although their selections may be a bit limited compared to the website. For simpler green and black teas to get you started, look for brands like Twinings. PGTips. Bigelow Tea. Taylors of Harrogate. Stash. or even Honest Tea or Red Rose .
If you're looking for a more objective opinion, head over to RateTea for their tea ratings and reviews. They won't lead you wrong.
Brew Your Orders to Perfection with The Right Gear
Whether you have bags or loose leaf, you'll need the right gear to steep it. Whatever you get needs to make sure that water can flow freely through the tea—whether it's in bags or loose in a brewing container. That means you don't want to try and cram a big teabag into a tiny cup, or stuff a bunch of tea into a small pot and expect great results. If you've found a teahouse that you like, ask the staff there how they brew the tea—what temperatures and equipment they use, and whether they use special water. They can clue you in to how best to prepare your own tea at home.
For loose leaf, tools like a tea press or an single-cup Inginuitea are ideal for getting started without mess or fuss. You could even use a French Press. Lifehacker designer Tina recommends a simple tea ball —which is an easy, affordable way to get started with loose leaf without all the gear. If you're brewing bagged tea, you don't need much, just a decently sized cup or pot for brewing. You could go all out and pick up this Breville one-touch tea brewing station if you prefer—it's pricey, but it'll brew perfect tea every time.
By and large, the most important thing to consider when brewing your tea is water temperature. We've highlighted some ideal temperatures in the guides mentioned above, but the table above is a decent guide. this guide will help you too—the temperatures are spot on. although the brewing time suggestions are likely a bit short. Ideally you'd brew your tea for about three to four minutes before pressing or removing your teabag, but once you get a sense for how strong you like your tea, you'll be able to make the call yourself. Some people (myself included) tend to oversteep a little bit just to extract a little more flavor (and often bitterness) from the tea, but I know other people who purposefully understeep for a light-bodied experience.Source: lifehacker.com