Come, let us have some tea and continue to talk about happy things.
October 15, 2015 10:15 AM   Subscribe

 
ooh pretty pictures of oolong
posted by thetortoise at 10:17 AM on October 15, 2015


Any article where Longjing is the first tea pictured is going places!

Got to have me some of that Dragon Well... every day.
posted by selfnoise at 10:18 AM on October 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm embarassed that I had to look up Camellia sinensis earlier today when reading a tea description. How did I not know the Latin name for tea?!
posted by maryr at 10:21 AM on October 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't have any green tea in the house right now and this article is killing me
posted by thetortoise at 10:22 AM on October 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Because I cannot have coffee, I am slavishly devoted to tea. Mostly green. Herbals at night only or when ill.

I am finishing up this beauty as my work tea. I know there are violently clashing schools of thought around flavoured greens (and for the most part, I agree with the purists) but it is perfectly lush, slightly sweet, beautifully aromatic.
posted by Kitteh at 10:25 AM on October 15, 2015


This article seems very into (especially Chinese) green tea - they seem pretty dismissive of British and Indian styles, to the point of not mentioning them. To borrow comparisons made in the article, that's like being a wine snob and being completely dismissive about beer. It's a different thing. You may not consider it as refined, as the opiate of the masses, but go steep yourself, there is plenty of variety in black tea out there.

And I love me some flavored black teas, so nyah.
posted by maryr at 10:28 AM on October 15, 2015 [22 favorites]


I really like the author's thinking there, that there's nothing wrong with flavored teas, but it's confusing to start with them when developing a palate.

Interesting that they skip yellow tea when listing the major Chinese types, maybe because it's never caught on as a type in Anglophone countries?
posted by thetortoise at 10:30 AM on October 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


This article is very informative, patient, non-condescending, and passionate. I'm a coffee drinker and this article has me wanting to visit my local tea-shop and stock up. Bravo.
posted by Fizz at 10:34 AM on October 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


I am sorry to report that I have two disappointing experiences with two different mail order tea companies. A lot of it came down to supplier problems but when I never got anything after 2+ months of waiting, I had to cancel my subscriptions.

Of course, one of them sent me a gratis package of three gorgeous teas as a gesture of apology and hopes that I will return to them.
posted by Kitteh at 10:37 AM on October 15, 2015


I have to disagree with the article's "skip the flavored tea" admonition. When I was growing up, I associated tea with exactly two things; a hot cup of plain Lipton tea or the lemon-added powdered iced tea mix from the local supermarket that was ridiculously sweet. I didn't care that much for either.

Then one day, years later, I came across a bottle of peppermint herbal tea on a grocery shelf and went WAIT A MINUTE. Peppermint you can DRINK? I drank it. Oh, I drank it. Even without sugar added, it was like shoving a candy cane directly into my brain. This was my gateway drug into flavored teas (Moroccan Mint peppermint-spearmint-green blends came next, then a chocolate mint black tea that was like a caffeinated York Peppermint Patty, then wild cherry black, then diving headlong into the Upton and Harney catalogs), which drove me to investigate the different varieties of non-flavored teas next.

Now I have an absurd number of teas in my cupboard, mostly looseleaf, and I drink more tea than anything else these days. But without that flavored experience to get me started, it's likely I'd still avoid it.

At some point I need to undergo the same process with beer and coffee. I'm sure there are types of each that I would enjoy but I'd need to find a variation to ease me into the process.
posted by delfin at 10:38 AM on October 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


And now for something completely English: Mr. Scruff, DJ, producer, and tea connoisseur, on the beauty of a cuppa at two or three in the morning when you've been dancing and/or DJing for hours.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:41 AM on October 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


Sundays in my house is strictly builder's tea only. My green teas are my weekday sustenance, but Sundays? Large mug of milky sweet black tea upon my clambering out of bed, plz.
posted by Kitteh at 10:46 AM on October 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


This article seems very into (especially Chinese) green tea - they seem pretty dismissive of British and Indian styles, to the point of not mentioning them.

That's also the case in most of the tea books I've read, and it always has me wondering about what tea culture is like in India; the history is so tied in with British colonialism. Chinese tea culture is crazy fascinating and complex, and I get overwhelmed trying to learn about it. Those thousands of years of cultivation count for something.

I've been kind of obsessed with Lushan yunwu/clouds & mist the past few years. I have no idea if anyone else likes that one or not.
posted by thetortoise at 10:51 AM on October 15, 2015


maryr, did you see this one? It has all the good black tea content that wasn't in the overview article.
posted by thetortoise at 10:58 AM on October 15, 2015


Why do anarchists drink herbal tea?

Because 'proper tea' is theft...
posted by dowcrag at 11:02 AM on October 15, 2015 [20 favorites]


Recently I realized that I don't really enjoy alcohol anymore, and have been thinking about getting into tea as an alternative social drinking regime. This link fits the bill perfectly. Thanks for posting this.
posted by Cash4Lead at 11:12 AM on October 15, 2015


I drink a fair bit of tea, really like some but it's a fools errand to try to find an exact match to a taste that you have a memory. And the writing about tea is getting as absurd as wine articles, I've never ever had a wine that really had a distinct flavor of raspberry and it would disturb me to have that in a tea.

The most effective way I've found to have a tasty but non-bitter teacup is to steep/brew for a shorter time with more tea. Although if you have patience a cold overnight brew is effective.

Go Lapsang Souchong!
posted by sammyo at 11:13 AM on October 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Buy an awesome teapot, awesome to you.

My favorite jasmine tea is Bee and Flower in the blue tin. That is their number one. The green tin is number two, quality.
posted by Oyéah at 11:15 AM on October 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


The most effective way I've found to have a tasty but non-bitter teacup is to steep/brew for a shorter time with more tea.

I remember when I visited Dublin (am from the U.S.) and the first day I was there I ordered tea in a shop and they brought it out with like six tea bags in it, and I was like WHAT!!!! Totally the best way to have black tea in the morning.
posted by thetortoise at 11:20 AM on October 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Let steep for a minute, then sip, using your lips to filter out the tea leaves.

What no! I do not need frondery stuck to my face when trying to enjoy tea thanks.

I do loose-leaf but I don't really care for green tea except maybe genmaicha.

I'm big on black tea, sometimes with natural flavorings (cinnamom, begamot, fruit!), and a hot much of a good English breakfast with some milk is perhaps my favorite tea thing. And don't be dismissing Earl Grey, thanks.

Oh man now I'm think about how I haven't had any Mariage Freres tea in ages and I'm sad.
posted by Squeak Attack at 11:25 AM on October 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


Basically my cabinets are overfilled with tins of loose leaf and I cannot stop myself from buying more when I see something that catches my fancy.

This is what happens when tea IS your coffee.
posted by Kitteh at 11:28 AM on October 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


I like tea but it's way too complicated first thing in the morning and I can make coffee without engaging any higher brain functions. I might just go make a cup now though.
posted by octothorpe at 11:37 AM on October 15, 2015


Go Lapsang Souchong!

The perfect accompaniment to a perfect cold and rainy day spent reading. The perfect tea for introverts, basically.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:38 AM on October 15, 2015 [15 favorites]


Much gratitude to offer any of you who know what kinds of food 1. go well with tea, and 2. settle a stomach that can't stand tea, and 3. is least fattening. I love tea. Used to drink it all the time. Now my stomach can't stand it. Normal baked goods and comfort foods help. But I'd like to stay Mrs. Ocschwar's svelte little boy toy.
posted by ocschwar at 11:42 AM on October 15, 2015


Interestingly enough, I read that part of the Japanese tea ceremony often involves small talk between the host and the guests about the tea set itself, and the host can geek out about where they got the set and its history and who gave it to them and all that stuff. Which I can actually kind of do.

I have a complete proper bone china tea set - albeit with everything in a mismatched pattern - because all the neighbor ladies on my street wanted to get me some kind of high school graduation gift, but had their own kids and nieces and nephews to get gifts for so they didn't want to go too big-ticket; but when one of them realized "hey, EC likes tea," they all collaborated on each of them getting me a different part of the tea set: Mrs. B got the pot, Mrs. P got the creamer and sugar bowl, Mrs. M got the cozy, etc. I brought it with me to college and used it a lot, and a friend of mine once admiringly said that "EC makes tea the REAL way." It's a bit big to use for everyday, sadly. But it's carefully tucked away for parties.

And for everyday, I make use of another gift set - when a dear friend's mother died and he was going through her things, he reached out to his friends that he knew his mother especially liked to see if we wanted any of her things. To me, he offered a striking set of black teacups, with matching saucers, creamer, and sugar bowl. No pot, though. But the same day he brought that by, I found a wonderful little black teapot that was small enough for a small tea party, or for one person to linger over a couple cups. So the black set from R's mom is getting regular use.

Ironically, the black poppy pot is the perfect size for chai - which I also make "the real way", by brewing a cup of Assam and then steeping a spoonful of the chai spice blend (which I made up myself) in warm milk with some brown sugar. (FYI - you can make up your own chai spice blend by hitting up the spice aisle at your supermarket for things like cinnamon, cloves, star anise, cardamom, etc. - there are a ton of recipes that can give you an exact list - and then dumping the whole spices in a skillet to toast for a couple minutes, then you dump it out into a dish, give everything a few whacks with something to break the whole spices into slightly smaller pieces, and then you just keep it in a jar and use it a spoonful at a time.)

I tend to have a weird soft spot for teas that naturally have a scent or flavor that you wouldn't expect - like lapsang souchong, which smells exactly like a campfire, or genmai green tea, which has puffed Rice-Krispy-fied brown rice mixed in, so it smells like popcorn. Not so much the teas that you can tell have been artificially flavored, though (if I want raspberry flavor, I'll have raspberry juice, not raspberry tea). And there's something great about "Christmas spice" tea at that time of year.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:42 AM on October 15, 2015 [13 favorites]


I guess tea is fattening if you add lots of milk and sugar? I don't do that with green tea and only on Sundays with black.

My two favorite tisanes during the winter is David's Tea Super Ginger (which I swear totally cured my horrid head cold one bitter shitty winter day in Montreal) and their Cold 911.
posted by Kitteh at 11:51 AM on October 15, 2015


Thanks! This was quite interesting and informative.
posted by threeants at 11:51 AM on October 15, 2015


Let steep for a minute, then sip, using your lips to filter out the tea leaves.

yes of course i and my mouthful of baleen will get right on that

OR i could just use a teabag like the lord intended
posted by poffin boffin at 12:01 PM on October 15, 2015 [19 favorites]


Go Lapsang Souchong!

I don't remember where I read it, but it was a sentence in some adventure or climbing book about how the British couldn't just go into the wilderness on an expedition, they had to do it with style and be able to brew a proper cup of tea while in the wilderness. (I suspect it was in a paragraph about Sherpas.) With the pretentiousness* that only someone in their late teens and early 20s can bring to things, I set about making sure every backpacking trip and even long hiking days had, at some point in the day, a proper cup of tea. *groan* Of course, now being older and wiser less stupid, and having actually thought about what that sentence actually and truly means, I'm not so bullish on the whole proper tea thing.

However, I have discovered that tea just works so much better than anything else backpacking, even hot chocolate and coffee. I don't drag out the whole having a "proper" tea now, but I do bring lots, and one of the absolute best in the woods is lapsang souchong. I'm not sure if it's the smoky flavor enhanced by the smell of pines and and fresh air, but it's so wonderful up in the mountains. I'm also quite fond of good russian caravan teas, true milk oolong, and delicate green teas for afternoons after a long hike.

*For awhile I almost went down the road of bringing tea grown at certain elevations/terrains to have at certain elevations - convinced that the tea would "remember" or something, and thus the flavor would be enhanced, but luckily my pretentiousness only went so far.

. . . . I'm genuinely surprised friends who knew me then are still my friends, frankly.
posted by barchan at 12:03 PM on October 15, 2015 [18 favorites]


For many many years I was "meh" about just enjoying tea at home or at work, and pretty much only had green tea in sushi restaurants and oolong tea in Chinese restaurants. I finally came across a tea that I actually enjoy relaxing with -- green Japanese twig tea ("kukicha").

Unfortunately I started with a really flavorful version from Peets that was a short-term offering, so now I'm A) spoiled and B) having a heck of a time finding a version as good. Closest so far is the one from Harney and Sons.

More recently I've also been ramping up on oolong teas since trying a bunch either in Taiwan or directly from friends there.
posted by madmethods at 12:04 PM on October 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am a lifelong tea drinker and always will be so, but I dread the impending coffeefication of tea now that every tedious angle, overcomplication, and innovative pretension in regards to coffee has been thoroughly explored, and eschew people who are "serious" about tea, because because serious about a thing is more about being serious about being serious about a thing than it is about just cherishing and valuing the thing (see also: modular synthesizers, motorcycles, stereo equipment, camping, and any other once-lovable thing that's been caught up in the "artisanal" nightmare).

You can tell me all you want how I need the perfectly oxidized leaf, perfectly filtered bottled water, the perfect lack of proletarian flavorings, the perfect pot, the perfect boiling apparatus…and so on, but it's really a simpler message—only the wealthy and properly serious among us can ever truly experience the magical impossible wonder of tea.

And yet, I've worked out that tea brewed in mundane central Maryland tap water from not-particularly high end loose leaf black tea with a few cloves in the tea ball in a ten-dollar Ikea pot (the nice retro one, not the fake Bodum variety) sitting under a quilted cozy my mother made for me for Christmas, and poured into a cracked Playgirl beefcake mug with a bit of whole milk and a teaspoon or two of sweetened condensed milk is capable of transporting me across thousands of miles and thirty years to the bijou kitchenette of a little stone cottage in Corofin, County Clare, Ireland where I first realized that milk and tea were a kind of small magic for everyday people. It took a while to get the evocative details just right, but with just ordinary things in my ordinary house, I can make a cup of tea that makes me feel whole and happy and like I could throw open the window of my apartment and look out on a whole island of rolling green, criss-crossed by rough stone walls.

Of course we're all doing it wrong, all over the world, but luckily we're all too lacking in erudition to recognize how unworthy we are.
posted by sonascope at 12:06 PM on October 15, 2015 [44 favorites]


yes of course i and my mouthful of baleen will get right on that

Protip from someone who grew up drinking tea made by Chinese aunties: take small sips. After a little bit steeping, floating leaves usually drop down to the bottom of the cup. Getting greenery in the teeth is sign that somebody is being a bad host and letting the tea get too low and/or you taking big horking gulps. What are you, American or something?
posted by joyceanmachine at 12:08 PM on October 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


I caught this fun article on getting tea drunk in Montreal the other day on Vice.
posted by slogger at 12:12 PM on October 15, 2015


I drink tea daily (various cheapy greens, blacks or chai), but this reminded me how much I love yabao white tea. I would put a few buds in the bottom of my thermos at work in the winter and just refill and sip on it all day. So good. I need to get more. Snap it up if you find it! Expensive but you can brew and brew and brew and brew it and it still tastes good.
posted by Knicke at 12:13 PM on October 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am 99.9 % sure I know what tea shop they are talking about in Montreal because I have been there. I did love Montreal tea shops across the board because those mofos took it seriously.
posted by Kitteh at 12:20 PM on October 15, 2015


OR i could just use a teabag like the lord intended

It pains me to say it, but as far as I've been able to tell, teabags are mostly comprised of the crap they swept off the floor after they finished processing the real tea.

I'm sure it marks me as a Horrible Lazy American, but I drink way more good tea now that I use this handy gadget - you just let your tea steep in there, then set it on top of your mug, and the tea drains out of the bottom into your cup.
posted by dialetheia at 12:24 PM on October 15, 2015 [9 favorites]


Unfortunately I started with a really flavorful version from Peets that was a short-term offering, so now I'm A) spoiled and B) having a heck of a time finding a version as good. Closest so far is the one from Harney and Sons.

Upton Tea is where I've been ordering my teas for many, many years. They sell a Ko-kei Cha that I really like.
posted by jgaiser at 12:27 PM on October 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


It pains me to say it, but as far as I've been able to tell, teabags are mostly comprised of the crap they swept off the floor after they finished processing the real tea.

Pretty sure pb meant using your own tea filters. Because that is a thing you can do if you don't want to fuss with an infuser.
posted by Kitteh at 12:33 PM on October 15, 2015


yeah I like the weirdly long ones from adagio even though they dribble on my countertops.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:36 PM on October 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am a lifelong tea drinker and always will be so, but I dread the impending coffeefication of tea

I think that ship has already sailed - people get incredibly snobby about their pu-erhs, and their first flushes, and their special correct side of the mountain brushed with goat milk whatis.
posted by Squeak Attack at 12:37 PM on October 15, 2015


I agree with diathelia on the quality of tea bags vs. loose leaf. I'm more gourmand than gourmet when it comes to my green tea, but if we're talking gadgets, I love this strainer; my 5 large mugs of tea every morning are now MUCH better, and I can buy my gunpowder green by the pound.
posted by sapere aude at 12:39 PM on October 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


I feel very happy to live around the corner from a very affordable place that sells lose teas and tisanes by weight. It's only their presence that's gotten me to try some of the more expensive varieties, treating tea like wine or chocolate or other sensory hobby. I also stopped smoking cigarettes a couple years ago, which also was a bit of a barrier to appreciating anything but black teas.

I grew up in the south and, like another commenter, only really knew tea as a bulk brewed Lipton (unsweetened in our household) kept in a two gallon plastic pitcher in the coldest part of the fridge. I certainly grew up loving iced black tea, especially in summer, but I was a teenager before it became clear that tea meant more than just that experience. My mom worked with two Korean-American sisters who, when they found out I was having stomach problems, sent my mom home with boxes of Yamamotoyama genmaicha and hojicha. They were a revelation, very truly. I still go through a lot of genmaicha, and have been learning more about some refined greens. But I still really love basics like jasmine green, chamomile, mint, and even those Irish breakfast tea bags you can buy from Trader Joes. So, like wine, don't forget that sometimes that bottle of two buck Chuck is going to be just as satisfying as an expensive vintage in a dusty bottle. Follow your palette, not oblique marketing-infused writing.

On that note, we were just visiting my sister-in-law in Gloucestershire, where she's lived for 3/4 of her life. Her little household has a weekend "tea hunt" tradition of driving around the countryside looking for a place to pop in for a cup of tea and a bit of cake. It's a very enjoyable hobby! At the end of our trip, I asked her what tea I should buy to take home. I really liked her usual morning pots, served with lemon and sugar, and turns out it was the (£2.79 per box) Clipper Everyday.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 12:40 PM on October 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


The list of interesting places to order tea online is great -- but US-centric. I have to assume there are a number of great places in the UK, too. Anybody want to swap tips? Personally, I really like the Jasmine che from Postcard Teas.

Also Adagio UK has some great stuff on offer.

My favorite tea that I've ever ordered online is Teavivre's Superfine Jasmine Dragon Pearl but (as indicated in a previous AskMe) I'm a little nervous about ordering tea direct from China.

In terms of teaware-- I realize it seems excessive, but this totally automated teamaker was my birthday splurge this year, and it's one of the best purchases I've ever made.
posted by yankeefog at 12:42 PM on October 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am a sucker for any pretty mug that comes with its own saucer and infuser. This is my next purchase because SPOOPY! CREPPY! HALLOWEENY!
posted by Kitteh at 12:42 PM on October 15, 2015


Also, I have had horrible luck thus far with Canadian online tea mail order. But with the exchange rate the way it is, I shall have to travel to Toronto and Montreal to purchase lovely green teas.
posted by Kitteh at 12:44 PM on October 15, 2015


I read the article and these comments, while at work, working my through the second of my daily quota of 2 Magnificent Orange Teapots of Tea. (approx. 3L). I used to futz with strainers and all that, but recently have been converted to fillable teabags. a nice compromise between drinking 1. delicious loose leaf tea and 2. the convenience of not having to battle tealeaves in the pantry sink.

I take tea seriously, but also recognize that while a delicious fancy tea is wonderful, most of the damn time, you just want a base layer of good tea. I buy my "work tea" in bulk from Porto Rico Importing Company, and save my fancy teas for the weekend. When I go hiking, I too bring fancy tea with me. When I travel, I travel with looseleaf tea, and I bring home tea souvenirs! everything is better with tea!
posted by larthegreat at 12:56 PM on October 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


i am vilely murderously jealous of everyone who appears able to have multiple cups of tea in one day, or even an entire pot in a single go. how.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:58 PM on October 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


Practice. Also to be fair, I have thought the last 2 years my teapot was 1 liter. turns out it's 1.4 liters (as per the link). I have been underestimating my tea consumption by more than 50%. No wonder I'm an insomniac. I drink 3+ liters of tea a day. wtf me.
posted by larthegreat at 1:00 PM on October 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


I drink coffee in the morning and now tea levels of caffeine have absolutely no impact on me.

It's like I planned it that way!
posted by selfnoise at 1:02 PM on October 15, 2015


Then one day, years later, I came across a bottle of peppermint herbal tea on a grocery shelf and went WAIT A MINUTE. Peppermint you can DRINK? I drank it.

except - as the article points out - that's a tisane or infusion of peppermint, not tea.

As for tea being harder to make in the morning than coffee: maybe loose leaf tea. But tea bags? just throw in the mug and pour boiling water on top. Tea is as easy as instant coffee (and much tastier). there is a reason tea in bags are the natural camping drink. I took coffee the last time, but it was much more work than tea.
posted by jb at 1:13 PM on October 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Lapsang souchong fans, which is your preferred? I've tried a few brands (Harney, Taylor's, etc) and found the loose leaves to be powdery and broken.
posted by a halcyon day at 1:15 PM on October 15, 2015


i am vilely murderously jealous of everyone who appears able to have multiple cups of tea in one day, or even an entire pot in a single go. how.

I have less problems with my two 2-cup pots each morning than my previous two 16 ounce mugs of coffee each morning. Mostly blacks, but caffeine is still lower.
posted by jgaiser at 1:15 PM on October 15, 2015


Tea thoughts:

1) If you want loose leaf quality but still want it in a tea bag, you can just buy tea bags. Pretty handy if you don't want to use a teapot.

2) This Good Eats episode has done well by me. I never remember the tea classification stuff, but the "one scoop of tea per cup, plus one for the water" seems to have worked for me, as do the temperature guidelines.

I got really into Japanese-style tea prep for a few years, then had to give up caffeine for awhile. Slowly getting back into it because I really do enjoy the act of making the tea.
posted by curious nu at 1:18 PM on October 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


one 10oz cup of tea plus my adderall is like, i MIGHT not be having a heart attack but who can really say for sure.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:19 PM on October 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


pb, that's what the caffeine levels in coffee do to me which is why I can't have it. I was only able to safely drink any sort of tea in the past few years. (I have the brain of "if this is good, more must be better", which is why I limit my tea ingestion to three cups tops in the morning. Even that took some trial runs.) As for my Sunday builder's tea, well, here is where I part ways with poshness. I use decaf black tea bags!
posted by Kitteh at 1:23 PM on October 15, 2015


drinking coffee is a good way for my butt to become a performance art piece about the 1883 eruption of krakatoa
posted by poffin boffin at 1:25 PM on October 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


Lapsang souchong fans, which is your preferred? I've tried a few brands (Harney, Taylor's, etc) and found the loose leaves to be powdery and broken.

Current favorite is a blend of Lapsang Souchong, Keemun and Darjeeling. Baker Street Afternoon Blend
posted by jgaiser at 1:26 PM on October 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


I like Lapsang but haven't had it in years because APPARENTLY CIGAR BREATH IS UNACCEPTABLE IN MY HOUSE!
posted by selfnoise at 1:32 PM on October 15, 2015


I love smell of Lapsang but yeah, your breath does smell like a cigar smoker's afterwards.
posted by Kitteh at 1:34 PM on October 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


except - as the article points out - that's a tisane or infusion of peppermint, not tea.

I did follow that with a description of how said tisane got me to try actual accredited card-carrying tea with similar flavoring, no?

As for online tea, I've had good success over the years with both Harney and Upton, both of which carry absurdly intricate/expensive teas & blends and very affordable ones.
posted by delfin at 2:13 PM on October 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


"After the seventh cup, a divine wind issues from my armpits."

I don't have the gift book this line came from, so I have no chance of checking that it's actually an early Chinese description of the joys of tea drinking; but if it wasn't true it should have been and more and better besides.

I have been horrified to read over and over that tea and sugar and chocolate all commonly have terrible labor practices, as though we never left the 19th c. at least, if I seek out fair trade versions, the extra trouble and expense remind me to pay a 19th c. desideratum of quiet and appreciation to the indulgences.
posted by clew at 2:19 PM on October 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


EmpressCallipygos
Interestingly enough, I read that part of the Japanese tea ceremony often involves small talk between the host and the guests about the tea set itself, and the host can geek out about where they got the set and its history and who gave it to them and all that stuff. Which I can actually kind of do.

Yes, this is a real thing. It doesn't usually happen at the level of a "tea set" though. Japanese tea ceremony practitioners assemble their dogu (tools) from a variety of different sources, and combine them to create different messages for their guests. So discussion is usually about the individual tools, and sometimes about the theme as a whole.

If I were doing a tea ceremony for celebrating summer, for example, I might choose a dark bowl and caddy with designs evocative of fireflies at night. Or I could go with a summer garden theme, or mix them to evoke the idea of fireworks on a grassy lawn.

Then when it comes to the point in the ceremony where we talk about each item (different times for different items), I might talk with guests about where I got the bowl (ex: made by such and such potter, inherited from a friend of the family in kyoto) and the caddy (ex: such and such design), the tea scoop (ex: made it myself), and of course the tea (ex: the company that packed it and the variety).
posted by yeolcoatl at 2:31 PM on October 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


"Where there's tea, there's hope."
posted by vers at 2:31 PM on October 15, 2015


thetortoise: Even as a lover of Indian black tea, I don't think there's as much to be said about it. The diversity in styles is just much less than in China and Taiwan. Some of those styles are very good, but once you've covered Darjeeling, Assam, Nilgiri, and Ceylon, you're just about done.

Also, pretty much all Indian domestic consumption is low-grade CTC, brewed to be strong rather than to bring out subtle flavors because it is just going to get mixed full of milk and sugar and spices. Which there is nothing wrong with! It just means that the tea itself is not as big a part of the story.
posted by goingonit at 2:44 PM on October 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm pretty fond of Japanese-style tea prep, by which I mean "using 90°C water directly out of one of those mechanical heater pots that you'll see in every workplace." Got one for our kitchen, used, for like ¥3,000.

If you're in the US or Japan, Lupicia comes strongly recommended due to their insane variety of both Precious Snobby Actual Teas from Japan, India, Taiwan, etc. as well as Flavored Herb Teas for Tea Losers (I think my favorite is "cookie," which tastes like a damn cookie). They have a couple of brick-and-mortar stores in San Francisco and Hawai'i, too, and each physical location stocks a few local-style flavors unique to that store.
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:38 PM on October 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Caffeine avoiders - You know that decaffeinated tea is a thing, right? Decaf Earl Grey is indistinguishable from normal. Or you could be drinking rooibos (rooibos chai is great, I prefer it to normal chai these days).

Or you can just keep topping green tea leaves up with fresh hot water. I get litres of tea out of one green tea pearl. It's pretty weak by the end so presumably not much caffeine left in it.
posted by tinkletown at 4:57 PM on October 15, 2015


...water directly out of one of those mechanical heater pots that you'll see in every workplace

The key to me being able to drink a pot of tea every morning is one of these pots! The water is ready when I wake, I add leaves to the strainer in the pot and I have tea in no time. A cup at home and the rest goes in a thermos for later at work. I'm a big fan of Darjeeling Steinthal from Tee Gschwendner.

Off to drink some tea!
posted by Otherwise at 5:01 PM on October 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ironically, the black poppy pot is the perfect size for chai - which I also make "the real way", by brewing a cup of Assam and then steeping a spoonful of the chai spice blend (which I made up myself) in warm milk with some brown sugar. (FYI - you can make up your own chai spice blend by hitting up the spice aisle at your supermarket for things like cinnamon, cloves, star anise, cardamom, etc. - there are a ton of recipes that can give you an exact list - and then dumping the whole spices in a skillet to toast for a couple minutes, then you dump it out into a dish, give everything a few whacks with something to break the whole spices into slightly smaller pieces, and then you just keep it in a jar and use it a spoonful at a time.)

I don't know where in the world you live, but if I am ever close I will just follow my nose. I haven't had real, made-from-scratch chai in years and just reading this made me miss it so much.

yes of course i and my mouthful of baleen will get right on that

Growing a proper walrus mustache is the traditional DIY approach, though baleen would work as well.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:19 PM on October 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Tea! So much to say about tea!

This article seems very into (especially Chinese) green tea - they seem pretty dismissive of British and Indian styles...

Yeah, which is odd but not necessarily wrong. Certainly it's cool to just be into Chinese-style teas, but it's hard to decide whether the omission is a snub or simply a byproduct of not wanting to write a book on the subject. Certainly there's a long article to be written about the teas of India and Sri Lanka by itself.

I have to disagree with the article's "skip the flavored tea" admonition.

I have to admit to being of two minds on this. I have commented before that I think that Earl Grey is an abomination. I hate it. I think it's objectively terrible. But I love me some jasmine tea. Like I could drink a gallon a day. Cold, hot, whatever, The Ito bottled Jasmine green tea is transcedent. But yeah, I guess jasmine is technically a flavoured tea. So basically there is right and wrong when it comes to flavoured tea.

(No, I kid, flavoured tea is fine, just don't make it a crutch. Learn to love straight tea)

And tisanes are great, but indeed they are not tea and I'll cut the author some slack for not writing a book.

As for filtered vs unfiltered water, like every beverage, better water makes for a better end product, but it's not a huge deal. I don't miss living where there's hard water as that tends to develop that unpleasant tea scum which is just... unpleasant. There's nothing good about it. It messes up your kettle, it messes up your tea. If you live where there's really hard water, my sympathies.

Decaf tea is indeed great and I have got a few good ones from Culinary Teas online including a decaf Jasime which was perfect. Thankfully my caffeine sensitivity seem to have gone down - a couple years ago I couldn't handle more than one cup a day which was very sad. Now I can usually handle two, so yay me.

And as some of you have also mentioned, I tend to try to buy tea whenever I go somewhere out of the ordinary, especially England. It actually got to the point when on this summer's Big Trip both my teenagers went out investigating London on their own for a while and came back with a big haul from... the Twinings store. I didn't actually end up buying any myself in London as the kids bought enough for a small army, but I did capitulate and buy some Mariage Frères in Paris. It's nice, not stunning, but good quality leaves and generally nice. I usually like to just go harass the nice people at Harrods and I quite like Blend 49. Peet's tea is also great and I'm bummed that they got rid of their house line for Mighty Leaf, which is fine, but their own teas were better IMO. They still seem to have the Jasime Downy Pearls, so at least something is right in the world. And House of Tea still seems to be open in Toronto which is a great place. And if you are ever in Berkeley or at the SF Ferry Building you must eat & drink at the Imperial Tea Court. In addition to their great teas, their hand-pulled noodles are amazing.

Sooo... yes, I like tea. There are probably a million more places to go visit. My wife and I were in Taiwan together briefly and my memory of it is that we basically went from tea shop to tea shop.

Anyway, I'll stop.

Tea!
posted by GuyZero at 5:30 PM on October 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


I've actually started to pack a small "luxury kit" with me when I travel now, so I can have the makings of a restful and pampered evening in a hotel where someone else has to clean up after me. Stuff like a tiny bottle of bubble bath, fancy lotion and soap, a tiny travel candle, a couple squares of good chocolate...and really good tea. The next big trip is going to be Paris and I am going to be staying in an airbnb place with an amazing view of the Jardin du Luxembourg, and one of those mornings I intend to go out early, pick up a couple croissants, and bring them back, curl,up on the couch in the place and have tea.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:38 PM on October 15, 2015 [4 favorites]



Allow me to recommend Fortnum & Mason Royal Blend.

We order 6 - 8 tins of the stuff every three months or so. It is sustaining. Creates an island of calm in a turbulent and uncertain world.

Turns out it makes great iced tea as well.

Note: We make it strong. No one here takes milk, cream, sugar, lemon, cinnamon, etc.
 
posted by Herodios at 6:20 PM on October 15, 2015


I finished my Fortnum & Mason tin of jasmine not too long ago. It was quite good.
posted by Kitteh at 7:01 PM on October 15, 2015


For those in UK, try out the teas in the Algerian Coffee Store in London, along Old Compton Street. Yes, they are a coffee store and they sell chocolate too, but whoever does their tea purchasing is really expert at getting good quality Chinese and Japanese teas. Those who like very light teas, try out the Jade Rings, which are white tea leaves rolled into rings.
posted by Alnedra at 7:33 PM on October 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I like Lapsang but haven't had it in years because APPARENTLY CIGAR BREATH IS UNACCEPTABLE IN MY HOUSE!

Lapsang is like a cup of tea and a cigarette at the same time. Which is either awesome or awful, depending on your taste.

It's not fancy, but I think I used to drink Twinnings.
posted by jb at 7:59 PM on October 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


> one of the absolute best in the woods is lapsang souchong

My uncle was an archeologist who spent many summers digging in the hills of Lebanon (before the Middle East exploded). The area was summer pasture land for Bedouins and their livestock, who all used the same streams for their water. My uncle and aunt boiled the water to make it safe to drink, but nothing killed the taste of urine until they discovered lapsang souchong tea, which they fondly referred to as "camel piss" ever after.
posted by Quietgal at 8:42 PM on October 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


Allow me to recommend Fortnum & Mason Royal Blend.

ooh i like their russian caravan tea
posted by poffin boffin at 10:30 PM on October 15, 2015


I think that Earl Grey is an abomination. I hate it. I think it's objectively terrible.

PISTOLS AT DAWN
posted by Quilford at 11:36 PM on October 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


The real abomination is the artificial Celestial Seasonings stuff, which taste like water leftover from boiling a My Little Pony. Certain fruit and floral flavours go well with black tea, but I'd much rather eat caramelvanillapplepiestrawberrycookie than drink them.
posted by peripathetic at 12:10 AM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I wish there was a different word for these high end teas. I'm English and I drink a lot of tea, not PG tips like she accuses me of in the article (I have some class) but only tea like that. My associations with tea are so different to hers, that for both of our sakes, we need something to separate us, we need our own space. To me, tea is a comforting relaxing thing to drink whilst chatting to flatmates, aunts, colleagues and neighbors. I understand that there is this connoisseurship about it, and intellectually I'm fine with it - I can be as wanky as they come over more things than you'd believe. But not tea, never tea. Somehow it feels like a betrayal.

To appropriate a metaphor from earlier in the thread: Imagine if you walked into your local one day and sat down by the bar. You turn around to order a pint, and to your horror there's only row upon row of tiny wineglasses there. Eyes wide, you look around the pub and everyone's spitting their mouth-wine into silver buckets, whilst using expressions like "terroir" and "notes of jasmine". Your subvocalised gasp is all it takes to give you away, and as one, they turn, before slowly shuffling towards you. The last thing you hear before you lose consciousness is "Oh you must try the Bordeaux, it's absolutely divine".
posted by Ned G at 3:31 AM on October 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


Ned, drinking hot tea already has somewhat of a snobbish connotation in the US, not all that different from wine enthusiasm.
posted by octothorpe at 5:40 AM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


i blame king george
posted by poffin boffin at 6:00 AM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Caffeine avoiders - You know that decaffeinated tea is a thing, right?

YES MOM. alas my preferred teas are not available in decaf.
posted by poffin boffin at 6:02 AM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


You all let me know when they make decaf Lapsang or Russian Caravan. I mean, yes, I have some loose lead decaf English Breakfast and Earl Grey, but really intricate and yummy black teas do not come in decaf.
posted by Kitteh at 6:27 AM on October 16, 2015


Regarding decaffeinated tea, I was about to post something I had been told: if you brew a cup, dump it out, and then brew a second infusion with the leaves, you'll remove all or most of the caffeine.

But when I googled up a source for that advice, I discovered that the truth is more complicated. It looks like the amount of caffeine removed is proportional to the time brewed as follows:

30 seconds: 9% caffeine removal
1 minute: 18% caffeine removal
2 minutes: 34% caffeine removal
3 minutes: 48% caffeine removal
4 minutes: 60% caffeine removal
5 minutes: 69% caffeine removal
10 minutes: 92% caffeine removal
15 minutes: 100% caffeine removal


Ah, well. It was too good to be true, I guess.
posted by yankeefog at 7:10 AM on October 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


(84 comments into a thread about tea and not a single link to Cup of Brown Joy? Come on, people!)

I'm sipping coffee right now but it's definitely going to be a damp-grey-drizzly-autumn tea kind of afternoon here. I have a creeping suspicion that I'm all out of lapsang souchong, though.

I would rate my tea knowledge a little above my wine knowledge (which is basically, "Don't know much about wine but I like it when it's good") but I don't live close enough to a good tea shop to have gone down the rabbit hole. Really, the single-biggest game changer for me whether brewing fancy loose-leaf or cheap-ass Red Rose in a teabag was learning to 1) Scald the mug and 2) Use boiling water (for black tea, anyway.)

(One more tea-related song featuring Mr. Ginger Baker: T.U.S.A.)
posted by usonian at 7:29 AM on October 16, 2015


Also, pretty much all Indian domestic consumption is low-grade CTC, brewed to be strong rather than to bring out subtle flavors because it is just going to get mixed full of milk and sugar and spices. Which there is nothing wrong with!

That's interesting, because I feel some teas are just better with a little bit of milk, and now that I think about it they tend to be Indian teas.

I love the differing opinions about flavored tea in this thread. There's one place where flavored teas go really well: in shortbread cookies, where the cookie is flavored with a tea. Earl Grey is good, but some of the Haney and Sons teas - the Parisian one in particular - also make great additions to shortbread cookies. Then you serve the cookies with a good tea that complements it - just lovely.

*happy sigh* I know what I'm doing this weekend.
posted by barchan at 9:51 AM on October 16, 2015


I love tea, but I'm not snobby or high end at all about it, and haven't ventured much into the East Asian end of the tea world. My weekday morning tea is World Market's Tuoareg blend, which is the perfect Moroccan Mint for me. Just enough mint, a nice hint of jasmine, and green tea is easier on my stomach on weekday mornings when I have less breakfast. I have it with a dollop of honey, and I'm not particularly fussed about what kind of honey, though I have noticed Trader Joe's Turkish honey goes especially well with it. A+, would recommend to anyone for their morning caffeine.

Also, I brew my loose leaf tea in a thermos with an infuser. I'm sure someone will tell me how this is ruining the tea, but it's basically ideal for the purposes of brewing single-serving amounts of tea, especially since I'm a slooooow tea drinker and it keeps my tea warm for hours. Admittedly, brewing so much Moroccan mint tea in it has given it a permanent minty aroma/taste, which I'm actually fine with, ymmv.
posted by yasaman at 11:07 AM on October 16, 2015


Dragon well tea is pretty tasty when eaten, so I do as the article says and just dump leaves and water in the cup. I have to make sure not to eat too many leaves so that I can re-brew.

I'm no kind of tea snob, but right now I have about 8 different tea varieties at work (some bagged, some loose) plus 3 non-teas. 3 of the real teas are flavoured, and I'm OK with that.
posted by pianissimo at 10:30 PM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I love a lot of flavored teas, but I wouldn't appreciate them as much if I hadn't gotten super excited about unadulterated teas first, I think this let me develop a better palate for it. I will, like an obnoxious tea-hipster, get excited about first flush darjeeling and I absolutely love green teas from China because they are super delicious. There's also plenty of cheap bagged tea that I like.

Also whoever doesn't like earl grey can send me theirs, that shit is delicious and lets me pretend I'm Captain Picard.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:46 AM on October 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Some of my favourite teas:

1. Teh Tarik - tea made with condensed milk and builders-type tea so strong you could stick a spoon in it, then prepared by pulling/pouring the tea between two metal mugs, making it really frothy. My mum makes a version that involved whisking it. This needs to be the sort of tea that you'd normally malign as "bottom of the floor" - anything more intricate would be too light to maintain the "tarik" and flavor.

2. Disneyland Mad Hatter Topsy Turvy Tea - I am serious, this is amazing. It's like Earl Grey or English Breakfast (forgot which) with a little more bergamot. Mmm.

3. $1 chai from Alhamra in San Francisco. BEST CHAI. I tell all my friends about it and I was such a regular that they recognized me even years later. They make it the way EC describes - giant pot of milk, tea, and spices - and it's soooooooooo goooooooood

4. An SF-based artist named Sita Bhaumik has this wandering arts installation where she prepares a giant boiling pot of tea, and sets out jars of various spices as well as a mortar & pestle. The audience is invited to put in as much of any spice as they want, and then when it's ready she brews it out and serves in these terracotta mugs made by a South American artist she's close to.
posted by divabat at 5:21 AM on October 19, 2015


Ned, drinking hot tea already has somewhat of a snobbish connotation in the US, not all that different from wine enthusiasm.

With the added irony that the lack of a basic tea culture has led to the embrace of the horrific monstrosities passed off as tea by companies like Teavana.

All of the Canadian Starbucks just had their Tazo Teas (good, not stellar but solid - great chai, nice camomile blend) replaced by Teavana (all but the black tea filled with artificial flavours, which make me gag from the chemically quality). Lost anyone with a sense for good tea.
posted by jb at 5:52 AM on October 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Teavana does produce some terribly fake-tasting blends, but others like their Monkey-Picked Oolong are fine... they just happen to be marked up to like ten times what the price would be at any Asian grocery store.
posted by thetortoise at 6:14 AM on October 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


Thank you so much, fellow Lapsang Souchong lovers, for the recommendations! I've tried many wonderful Lapsangs and there are still so many I want to try. Lapsang is my all-time favourite tea. I love it with a passion unmatched by any other kind of tea, save for aged raw pu-erh from ancient tea trees, which I can't afford to drink.

My current favourite is from The Art of Tea; I like it better than the one available from Mark T. Wendell (including Hu-Kwa), better than Harney & Sons and Taylors of Harrogate, and better than any of the ones I've found locally (in Portland, OR). I look forward to trying the Baker Street Afternoon Blend and the Fortnum & Mason Russian Caravan. Any more recommendations? Seriously, I'd try every Lapsang available on the entire planet if I could. I love it that much. I keep a list, and I go through and order them one at a time.

Recently I found this article on "authentic Lapsang Souchong" from Tongmu, Wuyi Mountain, and I can't help but wish I could try that, too.
posted by velvet winter at 5:46 PM on October 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


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