Green, red, black, white — tea is a colorful subject that can be just as complex as wine. While tea has been a popular beverage throughout the history of mankind, sampling the wide variety of teas available has recently become especially trendy. This can be intimidating for those who are comfortable with the good old Lipton tea bags they grew up with.
So what, besides tea and boiling water, do you need to brew loose tea? Well, nothing if you have leaves that sink to the bottom of your cup and you don’t mind them being there. If this is not the case, all you need is a tea ball. It costs two dollars and it couldn’t be simpler: put the tea in the ball and use it just as though it were a tea bag. There is also the option of buying empty tea bags to put your loose tea in. When you decide you’re into brewing loose tea and you’re going to do more of it, a teapot with a built-in infuser (like a built-in tea ball) will allow you to do so with the fewest possible steps. If you still want to stick to your tea bags, but you want to try different teas, check out Yogitea.com. They sell bagged tea and best of all, they offer free samples on their website.
Now you’ll need to figure out which tea to try first. Generally, green tea is very cleansing and has a plant or flower scent. It’s good to have around for an upset stomach. White tea has a sweet flavor. Its leaves are harvested in their infancy and believed to be the best at preventing cancer. Red tea (also knows as rooibos) is mild and tasty, a little spicy and a little sweet. This may be a good start for someone hooked on regular tea, as the taste is not dramatically different. Chai is spicy and is usually made with milk and sugar. It is very popular, widely available, and can probably be found in the tea, coffee, or donut shop closest to you. TheTeaTable.com carries reasonably priced sampler packs for beginners in each of these categories and more. They also offer very generous free samples with every order so that you can try a variety of teas before buying.
If in your search for tea you feel lost in the lingo, check out Peets.com. They have a tea finder as well as a glossary of tea terminology to describe flavors and textures. I’ve tried their jasmine (a green tea), chai, black currant (black), and sencha (green) and would recommend any of them. They can be on the expensive side, so you may prefer to try certain teas at your local teahouse before investing in a tin. If your city has a Chinatown, you are likely to find oolong and green teas there for a much better price than you would at a retail chain. Take a walk around and try whatever catches your eye.
With an open mind, a broad palate, and a little help from the tea gurus on the web, you will find yourself with several new favorite teas very quickly. And if your friends are fellow tea enthusiasts, you can offer to host the first of many tea parties.