Photos by Rochelle Li, Words by Natalie Goldberg
When I come home from a long day of fighting off Boston’s chilly winds, the first thing I want to do is make a relaxing cup of tea. Something about a hot, aromatic cup of tea helps me focus and collect myself throughout the day. But I believe that investing in loose leaf teas, in particular, will make your tea-drinking experiences that much better.
I will admit, stores that sell loose leaf teas, like DAVIDsTEA or Teavana, may seem intimidating at first. The prices appear high and the walls are lined with tins labeled in unfamiliar names like “oolong” and “rooibos.” Furthermore, there are numerous accessories, mugs and directions that may make you want to pick up a collection of whatever tea bags are on sale at your local grocery instead.
You could do that, but I highly recommend investing in some loose leaf tea and a steeper. Preparing it this way will completely change your entire mood and all of your previous conceptions about tea. Plus, you see every ingredient that you are steeping, whether it be pieces of fruit, spices, or even glittery balls of sugar (see Glitter and Gold Black Tea). If you’re still not sold on this idea, DAVIDsTEA even sells small steeping bags that you can fill with loose leaf tea to make your own tea bags.
If you’re still not convinced, or are new to tea drinking, here is your guide to starting:
4 Reasons to Drink Tea:
- Tea and coffee can provide a great deal of antioxidants to your diet, which can help prevent disease and boost the immune system.
- Teas come in a variety of caffeine levels and flavors. Some types have as much or more caffeine than a cup of coffee does. Plus, drinking caffeinated tea can keep you going for longer without the crash.
- Tea is made from pure water and naturally flavored by the loose leaf, unlike the artificial creamers and sweeteners we are tempted to add to our coffees. Small amounts of sweetener or milk may be added to a cup of tea, but you’ll still be kept hydrated.
- Tea can help reduce stress and uplift your mood! Green tea in particular has been known to have anti-depressant qualities.
Both coffee and tea have distinct health benefits, and neither is “better” for you than another. But if you're not yet sure what appeals to you in the wide world of teas, here is your guide to finding the perfect cup.
Green Tea can have a toasted or grassy taste, with hints of nuttiness and a flowery aroma. It has natural abilities to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and speed your metabolism. White Tea has a lighter taste, but similar characteristics to green tea. It can also help prevent the risk of disease, even cancer. I recommend Buddha’s Blend from DAVIDsTea, which is a floral and earthy, a mix of green and white teas.
Oolong tea is a cross between a black and green tea, and provides the health benefits of both. The leaves themselves unfurl while steeping and can be steeped multiple times. Try Long Life Oolong from DAVIDsTEA; it’s just the right balance of nutty, yet naturally sweet with apricot, peach and almond flavors.
Black Teas tend to be high in caffeine and have health benefits, such as the potential to lower cholesterol levels. Glitter and Gold from DAVIDsTEA is both spicy and sweet because it’s laced with gold sugar balls, vanilla, lemon peel and cloves.
Maté tea originates from South America and will wake you up! My favorites from DAVIDsTEA are Chocolate Rocket, which is a decadent blend of cocoa, almond and raspberry and Main Squeeze, which is a bright combination of papaya, pineapple and safflower.
Rooibos tea comes from a plant in South Africa and is naturally caffeine-free, has many vitamins and minerals and is believed to have anti-ageing properties.Try Organic Vanilla Rooibos Parfait in which apple, cinnamon and vanilla come together for a sweet and spicy mix from TAZO.
Herbal teas are naturally caffeine-free and contain different vitamins and minerals depending on the type. Herbal teas are unique in that they sometimes do not contain tea leaves at all, but rather, pieces of dried fruit or flowers for a fruity and floral taste and smell. Herbal teas are my personal favorite because of the variety they offer. Try Wild Orange Blossom, a mixture of orange slices and rose petals from Teavana, or Yes We Cran—a tart and sweet combination of cranberries and fall spices, mixed with rosehips from DAVIDsTEA.
Chai teas are spicy and are typically made from a mix of black tea and herbs. Pumpkin Chai from DAVIDsTEA is a seasonal sweet black tea combined with caramel, pumpkin candies, cinnamon and cloves, or Chocolate Chai Black Tea from Teavana.
Finally, let’s go over how to make a great cup. Each tea requires a certain amount per 8oz cup of water at a specific temperature, steeped for a particular amount of time. I usually let water heat up until it is not yet boiling, but steaming. Then, I steep the teas for the recommended time, which should come on its directions. Some teas, like herbal, will not get bitter after that time limit, so you can keep them steeping the entire time you sip your tea.
Some teas are perfect on their own once they’ve steeped. However, if you want a bit of sweetness or creaminess, go for it! Try mixing milk or cream into a spicy chai, black, or herbal tea to turn it into a tea latte! This tastes best with flavors that are cinnamon-spiced. Try mixing sugar or honey into any of the teas, especially some of the tart herbal ones for a balance. You can also try adding ice if hot drinks aren’t your cup-of-tea. Most of these teas will taste just as good—if not better—iced! Now that you have all the basics, go out there and try all the different teas you can! Trust me, you will be hooked.
DISCLAIMER: I am not and do not claim to be a registered dietician or nutritionist. Therefore, the advice you see on this website has been researched, but does not come from someone with professional experience.