What tea should I try if I like a normal black tea?

I’ve ran into this situation a lot of times: most people just like their ‘normal’ cup of tea. Of course, everyone has a slightly different ‘normal’ especially when it comes to the amount of milk added. But generally, a ‘normal’ cup is an English Breakfast – a strong tea that you can personalise with milk and sugar (or not add any at all).

Yet sometimes, you can be forced into a situation where you’ll have to pick a different tea. Maybe they’re out of English Breakfast in the restaurant. Or maybe you’re visiting someone else’s office for a meeting and they show you their tea box full of options to choose from. And you get stuck.

No need for panic attacks, I’m here to help you out of a sticky situation. I’ve suggested some teas that will give you the same satisfaction based on what you love in your cuppa.

Teas that are similar in strength

Some teas have a strong body. You know when you add milk and it tastes good and it turns the perfect colour? Not grey, not white either? That’s a strong tea. If that’s what you like, I recommend you try anything labelled:

Assam (second flush if you have the choice)

Tippy Assam
Picture from Whittard’s tea collection. You can buy the tea here.

Keemun – well-regarded and flavoursome Chinese black tea

Lapsang Souchong – very smoky aroma (you can’t miss it, it’s a bit like a bonfire smell) but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea

Lapsang Souchong
Image from Seven Cups – online seller of Chinese teas

If you’re after that dark, malty taste of tea

Darjeeling – light black tea referred to by many as the “champagne of teas”

darjeeling fortnums
Image from Fortnum & Mason where you can buy it, and even find some from a single origin (called single estate).

Yunnan – light Chinese black tea with a beautiful dark golden liquor

yunnan-gold_infusion_gallery
The picture of this beautiful Yunnan is from JING Tea. The golden loose leaves look great too!

Russian Caravan – a slightly smoky black tea blend, though the ‘bonfire’ is not as potent as it is for Lapsang

Earl Grey – a light blend of black tea with bergamot (another one which divides people)

For the caffeine kick

Any of the teas above will give you caffeine, but if you really want to buzz with energy, I recommend trying something different from black tea.

A darker Oolong will be the easiest choice without stepping out of your comfort zone. Something like Dong Ding Oolong or the Iron Goddess of Mercy (how do they come up with these names? Haha!) should do the trick.

iron-goddess-of-mercy
Image from the Tea Palace where you can get this tea at a good price.

Alternatively, white tea has the most amount of caffeine because it’s the least processed, but it’s also the most delicate in flavour which means some of you will find it bland.

If you like mint, try the unique combination of a fresh taste with caffeine in Morrocan Mint – a combination of Gunpowder and spearmint.

moroccan mint fortnums
Image from Fortnum & Mason’s Moroccan Mint product page. Notice the tightly rolled green tea against the mint leaves!

There’s no need to be stressed anymore when faced with a choice other than your ‘usual’. Or perhaps you’ve been inspired to try something new? Either way, let me know how it goes.

Until next time,

Anca

 

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How to make a natural and refreshing ice tea

I know, it’s been a while since I last posted but I haven’t forgotten my readers or my mission. I made a promise to help you discover tea and I will keep it because there is such an exciting world of flavours and aromas waiting for you! Life just got in the way a little bit as it always does but I’m back, with more energy, drive and passion than before.

We still have a long journey of discovery ahead, but no prepared explorer leaves without supplies. As it’s summertime, I thought we should take some refreshing ice tea with us, so I’m sharing my top tips on making a natural, sugar-free brew at home.

The difference between natural and powdered ice tea

Before I share some tips, I wanted to clarify something. In many parts of the world, and particularly in the US, ice tea is a powder you mix with water and voila! Job done. But as I’ve already mentioned my stance on tea bags (hint: I run away from them as fast as I run away from spiders), you can probably imagine what I think about powdered ice tea.

It’s not that I have something against convenience, but if you read the ingredient deck on that stuff it’s very often 90% sugar or sweetener and a shocking 0.5% tea.

Ice tea the natural way

I’m going to teach you how to make a drink with 100% tea and if you want to add sugar, honey or other sweeteners, that is your own decision! I don’t judge, I’m just giving you the option.

  1. Best types of tea for ice tea – depending on your palette and preferences, pretty much any tea can make a good ice tea. If you’re a regular black coffee drinker or dark chocolate lover, black tea would be a good one to start with because you don’t mind a slightly bitter taste. Try a lighter blend or tea such as a Ceylon or Darjeeling and don’t add milk because it won’t hold its strength/taste. If you’re like me and you have a sweet tooth, I would recommend using a smooth green tea like Gunpowder or any white tea. Or better yet, opt for a blend with dried fruit and flowers to enhance the flavour. Fortnum & Mason sells a green tea and apple blend which makes a lovely cold brew!
  2. How to brew it – looking on the internet you’ll find cold and hot brew instructions for ice tea. Personally I prefer the hot method as you can add ice cubes to the tea to cool it down straight away rather than waiting for as much as 2-4 hours to steep the leaves! Add double the amount of tea you normally would or half the water. For example, in a six cup teapot you can either use 12 teaspoons of tea leaves and fill up with water or add half the amount of water to 6 teaspoons. The only difference is the quantity you’ll end up with! Leave it to steep according to the instructions – 3-5 minutes for the green tea and apple blend above, for instance. Then get a generous amount of ice cubes so you double the volume of liquid and you’re done! Ready to drink ice tea.
  3. Enhancing the flavour – cold/frozen drinks and food need to pack a punch to tickle our taste buds (that’s why melted ice cream tastes sickly sweet, whereas when it’s frozen it seems to have just the right amount of sugar). In order to prevent ice tea from tasting bitter or bland, I’d recommend adding your favourite fruit to the mix – citrus, berries and melons will add a whole other layer of deliciousness. If not, you can also add sugar, honey or other natural sweeteners just don’t be too generous with the portion!
  4. Freshness – tea tends to get a bit bitter with age, so I’d recommend drinking it in three days at most. My batches never last that long!
  5. Recommended blends – if this is your first time making ice tea (and even if it isn’t), opt for a fruity blend like the Chelsea Garden blend from Whittard, Green & Elderflower from Fortnums or Peach Sencha from Easy Teasy. Of course, if you want a non-caffeinated option, try a Vanilla Rooibos from Dragonfly Tea or Rooibos Tropica from Teavana. These are just some examples, but feel free to experiment and make your own blends too!

Putting it into practice

An iced surprise in Romania

I was travelling to Romania last summer and I encountered this lovely cafe that sold an incredible variety of tea. By far my favourite was the White Pear and Berries ice tea which you can see in the video. It not only gave me an instant, delicious and refreshing drink, but it was quite a really cool experience too. Try to replicate it at home with your guests and you’re sure to impress them!

Ready to try making ice tea? Please, please, please share your ideas and favourite recipes or blends with me. I love to try new things!