After decades of unimpressive black tea bags – which I’ve now ditched almost entirely! It was important for me that I don’t scare myself rigid with some strong earthy Pu-erh or perhaps get the wrong overall impression with a sharp tasting minty tea.
It’s not easy tearing yourself away from the whole box of bags thing, after all, they seem quick, they’re definitely consistent and with a heap or two of
Whilst researching I was very much like a rabbit caught in the headlights, so many teas, I was faced with shelves full of them! It was hard to know where to start. So with the help of some tea shop veterans and with some additional research myself, I was pointed toward the sorts of teas I probably should be trying. I tried some of them, not all worked, but I’m happy to pass on the info in case it helps you.
How To Become a Tea Drinker
If you want to know how to become a tea drinker – and enhance your sophistication rating! Or maybe if you’re trying to introduce your friends into the world of tea, then the following examples are a pretty good way to do it.
Often called Gateway Teas, these are the teas that I’ve researched and tried myself, and have found to be ones that make a good introduction to the Tea-drinking experience. But they’re not just for beginners, they’re still really nice teas for experienced tea drinkers too.
Show Your Passion
If you’re already a tea drinker, then perhaps you have your own favorite. The more I get into the world of tea the more enthusiastic I find I’m becoming! If you do have your own favorite and you think it’s a good introduction then, first of all, I’d actually love to hear about it in the comments below, so I can try it myself. But more importantly, if you’re enthusiastic about it and show your passion then this is far more likely to appeal to anyone you’re introducing it to.
Even if you are a beginner yourself and you just tried your first tea and loved it, then that’s the one you should rave to your friends about to get them started on the same journey.
Select Your Tea Making Method
So there are two main methods of tea preparation and drinking, the first is Gong-Fu…
Gong Fu Style
Pretty much referred to as the Eastern Style of Drinking Tea. It’s more ceremonial and is a really fulfilling experience – so it can be fairly elaborate with warming the crockery, a first wash and then the infusion.
If you really want to go ahead with this method, then I’d recommend at first just getting an entry-level set. I really like this starter set. Plus you get 10 cups with it so it’s quite a set! It’s not fully handmade, but a good entry level set nonetheless.
But it doesn’t have to be complex, there are ways of making it that are quite simple using a Gaiwan etc.
The Second is the Western Method which is a little more straightforward. For that reason, that is where I’d recommend you start. Or better still, make it an event and visit a real tea shop, they’ll do all the experience and enthusiasm for you.
However, I’ve added below each tea what sort of brewing and steeping times you should aim at for each of the of below.
What Do I Need To Start Drinking Tea?
Before we get to our list of Teas, lets first just go over the basic things you’re going to need to have in order to enjoy tea Western style. And we’re talking Loose Leaf here – not Tea bags. This is also in it’s most basic and
You’ll need a kettle of course. This can be any kettle,
There’s one I’ve recommended in my tea-wares list, I think the price on Amazon was about $67 / £52. But, whichever one you choose, make sure you can customise the temperature and I’d also recommend it has a hold function to maintain the temperature.
If you are using an infuser straight into the cup, then most infusers will do the job, but if you’re looking to choose a particular one, then check out my article on Tea Infusers to get the pros and cons.
Yes, you could use a Mug too, personally, I think a cup shouts sophistication a little more than a mug does, plus you’re not glugging down masses of tea because you’re thirsty, it’s an experience as well that you want to create. Unless you like Builders Tea!
Loose Leaf Tea
Now here’s where we get on to the types of tea I’d recommend you to try if you want to get a good initial tea experience.
I’ve settled on a couple of green teas first. If you’re looking to get your friends involved, or for yourself if you know it has a good health angle to it as well then you’ll already enjoy the fact that green tea has numerous health benefits due to the higher amount of oxidants called Catechins.
It’s a good start as it’s a well-known tea from China and it’s a classic tea. Known also as Dragon Well Green, or Longjing. It’s a bud and one leaf or bud and two leaf tea, it’s pan baked – as are all Chinese Teas, as opposed to steamed as the Japanese do.
It should ideally come from the Zhejiang Province which is a specifically protected area for Longjing Tea. There are other ‘Long Jing Style’ teas, but
Be wary of the quality level though, there are a lot of different grades to this tea. Price is always a good marker, so be sure you’re getting the right quality tea if it’s a higher price, you can even ask about it to get more information.
Aroma wise, it has a creamy smell to it, so it’s easy on the senses, it’s nutty, often referred to as hazelnut or chestnut due to the roasting method. But at the same time, it has an earthy grassy smell to it as well. The more, wet it becomes, the more you get a hint of fruitiness to it, summer fruits and meadows!
To view it, it will have a real smooth and bright looking yellow to green look to it. It will taste as it smells, nutty, chestnut, hazelnut type taste. Very buttery too and with some of the floral and vegetal notes coming through.
So it has a really good balance of flavors which makes it great as a starter tea. Brew it at around 175F, which is about 80 degrees Celsius
This tea will also serve to demonstrate the world of differences between Green Teas that you get in the dust-filled tea bags, and loose leaf green teas. Tea bag green teas are often very bitter, astringent and lacking real texture and taste. Loose leaf will feel like a whole new experience.
If you’re going to buy it or try it, then try ensuring that you get tea that’s harvested early spring as part of the first flush. Zhejiang province.
If you’re struggling to find it, or you want it like NOW, then here’s the link to it.
Imperial Breakfast Tea – For Coffee Lovers
I’ve added this to the list as I think this is a good replacement for those who are maybe moving over from Coffee, or at least drink lots of coffee and are looking to expand their horizons into the tea world. There’s also Dong Ling further down which is another good choice for coffee heads!
It’s a good start to the day, perhaps not as much kick to it as some, particularly Assam Breakfast Tea which I’ve linked to TeaBox where you can read more about it. But certainly a good start. Or even as a late morning tea its great.
It has a nutty aroma, so much along the lines of dry roasting nuts. With hints of Dates, Malt and nutmeg. It’s a lovely amber color which looks really attractive so that’s a good lure for newbies.
Taste-wise, it will seem astringent and perhaps a little bitter but in a good way. It’s certainly smooth and the nutty flavors will really shine through. It’s got that kind of satisfying ‘put you in the mood for the day’ kind of flavor.
It’s pretty high in caffeine as far as tea goes, so it will give you that boost. And again brew somewhere between 80F to 90F, so around 26-30 Celsius.
As with the others, I’ve tried to source this for you so you can be sure yo get the right grading. So if you can’t get Imperial Breakfast Tea locally then you can buy it from this link at Teabox, last I saw the price was under $12 (under £10)
Tian Mu Mao Feng – Organic Green
What I’ve discovered, as a new tea drinker exploring other than tea bag teas for the first time, is it’s sometimes a good idea to head for some of the more fruity flavors as that’s often going to lend itself to your palate well. Especially if you know you… or your friends have a taste for fruit already.
Mao Feng Green Tea has a natural and delicate taste, it’s fresh and bright, with hints of summer fruits like peaches and apricots. It has a fairly clear yellow to
You could add a garnish of cucumber if you like, but there’s really no need to add anything, just drink it as it is. So its pretty hassle free too. Brew in about
This tea also has the added value of the health benefits, so you can also don your halo whilst you drink!
Again, if you want an authentic place to go, or are in a hurry, here’s a link for you on TeaVivre. But most tea shops should have this one in.
Taiwanese Tea, a popular Oolong, but on the darker side of Oolong as it’s been oxidized much longer than normal. It’s a real classic too, in fact pretty famous. Known by lots of names too like Oriental Beauty or Pengfeng Cha amongst others.
As with the others, there are different grades for this one, so be sure to pick a good one.
I loved this one, it’s a strong taste for those who are used to a strong beverage as I was. so if you’re used to a basic tea bag black tea, then it’s going to have some familiarity to it because it’s oxidized longer so the look is darker like black tea. But also this is fruity, fairly dark, but very rich tea, with a lot of fruit fragrance.
One thing to look out for with Eastern beauty is whether it’s insect bitten. Now, be sure to engage your friends with this as it will pull them in more. It’s a summer harvested tea. Summer obviously brings out greater numbers of insects, being insect bitten means the tea has increased levels of Terpene. Terpenes provide a greater sweetness to the brew, almost wine like.
It gives the look of an orange and brown type of liquor, very warm looking. Tasting it, you’ll likely get a fruity and wine type of fragrance and taste, as well as real woody tones.
Steep this at about 90 degrees which is 185 Fahrenheit. That’s slightly hotter than you would normally have it, but a slightly higher brewing temperature will bring out more of the flavors. Here’s a link to it if can’t find it anywhere locally.
Dong Ding Oolong Tea
I love that name! And so here’s another one for coffee lovers – which includes me! It’s Superfine Taiwan Moderately-Roasted.
When looking at Tea for the first time, for someone who drinks a lot of coffee, it really has to be Chineses Tea first, as this is pan-baked tea, therefore it has a nuttiness to it akin to the dry roasting of coffee beans. Sure it’s not the same, but in tea terms, it’s the closest you’re likely to get for some familiarity.
Like Coffee, this Oolong will kick-start your day – or at least your morning. It has a lot of earthy, malty flavor to it, akin to nutmeg. It has a strong body, sweet aroma and lots of ‘Coffee like’ punch to it.
Coffee lovers will definitely be able to relate to it as it has a similar astringency to it as well. I should know, I also really like drinking
If you don’t have it locally, you can find it here on Teavivre.
So there it is, that’s my line up for anyone who is new to tea drinking, so it’s for a beginner tea drinker, or someone looking to leap from using tea bags to loose-leaf tea. Or even a seasoned tea drinker looking to test a few flavors out. Many people will be quite generic in their suggestions. Like try Black, or try Oolong, but actually, here I’ve put some specific names in the hat that I’ve actually tried, And being new I just thought they might work for you as they did for me.
If nothing else, I’d certainly recommend starting with Chinese teas and working your way out from there, move on to Japanese Teas and/or Korean teas. Then on to Taiwanese teas etc. Here is where you can start your journey or, dive a little deeper without buying teas that put you off and then get left in the cupboard! But definitely ditch the tea bags, they have their place but don’t let them take up the majority of your tea cupboard space!
I’d like to know your experiences too or of any of the ones above ‘Did it’ for you.
If you’re a seasoned tea veteran then I’m sure you can help us all along the way as well with your contribution, so I’d be really keen to pick some more suggestions up from you.