Monday, October 1, 2012

Top Ten Favorite Teas

Earl Grey Creme Tea
Today's mail included a flyer from Teavana, an upscale chain of stores that specialize in organic, fair trade loose teas.  I stumbled upon it when our family went to a mall in Pittsburgh late last December.  My daughters had Christmas money they couldn't wait to spend and our exchange student just liked to shop.  After about 10 minutes, I realized that the only store in the mall that held an real interest was this tea shop.  My wife made it for about five minutes until the very enthusiastic young saleswomen started discussing which green teas could be used on a salad after they were brewed.  Apparently, I was the only one in the family who found it fascinating.  Of course, I left having spent all my Christmas money on more tea than I had ever bought at one time.  This summer, I was delighted to find a Teavana outlet in the Indianapolis mall near General Convention, and had an very helpful discussion with the with our Cathedral's organist while drinking a cup of oolong.  Since I had to look at the 17 new teas they just came out with on-line, I was inspired to share some of my favorites.

1. Earl Grey Creme.  This Teavana creation is my current favorite.  It takes a basic black Earl Grey tea and adds vanilla and blue cornflowers to it.  I don't think the blue cornflowers add anything except color, but the vanilla transforms Earl Grey tea, which I've never been overly enthused about, into a really good tea.  It doesn't hurt that this is also one of Teavana's more reasonable priced options.

2. Darjeeling.  This "champagne of teas" is probably my all-time favorite.  It isn't as strong as some other black teas, but it tends to be smooth and really, really nice.  The Teavana Darjeeling is very good and the leaves can be used for multiple infusions, but it is also very expensive and the caffeine content of tea decreases dramatically after the first brewing.  Twinnings or Bigelow also make solid Darjeeling teas at more reasonable prices. 

3. Jasmine Green Tea. I like various green teas, but one the best flavored ones is with jasmine flowers.  When they had organic Jasmine Green Tea out at coffee hour my first Sunday at Trinity, Warren, I knew I had accepted the right call.

4. Prince of Wales Tea.  A Twinnings black tea with a smooth and mild taste.  Not sure why it is so good, but I like it.

5. Lady Grey Tea.  Another Twinnings black tea that takes Earl Grey and adds orange and lemon.

6. Giant Eagle Market District store brand teas are pretty good, especially for the price.  I like their Green Tea with Ginseng and Lemon in particular.

7. Green-Black Tea blends. Mixing green and black teas together makes a very nice drink, as well.  The flavor seems smoother and more delicate than black tea on it's own, but a bit more bracing than just green tea.  Just take unflavored green and black tea bags and steep them in a teapot together for about 2 minutes.

8. Tension Tamer Tea.  An herbal tea by Celestial Seasonings that feels calming while also being interesting to drink. If someone suggests I have a cup, I know I probably need one.

9. English Breakfast.  A solid black tea with a stimulating flavor and caffeine content. 

10. Candy Cane Lane gets the last slot as the favorite of my wife and daughter.  This Celestial Seasonings offering is a decaffeinated green tea with peppermint, vanilla, and other festive holiday tastes.

Honorable Mentions:  Oolong Tea, JavaVana Mate, and Gunpowder Green Tea (Country Fair sometimes carries a Numi version which is a nice treat when travelling), and any variety drunk with friends.

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