I will never be a tea expert, but I sure drink a lot of it! This is a living guide for anyone interested in a daily rout-tea-n. It covers my preferred vendors and personal notes on brewing the best cup you can.
I stock green and white teas because they have lower caffeine content and milder flavor profiles. These are ranked by personal favorite.
- Gyokuro Kukicha – green tea with sharp grass and saline profile, made from stems. TG
- Sencha – a very intense green tea with fruity notes; a daily staple. TG
- Dragonwell – green tea with mellow hints of butter, toasted chestnut, vegetation
- Silver Needle – mild white tea with a very subtle sweetness, made from prized buds
- Matcha – powdered green tea leaves, high caffeine. Avoid cooking-grade matcha.
- Jasmine – primarily green tea scented heavily with jasmine
- Genmaicha – sencha-based green tea blended with toasted rice
- Houjicha – roasted green tea with notes of caramel and campfire
- White Peony – a full-flavored white tea with delicate floral notes
- FTGFOP– blend of black teas of a specific grade known for floral or harvest notes. TG
- TeaGschwendner – German chain with 2 Chicago locations. Lakeview is cheaper.
- Ippodo Tea – Kyoto-based chain founded in 1717. Famous for several grades of Japanese green tea with low to high intensity profiles. Their richest Gyokuro is $70/50g and tastes like the sea.
- Camellia Sinensis – Rather legendary tea company in Montreal. Owner is active in the tea community and educating. They also sell tea accessories.
- Hugo Tea – A sit-down experience and taste shop in Bucktown. Haven’t been there in a hot minute.
- It helps to think of “Tea” vs “tea” when discussing production vs practice. All caffeinated Tea is made from Camellia Sinensis, and herbals like Camomile and Rooibos are not. You steep them all the same but production varies widely.
- The level of oxidation when Camellia Sinensis is processed determines the tea’s final color: white, yellow, green, black, etc. Lighter generally means less caffeine.
- Tea bags are created from the remaining shards during packaging. While they’re great for travel, loose leaf tea is a must for a full-flavored cup.
- Tea is praised for antioxidant benefits, but it’s commodified product. Environs, harvesting, packaging, shipping, and storage determine 90% of what’s in your cup. Be picky with your vendors!
- Honor tea for what it is: a product that has been farmed and processed by small tea plantations (usually a family or community) who care about the quality, flavor, and fidelity between harvests. It’s a product that travels great distances to be brewed in your home.
- Tea enthusiasts drink fewer soft drinks and more water, consuming fewer calories throughout the day. Brewing aligns nicely with mediation practices, creating frequent breakpoints to collect your thoughts. Lastly, caffeine content improves overall mood and productivity, allowing the mind to enjoy deep, uninterrupted work. All of these intangible benefits have been proven to decrease stress hormones, thereby impacting longevity.
- Think about the personal benefits you might gain from drinking tea. Consider what you want out of the experience from both a practical and ritualistic perspective (every day at your desk vs Sunday morning meditation).
- Budget quarterly to experiment with different teas, grades, and vendors. If you decide higher-end tea is worth the expense, buy a quality water filter and electric kettle. You’ll brew better tea consistently.
- Price does not indicate quality, flavor, or enjoyment. Find flavors you appreciate that meet your personal standards.
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