In the first article of this series, I wrote about choosing a tea based on the time of day you most want to brew a pot of tea. Today I want you to consider what flavor of tea you enjoy or want to try. This will also be helpful when choosing tea for your party or event, as the flavor of the tea is important to consider if you want it to coordinate with the food you choose to serve.
To decide what flavor tea you might enjoy, ask yourself the following questions.
Are you a traditionalist? Earl Grey tea, one of the most well-known traditional tea blends is flavored with the citrus-fruit bergamot. All Earl Grey tea varieties include some of this flavoring. I recommend everyone trying Earl Grey tea at least once. It’s unique and famous flavor needs to be a part of a complete tea education. But it’s important to try it before serving it or buying more than an ounce to make sure, because of its unusual flavor.
Do you always stop to smell the flowers? Probably the most common flower used to flavor tea is jasmine. Widely popular, green teas in particular are enjoyed this way. I can always tell when jasmine’s been used to flavor a tea and it shows up more often than I would expect. I don’t particularly care for it, it reminds me of drinking tea in a Crabtree and Evelyn shop. But many people really love their jasmine tea, and again, it should be tried at least once. Roses are another common floral addition to tea. Harney and Sons sells a white wedding tea with roses I really enjoy.
Do you consider fresh fruit the best snack? Both my husband and I enjoy drinking fruit-flavored teas and we often choose our flavor based on the season. For example, we chose a peach-flavored black tea to drink through the summer heat. In spring we drank cherry. I asked my supplier for samples of their pomegranate or cranberry teas as I considered an option for the fall. You might want to try something completely opposite and drink your peaches in the cold months. Whatever you decide, know that tea comes in almost every fruit and fruit combination of flavors you can imagine.
Can you still not imagine ever enjoying tea like you love your coffee? Consider the teas that come with plenty of caffeine and provide a rich flavor. Many black estate teas, like Assams or Ceylons provide a rich, thick “flavor”. Traditional blends like Irish or English Breakfast might be a possibility for you, as well. Also, I have been told, men especially enjoy Lapsang Souchong for its rich (and smoky) flavor. Like I described in my Tea Definitions article, Lapsang Souchong is modeled after the tea that came over land from China in early trade routes, affected by the smoke of the traders’ pipes.
Want the trendiest flavor? One of the most popular flavored teas is currently chai tea. There’s American chai, Indian chai, and even Chai Lattes available in every corner coffee bar. Blenders spice chai with ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and sometimes pepper. Most people drink chai with milk and sugar. (In my experience, many coffee bars or pre-packaged chai drinks are WAY too sweet. Just a caution).
Would you find all that flavor distracting? Because tea is often associated with a quieter life, meditation, and Eastern Culture, many people enjoy a subtler flavor than the ones previously described. If this is you consider trying Darjeeling or Oolong teas, a peppermint tisane, or a white tea. This is especially important to remember if you choose an Asian theme for your tea event. Be sure to visit my brewing tips if one of these teas are your choice. The subtler teas are easier to ruin, but the leaves can be brewed over and over again.
Is dessert a daily food group? I’ve mentioned many times my favorite teas are dessert teas…ones flavored for the sweet desserts I miss since discovering a dairy allergy and facing forty. Teas flavored with caramel, vanilla, and almonds are my particular favorites. There are many chocolate teas on the market and almost any nutty flavor you could want. Some flavored black teas are more adulterated than others, but compared to so many lousy additives we put in our bodies (anyone else remember consuming entire boxes of Red Vines at the movies or was that just me?), I consider a pot of my favorite dessert teas a definite improvement. And they help me control my weight. So I don’t worry about the additives at this point.
Are you a purist? Thankfully, there’s a tea for all of us. If you want a tea with nothing added, research your green teas and consider a gunpowder or Dragonwell tea. Just remember, especially for purists, sometimes controlling the quality of an imported product can be difficult, so ask lots of questions. But green teas can provide the most natural, pure flavor.
Do you pick your tea based on flavor? What are your favorites? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments.