When I was in high school, I discovered the incredibly delicious and fascinating world of tea. I read everything I could about the history of tea, its uses and types in different cultures around the world, and the wide variety of flavors and treatments it comes in. I became so enamored with the culture of camellia sinensis and its offshoots that my first job in high school was at Teavana, hustlin’ leaves and cast iron tea pots to unsuspecting passersby. In the spirit of warm, healthy beverages and an intense history of trade, war, and conflict, I offer you today’s Top Ten Tuesday: Where There’s Tea, There’s Hope!
1. Earl Grey. A black tea! It’s classic and timeless, it goes with breakfast, lunch and dinner. First appeared in England in the 1820s as a Chinese black tea flavored with bergamot (a citrus fruit like an orange found in Italy). There are lots of stories as to why it’s called after an English lord, but no one’s quite sure about the truth on that matter. These days there are tons of companies that produce Earl Grey black tea, some with added lavender, or rose petals, or other mixtures and flavorings. A variant called Lady Grey by Twinings is particularly delicious. I’m off caffeine permanently now, so I’m on the look out for caffeine-free/herbal alternatives to the illusive and mystical Earl Grey’s hazy bergamot flavoring.
2. Dragonwell. A green tea! Pure and simple, with no additional flavoring but for a kind of smoky, grassy taste natural to this particular tea’s process. The leaves are flat and dark green, and the steeped color is a bright, yellow-green. It’s a lovely alternative to sencha, which is a sweeter green tea that burns faster and thus turns bitter more quickly.
3. Genmaicha. Another green tea! It’s grassy and light, and mixed into the green tea leaves are kernels of roasted brown rice, which give a strange toasty flavor to the steeped tea – it’s a hint of popcorn (with no butter or salt, of course) along with a smooth green tea to compliment any meal. My favorite sushi places on the planet have genmaicha as their standard offering when you order ‘green tea’ with your dinner. Deliciousssss.
4. Pom tea from Argo Tea. Herbal tea! At any Argo Tea, I order a Pom Tea with a shot of ginger, and sometimes some lemon to go with it. It’s my feel good tea on sad days, and the shot of ginger kicks your insides up a notch when you’re feeling under the weather. Tart and sweet, it’s probably really good on ice, too, but I haven’t tried that yet.
5. Lemon Ginger from Bigelow Teas. Herbal tea! It’s got probiotics in, too, so your stomach is soothed and healthy after drinking. Strong lemon flavor is balanced with chamomile, ginger, lemongrass, a bit of cinnamon, and some rosehips to smooth it all out. Delicious and balanced. Obsessed!
6. Midsummer Night’s Dream from David’s Tea. Herbal tea! I did not think I’d like a combo of citrus fruits and mint… but I was wrong. This tea has everything: apple pieces, spearmint, gooseberries, marigold, rose, and safflower petals. It is so, so amazing that I can’t help but hold all other herbal teas to this standard of taste quality. GET SOME.
7. Sweet Fox from Adagio Tea. Herbal tea! The cool thing about Adagio is you can blend your own combinations right on their website with ease. I love making new combinations and imagining what goes best with what, and taste testing the results, of course. Adagio Tea has a huge online following of ‘fandom teas’ – folks who create blends online based on different geek fandoms, fictional characters, films, TV shows, comic books, etc. Sweet Fox is a toasty, sweet, dessert blend I made for myself at Christmastime this past year. Light hints of chocolate, almond, vanilla, and rose petals party with honeybush herbal tea. Click here to check it out!
8. Rooibos Earl Grey from Adagio Tea. Yeahhhh so I mentioned I’m off caffeine – this is my current go-to alternative for the classic Earl Grey. It’s got a great flavor and Adagio even offers it in tea sachets if you don’t have time to truck with loose leaves.
9. Tension Tamer from Celestial Seasonings. Herbal tea! I know Celestial Seasonings isn’t the most luxurious brand, but this ginger-based herbal tea includes a startlingly soothing mixture of peppermint, cinnamon, chamomile, licorice, lemongrass, eleuthero (some insanely zen herb), and more. Anyone who thinks herbal teas are boring hasn’t really pushed the boundaries, have they? Also there’s a lady riding a dragon on the box of this tea. A DRAGON. Okay.
10. Throat Coat from Traditional Medicinals. Herbal tea! Okay, I kind of did not want to include this. I have a love/hate relationship with Throat Coat, as do most actors, singers, and performers I know. It’s the number one go-to beverage when there’s a tickle in your throat, a voice hoarse from coughing, or any kind of vocal ailment or pain. It’s got licorice, slippery elm, and marshmallow root in it, each ingredient chosen for its natural ability to heal sore throats and coax voices back out of their hibernation. My personal end-of-sickness-weak-voice-cure is Throat Coat, honey, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper. KaBLAMMO, as the kids say. You’ll be back in (show)business in no time!
And on that note, kids, I’ll leave you with the immortal words of the international sensational chap Professor Elemental. Turn up the volume and get hooked on the Prof’s sick beats!