Tea IQ is a series that explores how to be a smarter tea drinker. Today, Lizzie from Bedford Cottage Tea House (who is a tea and baking aficionado and also studied abroad in Oxford with me) is back to share some tea wisdom.
Hello again, think fruitful readers! I’m back to tell you all about some of my favourite teas. I chose six to feature, and for each one I’ll tell you a little bit about the tea and how I most like to enjoy them. I went with the basics plus a few curveballs, so old hats and greenhorns alike will find something to interest them. I’ve stayed away from mentioning any brands or suppliers, but please feel free to reach out to me directly for recommendations (contact info at the end of the post)!
And as always, personal taste is everything, as long as it’s a taste for tea!
I love a good English Breakfast because sometimes you just can’t beat a classic. This tea is lush, faintly sweet, and has a good dose of astringency. I usually like to add a bit of sugar and milk to my English Breakfast to help round out that tannic bitterness. It creates a cup that is full-bodied and comforting. Meant as a stalwart breakfast beverage, but fantastic for an afternoon pick-me-up, especially when accompanied by a biscuit (cookie) or two.
Earl Grey is one of the most popular teas on the planet and for good reason. Made with a blend of black teas and bergamot oil, this tea is bold, bright, and bracing. However, unlike a lot of citrus flavours, bergamot is slightly sweeter and less acidic, resulting in a balanced tea perfect for any time of day. And while some citrus additions like pieces of orange or lemon peel can curdle milk when added, Earl Grey resists and remains homogenous and smooth. I take mine with milk only, no sugar. For an occasional treat I will add a small amount of dried lavender to the brew. Like English Breakfast, Earl Grey is a great tea for beginners or people looking to supplement other beverages.
I included this tea because it is one of my favourites, but it may prove to be a challenge for some. Lapsang is a smoked black tea from China, and it retains that smokey flavour through steeping. Besides the prominent smokey flavour, Lapsang is generally fairly mellow. This tea can be cut with a plain black tea to make the campfire taste a little more subtle, and a dash of milk or sugar can help as well. It makes the perfect base for hot toddies, as it puts me in mind of roaring fireplaces on cold winter nights.
A really good sencha is a pleasure that cannot be denied. This delicate green tea is sweet and grassy, and reminds me of spring. Brew this tea at a lower temperature than normal and it will never be overly astringent or bitter. I drink my sencha plain and often steep the leaves a few times for short intervals. In this manner, the leaves blossom slowly and remain gentle. If you have never tried a loose leaf green tea before, I highly recommend buying a high-quality sencha and giving it a try.
My other favourite green tea, this tea has been infused with the scent of jasmine flowers and rolled into balls. The balls unfurl as they steep and this is another tea you can steep more than once, although it should once again be done at a lower temperature than black teas. The jasmine flavour is very pronounced but also incredibly light and not at all overpowering. I usually drink this tea plain, but it is also wonderful with the tiniest splash of milk. In the summer this is my go to iced tea, also delicious with a bit of sweetener and milk for an iced latte effect.
Honeybush is one of my favourite decaf teas, as it is naturally caffeine-free but still delivers a full bodied cup. It is sweet and reminiscent of honey, with a bit of a tang. Delicious on its own, but incredible when paired with other flavours. Honeybush can be light or robust, depending on the additions made to it. It plays particularly nicely with nutty and spicy flavours. I drink it plain if it is a plain honeybush or with a bit of milk if it has been enhanced.
See more of Lizzie’s amazing tea-focused writing and photography on her: