Guayusa (pronounced gwhy-you-suh) is only starting to make inroads into the U.S., but it's hardly new. The flavor is similar to yerba mate, but with a more plush, fruity flavor and a complete lack of bitterness. Tasting invites comparison to green tea, but the flavor is less tannic and the texture is more creamy. Unlike green tea, drinking it on an empty stomach won't give you a stomach ache. And just as important, it's nearly impossible to overbrew, and leaves can be resteeped half a dozen times before their flavor starts to wane. Have you ever tried it?
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This smooth and earthy Chinese tea has buttery flavors and hints of cocoa—it's mouthfilling, satisfying, and stands up well to multiple infusions. The first comes out lush and soft, the second deeper, wrapped in dark-caramel flavors, with a bit more malty grassiness coming out in subsequent steepings, though by the fifth and sixth it circles around, growing velvety and fruity. This tea just keeps going. Brewed in a gaiwan, it's light on the tannins—a delicate black tea but not a wimp.
I tend to associate jasmine tea with the warm cups poured at local Chinese restaurants—those teas tend to be delicate and floral, not big or bold in flavor. But the Jasmine Pu-erh tea from Numi Organic Tea is quite a robust cup, bringing together savory black Pu-erh with green tea and jasmine flowers. The tea is earthy enough to keep the perfume from taking over. Though Pu-erh purists might wince to see these blended teas, most of the combinations make for very tasty infusions.
The Earl's Garden is a blend of Black Ceylon tea, bergamot, dried strawberries, and black currant. Taken straight, it has a distinct but mild strawberry flavor up front followed by the citrus notes of bergamot and the earthiness of black tea. Fans of Celestial Seasonings' fruit teas will enjoy this blend, with its red berry flavor and light body.
My favorite chai is steeped loose, with whole spices, but at my desk in the morning, I often reach for the easy way out. This blend from Choice Organic teas smells so amazing that I don't feel bad at all: sweet ginger, cinnamon, and clove waft up like freshly baked gingerbread.
Fortnum and Mason is a dangerous place for me. They have walls (walls!) of three of my very favorite things: tea, coffee, and jam. I've recently discovered that they ship to the United States, which is both a very good, and very bad, thing.
Looking back on my early tea drinking days, it's clear that I was a total noob. I took my tea, regardless of type, morning, noon, or night, loaded with milk and sugar. But since then, I've come to appreciate the dry astringency of Scottish Breakfast Tea and the nutty roundness of Genmaicha. The simple act of getting older is mostly to credit for my change in habits, but I did have a crutch during my transitional phase: Yogi teas. These teas are the most naturally sweet of any I've tried.
I'd never noticed a box of Japanese Twig Tea before, but it seems to be the hot new thing in the Whole Foods tea aisle, so I nabbed two boxes to try it out. Kukicha, also known as bōcha, is actually made from the twigs and stems of the tea plant, sometimes with some leaves mixed in. The woody bits are roasted to bring out a nutty flavor that reminded us a bit of Kashi cereal in liquid form.
If you're a green tea lover with visions of sugarplums dancing in your head, you'll enjoy this seasonal offering from Republic of Tea. This subtly spiced tea makes for a nice change from standard chai—the smooth green tea is just delicately laced with cinnamon and plum. (The flavoring, they promise, is 'all natural.')
If you've ever been to the Palais des Thés in Paris, you've probably found yourself coveting these well-designed tins of aromatic teas. Since they've recently launced a US e-commerce site, you can order them at home now (or buy a fancy gift for someone special.) We recently tried a few of their flavored teas (called Créations) and found a lot to like.
I'm not in favor of holiday creep, but this spiced-up Assam tea has such a delicious winter-appropriate aroma that I'm almost feeling ready to deck the halls. Cinnamon, ginger, anise, and cardamom come together with brisk, malty tea flavors for a spicy, eye-opening cup.
It's important not to expect fruit teas to taste like juice or cider; if you do, they'll always disappoint. And it's important to remember that the flavor is often less intense than the scent. But with those points in mind, Tazo's caffeine-free apple and cinnamon rooibos blend is a calming tea for fall, fragrant but delicate, and just lightly spicy.
My favorite oolong tea lately has been Republic of Tea's Milk Oolong, but I was curious about a cheaper option and picked this box of bagged tea up at my local Whole Foods.
Though I generally prefer loose leaf tea, this Assam offering from Numi (blended with real bergamot, not 'natural flavors') is quite good, bold and even a bit smoky, with enough backbone to add milk if desired.
Celestial Seasonings fan favorite Sleepytime Tea has a new companion: Sleepytime Vanilla. The vanilla is a subtle addition to the traditional combination of chamomile, spearmint, and lemongrass. If you're a fan of the regular Sleepytime and a bit wary of vanilla flavor, this tea will be right up your alley.
Ginger root dominates over the delicate green tea in this blend, so if you're not a fan of the spicy stuff, skip this one. If you are, though, this is a nice example of warming ginger brightened with lemongrass. It's definitely herbal from the lemongrass and lemon myrtle, and it's a bit grassy-tasting, but not bitter. It will likely calm your stomach after a big meal.
This tea, inspired by the caramel cakes in the movie, smells wildly sweet and a bit like buttery caramel popcorn. The vanilla aroma is bit overwhelming. But the flavor is mellow and full, with enough black tea bitterness to balance out the rich scent.
The scent of this tea was immediately appealing—as soon as the bag touched water, a nutty aroma burst forward. It's almost like drinking Honey Smacks cereal: it's rich, full, and smooth, lightly herbal, but not at all bitter. This blend makes the perfect cup to sip on a cool, foggy morning, as long as you're craving that toasted flavor.
I've always eyed the pricey Two Leaves and a Bud teas covetously and curiously—beautiful packaging does that to me. I sprung for it this week. Each sachet is filled with full-leaf organic Japanese green tea and organic orange peel (plus sunflower petals.)
Artichoke tea? Why not? In Vietnam, artichoke leaves are traditionally boiled to make a caffeine-free tea. And since green tea is already a little vegetal, it's a natural pairing. This whole-leaf tea from Adagio has a vivid sweet (almost peachy) scent and the flavor is a little grassy, with only a hint of artichoke leaves. When poured a sample blind and not told about the artichoke flavoring, the folks at SEHQ didn't taste it.