Tea makes me feel safe. It helps me write, it keeps me awake past 8:30 when we have company, it soothes my aches when I feel defeated.
I carry tea in my purse when we travel to alleviate homesickness, and generous friends have brought me so much tea that it fills a chest of drawers in our entryway.
Lately I’ve been reducing my collection to teas I can’t live without. A lot of them are from The Republic of Tea, because I get them in bulk at my local market, but there are a few others as well.
I’ve been collecting vintage tea tins with an eye to building a shelf for the essentials. So here’s what will live there:
Kusmi Prince Vladimir Tea (loose leaf)
This smells as good as it tastes–a bit spicy, with a lot of floral and citrus. One of my top-two favorite teas.
Earl Grey by Mighty Leaf
This is traditional pick to have on hand for guests who just want a familiar cup of black tea.
Green tea and jasmine blossoms hand-rolled into little pearls. This is my other favorite tea, and I tend to keep a pot of it nearby while I work throughout the day. It makes the house smell great. I get mine from Chinatown, or friends who make business trips to China, but the tea linked above is the one you’re most likely to find at a gourmet foods shop.
Mystery Tea from China
Bryan was working in Urumuchi, China a while back and brought back exceptional teas for me. All the packaging is in Chinese though, so I have no idea what I’m drinking. My favorite isn’t long and grassy like most green tea. It looks like dark, balled leaves when dry, and unfurls into whole leaves with stems when brewed. It has a light, floral flavor. Any ideas?
Ginseng Peppermint by Republic of Tea
Strong, spicy mint tea with a sweet aftertaste. Similar to the sensation you get after you’ve eaten an artichoke and take a sip of water. My favorite herbal.
African Nectar by Mighty Leaf
I tend to find herbal teas too weak for my tastes, but this is a nice, strong, fruity herbal that I have when I’m too wired to drink another cup of real tea.
I also like plunking a big bunch of fresh mint or ginger in hot water to make a tisane when I’m avoiding caffeine.
Good Earth Original
Good Earth makes flavorful bagged teas (I like their sweet Green Tea blend too), but this one is the best. It’s very sweet even without sweeteners, and is a strong cinnamon and spice flavor. Refreshing on ice.
Ginger Peach by Republic of Tea
Exactly what it sounds like, and great cold (with or without sugar).
For when I need a caffeine boost, or if I’m craving milk in my tea. It smells like cocoa, and has strong, comforting vanilla notes.
So those are the all-stars.
If you’d like to start trying better teas, but don’t want to give up the ease of using tea bags, you can’t go wrong with Mighty Leaf and Tea Forte. I find they’re some of the best whole-leaf teas that come in bags. I used to evangelize Steep Teas because they’re tasty and the matchbox packaging is bangarang, but now I can’t find the matchboxes online anymore. Boo.
If you’re a tea drinker, leave your favorites in comments.