I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t like tea? Do you?
I’m from an exotic paradise island nation where tea is a major priority. Opening your eyes to the golden sunrise, your nose greets the pungent lemony aroma of fever-grass (lemongrass) tea leaves. You groggily reach for your porcelain mug (a 750ml canister more likely) to bring you in a state of euphoria to kickstart your day. You are not alone, the entire island is awakening to the same ancestral ritual, beating the drums of tea. If you are a tea – lover, like I am, then read on on why this brew continues to stand the test of time.
A Very Brief Summary On The Origins Of Tea
It doesn’t matter what you call it – tea, te, cha, chai, or chaha. Tea traditions have been in existence for millions of years, mainly in the East but seemingly originally cultivated by the Chinese. The English sought to provide competition from this exclusive trade and brought seeds to the colonies of India to cultivate, hence introducing tea to Europe in the 16th Century.
As you can imagine, such a scarce novel commodity is going to be expensive and therefore, affordable only to the elite.
Tea in Today's Culture
The world is a noisy beehive, buzzing with constant activity. You need boundless energy to stay abreast, but also moments of calm and quiet to re-energise.
Tea is that antidote, as it gives slow release of caffeine so there is no caffeine crash – your to do list will thank you. At night after a busy day, when you need to unwind, the calming aromatic golden warmth is all you need as a sedative.
Tea is also never to be reserved for those days when you are feeling grotty and need a cure – all shot of whatever your granny always recommends. We live in a highly polluted world, whatever proven source of antioxidants we can get our hands on, we should use. Therefore all the more reason to drink tea due to its high levels of anti-oxidants to help our bodies heal.
Living in a temperate climate can serve to reinforce an ingrained tea culture. I still find myself rabidly reaching for a cup of tea at intervals throughout the day. At first, I resented those generic limp teabags as I hunted high and low to replicate the rich aromas and sweet taste found in leaves from home. My taste buds became overwhelmed by the endless choices. That is, until I found the best teas from around the globe.
On mornings when I’m not rushing out to work, I take the slow approach to brew tea leaves, and assault my senses of smell and taste whilst languidly savouring multiple cups. On rush mornings and endless days, I bring a tea infuser (no bigger than a spoon) for convenience and practicality. Nonetheless, a hot tasty brew is a necessity of life.
10 Of the Best Teas In The World
Ninety-five per cent of the best tea in the world come from China. The rest of the large producers are from India, Taiwan, Indonesia, Kenya and Sri Lanka. If you love tea or want to give the best luxury gifts, knowing the most revered tea brands in the world helps.
- Da Hong Pau — This is a rare dark Oolong from the Wuyi Shan Mountains in the Fujian Province of China. Otherwise known as China Rock, the highest quality versions are said to be the most expensive tea in the world, costing upwards of £1000/gram. It is a complex exploration of delicate unique flavours, yet earthy, floral and rich with almost a nutty undertone on the palate. This doesn’t work so well for multiple infusions as other teas.
- Pu’erh Tea – Famous fermented aged tea with deep earthy flavours from the Yunnan districts in China. This is being considered as a medicinal tea to reduce both cholesterol and lipids due its Lovastin properties. However, there is insufficient data at present. It is also known to increase mental alertness and sharpness during the day due to its caffeine properties. What it is not, is a weight loss tea as some profess. Try to stick to aged Pu’erh when buying.
- Ceylon – The Rolls Royce of teas. Crafted in Sri Lanka from fragrant tea leaves, this is a complex blend with a distinctly citrusy taste, appearing golden red after brewing. It is held in high esteem around the world for its high polyphenolic content which has a host of health benefits, including aiding in weight loss. However, only the single estate blends are highly regarded although not as well known or expensive as much as those from the Assam or Darjeeling areas of India.
- Darjeeling — This tea is produced in the Eastern Indian state of West Bengal, high on the Himalayan foothills and is one of the most revered teas in the world; dubbed the “The Champagne of Teas”. It is the only tea in the world to get protection under the GI trademark which cements it’s exalted status. When brewed properly, the result is a thin light coloured infusion with a floral aroma. The taste offers a gentle sweetness with a hint of musky spiciness which some people describe as “muscatel”.
- Gyokuro Tea — One of Japan’s most expensive green teas. Otherwise known as Jade Dew – This is considered as one of the most sought after, expensive, and finest luxurious green teas. It is cultivated in the shade and gives a naturally refined, mellow, perfectly balanced sweet taste with a pale, almost flourescent green coloured infusion. It is very expensive because it is very labour intensive to produce. The leaves are thick, and brew at a much lower temperature than usual tea. It is strongly advised that the temperature is kept between 50C-60C for a failsafe brew.
- Tie Guan Yin — (Iron Buddha) The most famous of the luxury Oolong teas, again from the Fujian region of China. This outstanding perfumed straw-coloured oolong has a thick and creamy rich texture with a tinge of sweetness after first onset of bitterness. It is complex blend with sweet nectar notes. This is a more robust tea, which can be infused up to 5 times before losing its flavour. The flavor and fragrance actually is enhanced when brewed multiple times so this tea can last a long time, giving you a real bargain for your buck . The top varieties of this tea are amongst the most expensive in the world, except for Da Hong Pao.
- Roibos Tea– or Red Bush Tea is for those of you wanting to avoid caffeine. This is both caffeine-free and very high in anti-oxidants. It is painstakingly produced in the Western Cape Province in South Africa, and mainly consumed for its high content of vitamins and minerals such as zinc, copper, calcium, and magnesium, which can help with skin complaints such as eczema and acne. This is a distinct full bodied, herbal mixture of sweet yet tangy notes which is best really at bedtime.
- Yellow Gold Tea Buds Tea. A rare tea with as flowery taste – said to be a favourite of the Emperors of China. Now brought to you from Singapore’s TWG tea company at a cost of S$529.00 per 50g. It is amongst the most expensive teas in the world. Grown on only 1 mountain, it is harvested exclusively with golden scissors and only those buds at the top of the tree are picked, on only one day per year. The leaves are individually hand-painted in 24k -gold, not just for the colour, but for the health benefits it provides. This tea is known to have very high levels of polyphenols. However, it is only sold in Singapore, but available online. Thanks TWG.
- Silver Tips Imperial— One of the finest Oolong teas in the world. Sold in India for approx. $400/kg. It is this expensive because it is only grown on specific plantations such as Makaibari and only harvested during those full moon days and nights by expert tea pluckers. It is supplied in very limited quantities each year. Ideal for bedtime, it has a delicate floral bouquet smell, with a taste of almond – yum.
- Narcisuss – (Shui Xian) This is a Wuyi Oolong from the Fujian Province of China—opaque with an enticing honey and orchid-like aroma. Rarely found outside of China, it is usually reserved for the most expensive restaurants in China. The last time it was auctioned, it fetched a high price tag of $6500/kg. There are cheaper varieties popular in restaurants, but these tend to have an unappealing burnt taste.
Possible Disadvantages Of Drinking Too Much Tea/Caffeine
Are you all tea’d out yet? Yes, with so many amazing choices and such delicious teas, one can unintentionally overdo it. Can one drink too much tea you ask in disbelief? Of course, there is such a thing.
Tea is caffeinated and is safe for MOST healthy adults. However, drinking more than 4 cups of strong tea per day can have detrimental effects which is due to the caffeine concentration.
Known side effects of too much caffeine can include headaches, dizziness, irritability, nervousness, confusion, nausea and vomiting, tremors, tinnitus, heartburn palpitations and sleep disturbance.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, taking medications for underlying health reasons such as diabetes, mental health disorders, or high blood pressure, your caffeine intake ideally should be limited to less than 3 cups of tea per day. That is, less than 300mg of caffeine.
Ingesting high levels of caffeine during pregnancy can possibly contribute to an increased risk of miscarriage alongside other problems, and if breastfeeding, can be extruded in breastmilk, causing your baby to have sleep disturbance, irritability, and frequent bowel motions.
If you are taking more than 300mg of caffeine per day and taking any prescribed medication. Let your doctor know.
Where Can You Find The Best Quality Teas?
So now you know a bit more about tea. But where do you find the best quality teas?
I personally tend to stick to only a few shops where I know I am sure to find what I want at good value. I can vouch for them as I have had nothing but good customer service and the bonus is they also ship internationally.
I’ve listed below those I trust, giving excellent quality without disappointment. You are guaranteed to find almost anything here, but to save in shops, it is best to go to the counter and buy in grams — 100g will last such a long time!
Don’t overspend on the tins – you can buy the tin to refill for your own use, or better yet, have them in your gift inventory. Luxury teas make the best gifts!
Tasseography is the reading of tea leaves. In fact, the next time you make a brew, I challenge you to think of yourself as a bona-fide Tasseographer.
“There is a great deal of poetry and sentiment in a cup of tea” – Ralph Emerson
I’m now gagging for an aromatic elixir of magical warm brew! Aren’t you?
Because we are all tea afficionados, I will gladly gift you my recipe for the most calming cuppa after I’ve had a very stressful day.
Share in the comments section if you have a favourite tea recipe. I’d lreally ike to try it.
Bisous – Bisous