There’s nothing more British than indulging in a nice cup of tea. Ever since it became popular, it has been the drink we choose to gather together and talk, or a drink we offer visitors or something to accompany a lovely slice of cake. Even the tradition of afternoon tea has regained popularity in recent years. And rather than just reaching for the humble tea bag, we are becoming more adventurous with our choices and going back to the nostalgic ritual of brewing loose leaf tea. English Breakfast is by far our favourite choice, but with so many other delicious options available, maybe it’s time to explore the many different types of tea just waiting to brew in our teapots.
In recent years I’ve become a bit of a tea geek and I absolutely love trying new varieties. It doesn’t have to be daunting and todays handy guide will help you navigate all the different varieties until you find the perfect cup for you.
Different Types of Tea:
There are thousands of varieties available, from many different regions all over the world. It would take a lifetime to try them all. Teas do however fall into several categories and getting to know these is a great place to start.
Black tea is by far the most common and popular type of tea accounting for 85% of the tea drank in the western world. It is dark in colour, high in caffeine and has a strong flavour. It is mostly served with milk and also works well with just a slice of lemon. Common black teas include Assam, Darjeeling, Lapsang, Ceylon and the ever-popular English Breakfast. Look out for rarer more interesting varieties to explore new flavours.
Picture (Fujian Baroque by Adagio Teas)
Is far less processed than the highly oxidised black tea. It is made with the unopened buds and young leaves and dried. The tea is pale and mild in flavour. It is very high in antioxidants and low in caffeine. White teas taste lovely when blended with fruit. Favourites include peach and berry varieties.
Picture (White Peach Tea by Adagio Teas)
Green tea leaves are heated soon after being picked, to prevent them from oxidising. This means that the tea is high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals and has many health benefits. It is also a beautiful refreshing choice of tea. It is best served on its own without milk or sweeteners. There are many different varieties of green tea and favourites include Gunpowder, Sencha, Dragonwell and Matcha.
Picture (White Monkey by Adagio Teas)
Earl Grey is a flavoured black tea and is hugely popular in Britain. It is created by adding bergamot and citrus to black tea. There are some beautiful varieties’ available and many tea retailers have created their own delicious variations. I love Earl Greys with added floral tones such as rose or lavender. My favourite Earl Grey teas are Fortnum and Mason’s Countess Grey and T2’s Girlie Grey.
Picture (Countess Grey by Fortnum and Mason)
Jasmine is one of the most beautiful flavours of tea available. It is usually made with green tea although can be made with black or white tea as well. The tea is infused with the scent from the jasmine flower. The process takes several days and is done at night when the jasmine flowers bloom. Jasmine tea comes in the form of leaves and beautiful pearls which unfurl when steeped in water. You’ll enjoy jasmine if you like refreshing teas with rich floral flavours.
Picture (Jasmine Phoenix Pearls, Jasmine Yin Hao, Jasmine Silver Needle and Jasmine Chun Hao by Adagio Teas)
Chai teas are a blend of black tea and beautiful spices often including cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and ginger. There are countless varieties available with a rich mixture of beautiful flavours. I love to serve my chai with milk and honey. Chai lattes made with steamed milk make a delicious alternative to coffee. Chai was created when tea was combined with Kadha – a traditional Indian drink, made from water, milk and spices.
Picture (Chai by T2)
Although not actual teas, herbal, floral and fruit tisanes are prepared and brewed in the same way as traditional teas and taste delicious combined with other types of tea.
Fruit teas are great for those who are trying to avoid caffeine. They are also rich in vitamin C and antioxidants. I love varieties with a mixture of fruits. Look out for chucky teas which look and smell beautiful while being brewed and have a sweet flavour. One of the benefits of using loose leaf tea is being able to combine your favourite fruit flavours to create your own bespoke tea. I love combining Turkish apple with peach for refreshing brew. Fruit teas also work beautifully iced.
Picture (Fruitalicious by T2)
Herbal teas can be delicious and refreshing and another great choice if you want to avoid caffeine. Popular options include mint and chamomile as well as lemon grass. Rooibos tea from South Africa is another great choice. If you want your herbal tea with a high caffeine content why not try Yerba Mate, which has a similar caffeine content to a cup of coffee!
Picture (Mint Mix by T2)
Lastly Floral teas, which are definitely more of an acquired taste. These are often best blended with other varieties of tea to avoid the flavours being too overwhelming. I love black tea and rose blends. The most popular floral tea is chamomile, but rose, lavender and cornflower petals are also popular tea flavours. Earl grey teas with added florals are always beautiful and mixed floral teas such as T2’s Sweet Dreams work beautifully.
Picture (Sweet Dreams by T2)
I hope you’ve found my guide to tea useful and it will help you explore different types of tea. You could even end up like me with such a large collection of tea that you’ll struggle to drink it all! What are your favourite teas and are there any that you would recommend?
Find lots of tea related blog posts in the Tea section of the blog.
This piece originally appeared in Vintage Life Magazine.
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