“Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.”
Far be it for me to disagree with Captain Picard, but, yes, I’m going to disagree with Captain Picard. Once upon a time, I thought Earl Grey was the ultimate in teas.
Now I know it’s only the small tip of a very big iceberg. It’s a great time to be a loose tea connoisseur, especially if you’re a geek, as many tea vendors produce special geek blends. And, yes, loose tea tastes better than tea in bags, no matter how fancy those bags are.
Why? Tea in bags is often ground too finely and loses flavor. Plus, the tea bags don’t allow the tea leaves and other items in the tea to properly expand and add flavor.
And let me dispel the myth that loose tea is hard to prepare. It’s not. All you need is a tea kettle, a tea strainer, loose tea, and a teaspoon. And hot, though not boiling water, because sometimes boiling water can burn the leaves. I usually catch my tea kettle just before it boils and let it cool off for a few minutes, then pour the water over the strainer and into the mug.
Teavana has a neat little gadget called the Perfectea Maker, but it’s not essential.
Here’s a list of my current favorites and where to find them. Note: I favor black teas with a small amount of skim milk, no sugar, and I like blends that have enough flavor for me to use the same spoonful twice. So you won’t find green teas (of which there are many good ones) on my list. I need my caffeine.
1. Friday Afternoon Tea: Bard’s Blend and Raven’s Blend.
I bought several ounces and received others as a sample from Friday Afternoon Tea’s booth at Geek Girl Con.
Bard’s blend: black tea, sugar, vanilla, ginger. The tiny amount of sugar and vanilla add some sweet to contrast the ginger in Bard’s Bard.
Raven’s Blend: white tea, black tea, blue cornflower. I was leery of the blue cornflower, but it produced a semi-sweet taste that I loved.
Friday Afternoon Tea offers a sampler as well.
2. The Tea Table: Bourbon Sunday Blend Tea and Thai Chai Tea.
One thing that is so cool about the Tea Table is that they offer up to three free samples with every order, allowing the newbie to try out new blends cheaply.
Bourbon Sunday Blend: This is a mix of Assam black teas with real bourbon vanilla pieces. This aptly-named tea is absolutely perfect for winter mornings. Or evenings. There’s some undefinable flavor in here besides the vanilla. My absolute favorite flavor of loose tea. Speaking of which, I need to buy some more.
Thai Chai Tea: I have a thing for chai. I usually try any brand, even in teabags. And I can’t usually decide among the Tea Table’s chai teas, but Thai Chai is Ceylon black tea with vanilla, Cardamom, and Licorice root. Sharp and smooth at the same time.
Note: I tried a regular chai from Whole Foods this year. Avoid it. The taste goes over the line from sharp into unpleasant.
3. Earl Grey Cream.
Yes, I like Picard’s tea, but with a twist. That twist is vanilla added to the regular Earl Grey blend. It’s a fairly common blend and can be even be found at Teavana stores and on their online site.
4. Adagio Teas: Fandom Signature Blends.
Here we get to the geekiest site and their Doctor Who blends are especially good. Surprisingly, I loved the Rose Tyler, a black tea with a hint of raspberries, among other things. (I usually don’t want fruit blends in my teas.) Check them all out, as they have fandom blends from Doctor Who, Gotham, The Flash, Teen Wolf, Avengers, and many others.
I’m especially jonesing for the Gryffindor Bravery blend with masala chai, vanilla, and red peppercorn.