Saturday, March 05, 2011

"The Powers of Tea: Economic, Social, Healthful and Energetic," by Aimée.

(Scroll down for my  "Top Ten Supermarket Teas," and the "How long/hot to brew teas chart.")

This week I discovered that I was running low on my favorite type of tea (Wild Orange Blossom from Teavana- yes, it's one of the free samples they offer currently) so, rather than to drive an hour down to International Plaza and swim upstream against a current of the pretentious shoppers poorly showcasing their name brand clothes with tacky accessories and ridiculously tall heels (joking), as I navigate to one of my few favorite destinations: the Apple store, Ann Taylor Loft, Teavana and Z Gallerie, I decided to reorder online. Over a hundred dollars later, I decided that the tea industry, while providing organic and free trade products for a surplus, is a booming industry millions of people all over the world enjoy. So I decided my post today would be about Tea.

(Note: Yes, I have a feeling this post might seem more like a giant advertisement for teas rather than an informational cornucopia of suggestions, but I promise to include many different sources and types and health benefits (read about the Top 10 Health Benefits of tea here) as usual, to dampen my own personal preferences.) Read about fair trade here... 

When I was thirteen, my mother took me the the Colonial Blackington Inn, (see photo on right) where I had my first sit-down tea service. It was delightful. (I am still tickled to see my middle and high school girls having birthday parties and teas at local tea parlors here in Tampa!)

In 2008, there was a Chinese teacher at Academy who shared her culture of tea with me. It was from her that I learned about "loose leaf" tea and how it's fine to drink teas that aren't strained for example. She brought in many flavors and varieties for her class to sample for one project and then she shared the petals and leaves with me for weeks. She didn't have a "process" of measuring, sometimes she mixed based on color palate in her glass decanter, sometimes based on flavors: she would mix green tea rolled leaves with a chrysanthemum buds for flavor and caffeine. Being of the artistic, free-spirited and experimental mind myself (just look at some of my cooking failures if you don't believe me: ask Nate or Tom about the "salty shrimp"!) I decided to try buying loose leaf teas myself.

This resulted in my first trip to Teavana with my husband Tom to buy some tea! (Warning: funny story ahead.) So Tom, who really liked the sample Rooibos tea that was offered at the entrance (a brilliant selling strategy I must say) which was a blend of two teas. So he went up to the counter and asked to buy some. The salesperson asked him how many ounces he would like. Tom asked him how many fit into the large container. The salesperson said 16. So Tom bought 16 ounces of the two blended teas. Now, when the large containers came off of the shelf, there is a price on them $6, or $8 were common, but one of Tom's said $12.00. Now neither of us realized that the this price was the price of 2oz. So when all was mixed and sealed, Tom's 16 oz jar ended up costing about $150.00. (Yes, I'm still laughing!) I ended up with a much more economic 4oz of my favorite Jasmine Dragon Phoenix Pearls Green Tea, in a smaller jar, which at 12.00/2 oz only ran me about $25.00 (they also charge your for the containers). Now this experience might seem funny, because in retrospect, we knew next to nothing about Teavana and how they sell their products, and our ignorance was expensive. But, on the positive side, Tom enjoyed his Rooibos tea for over a full year, because the containers were amazingly well crafted and resealed, and it ended up being a worthwhile investment for him. I went through my green tea in about two weeks, and needed to go back to buy more. Since then, I've been drinking the Teavana jasmine tea, as well as the Wild Orange Blossom tea (which with a hint of the german rock sugar Teavana also sells is close to heaven). This morning, I mixed the jasmine dragon pearls with the Peach Tranquility Herbal Tea for a delicious tea with caffeine and hints of fruit.

I realize that the experience of tea is not always practical for the office, work or travel or the budget. So I've collected a list of the "best of" teas, easily available in the supermarket (sometimes in the organic sections).

"Top Ten Supermarket Teas," by Aimée.

#1. At about $6.50/box (18 sachets), the Numi Jasmine Green Monkey King is ethically traded, organic and almost identical taste to Teavana's Jasmine Dragon Pearls. Usually located in the organic/natural aisles of the supermarket.

#2. Lipton's Island Mango & Peach: a staple of my  travels to and from Boston, I usually fill my Simmons thermos with hot water so that I can enjoy this in the afternoon of a 14-hour+ solo drive. The smell still makes me think of the rest stop in New Jersey where I enjoyed a cup (in my car and away from the smog). But don't let my image of Jersey deter you- it's a delicious tea, so fruity and restorative. (~$3.50/box for 18 bags).

#3. Sip for the cure! The Republic of Tea's Pink Grapefruit tea donates a bit of the cost to Susan G. Komen's breast cancer research. ($10.00 for 50 tea bags). This green tea gives you a jolt of caffeine and antioxidants with a lovely citrus flavor. (One of my favorites in college.)

#4. Twinings of London's Earl Grey Tea. Nothing beats the "rainy day" staple of Twining's Earl Grey tea. The slightly "bitter" bergamot and black tea leaf give just enough caffeine to beat the rainy day blues and recharge over a warm, steaming cup. My first "loose leaf" tea (from when I was 12, which my mother bought for me at Colonial Williamsburg,) I have always enjoyed this British staple, especially on a rainy or cold winter day. 

#5. For the best green tea: TAZO's Zen combines green tea with a hint of lemon(grass) and mint to create the 'zen-like' experience Starbucks sells for $3.50 and up. You can get a box and make 24 of your own iced or hot Zen teas for about $6.00.

#6. Tazo's Passion Fruit Iced Tea: the staple of Report-Card week afternoons, this delicious tea with sweetener is divine, without is a bit on the bitter, but still rejuvenating side. It's Starbuck's signature iced tea. You can buy the tea bags and make it yourself (which, I'll admit, I've never done with a Starbucks so closely located to my school) for about $6.00/box.

#7. Celestial Seasoning's Sleepytime Tea. What my mother should have given me as a child to help me sleep (instead of milk- I was lactose intolerant, but we didn't know, haha!) I still like this caffeine free herbal tea because it is so soothing. 

#8. Celestial Seasoning's Herbal Tea Sampler: the best of everything in one box! It includes: Lemon Zinger, Peppermint, Sleepytime, Chamomile and Honey Vanilla Camomile (for colds). 

#9. Lipton's Blueberry Pomegranate. This is Nicole's favorite, and I thoroughly enjoy it as well. It is fruity, and loaded with antioxidants. The pyramid sachets, the same as in theirMango Peach tea (#2) help the leaves and berries steep better and add for a more flavorful tea experience.

#10. Bigelow's Mint Medley. Random fact: Did you know catnip soothes the (human) stomach? I doubt it's in here- but it is in the mint family! Spearmint and Peppermint contribute to the soothing nature of this brisk and refreshing drink. Mix it with a green tea for caffeine, or drink it alone to have a refreshing wake-up moment.

Don't forget! The tea experience can be ruined by over steeping or overcooking. Check out the following chart to know how long and at what temperature to make teas at:

Chart courtesy of