The Good Kind of Tea Party: How to Pick a Good Tea, Drink It

Sometimes you ask us questions, and sometimes we have actual answers! This one is very appropriate for the upcoming cold season.

Q: Do you drink tea? And if you do, what kind of tea do you like and recommend someone who has just discovered the magical world of tea?

Dear Formspring questioner – I don’t think Laneia drinks that much tea but HOO BOY DO I EVER. Let me just talk about this for a minute, okay?

There are roughly five kinds of tea: black, green, white, red, and oolong. Black tea is the easiest kind of tea, b/c that is like Lipton and whatever it is they give you at diners when you just ask for “hot tea please,” but green tea is The Best Tea. It is super good for you and also delicious. Like really, it’s fucking fantastic. There are many crazed internet sources that will claim this but instead I will link you to Andrew Weil on HuffPo because people seem to think that is ‘reputable.’ Anyways. Drink green tea. Also drink black tea if you like it. I do. If you drink black tea it should be Earl Grey or else we can’t be friends. Put cream or lemon in it if you need to but really just drink that ok? I also really like red/rooibos tea, but that is just me, and I am unclear as to its possible amazing health benefits.

As for kinds of tea, the best is loose-leaf tea. It maybe seems pretentious/expensive at first but really it tastes so much better, I can’t even tell you. It’s like a different, magical drink. I like to buy mine from a locally based retailer, MEM Imports, that is really really good, their Earl Grey and Flower teas are my favorites. I’ve also gotten tea from Rishi that was super good, I like their Jasmine Pearl tea a lot. You can buy some in a big bag, and then choose how ever much or little you like depending on how strong you like your tea, and then put it in a tea ball or your own tea bags and go to town. Once you’re sold on the loose tea thing I am also really into ForLife products; Taylor and Kelsey gave me one of these once and they are like the best-designed product I’ve ever seen. I want one of these pots really badly.

If you’re not sold on the loose tea thing, Republic of Tea is my favorite tea that still comes mostly in bags, although it’s not necessarily any cheaper. In particular I like their Ginseng Peppermint and their Ginger Peach, both the black and green kinds. They also have a nice line of “apothecary” teas that are supposed to make parts of you feel better; I have had particular success with their “Get A Grip” PMS tea, because sometimes you just wanna put your Midol in a to-go cup, yannow?

ANYWAYS Anon I hope that helped or at least was really overwhelming and made me come off as weird and obsessed. If you have any other questions let me know, clearly this is a topic I am pleased to elaborate on at length.


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Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy."

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106 Comments

    • 0

      this!

      of course, i’m a tad biased because rooibos is south african and i’m south african and i grew up drinking this like american kids drink hot chocolate.

      mm. rooibos (that’s ROY-boss). mm.

    • 0

      It’s *technically* not tea (because it doesn’t come from the Camellia sinensis plant, but it is freaking badass.

    • 0

      hmm, no, but i would be happy to pick some up for you and ship it. i happen to have discount access to their earl grey, english breakfast, flower, lemon chamomile and mint varieties. lemme know gurl. #baristaprotips

      • 0

        Um hell yes. Whenever it’s convenient can you pick me up a bag of whatever you think is the best mint tea? I can email you my address & paypal you the money if that’s cool. #rachelisthebest

    • 0

      I went to a Samovar Tea Lounge in San Francisco with Riese and Alex and that place is sure serious about its tea. I ordered some sort of complicated black tea that required a special tutorial on how to pour & drink it and it gave me a few moments of anxiety. But ultimately it was worth it.

    • 0

      Hold the sugar and I’m with you, Sally. I’m so glad the local Indian market imports it because the 500bags I bought in England to get a free PGTips monkey didn’t last long enough.

      PGTips with milk is the key to the graveyard shift, just FYI.

      I got too spoiled on homemade chai that the monk on campus makes to ever be able to enjoy bagged chai, but homemade chai is perhaps the best tea ever. Since I can’t very well prepare it in a hotel office though, PGTips wins.

      • 0

        Not just graveyard shift, PG Tips is the key to life.

        Slightly reeling from discovery that tea-making campus monks are a real thing.

        Also, I feel strangely like I need to redeem myself for slight philistinism of previous comment by displaying picture of my beloved tea caddy.

        I don’t know what else to say, all this tea talk is making me emotional.

        • 0

          You guys should def. be jealous. In addition to tea, Geshe la also provides amazing classes on philosophy and non-violence, community meditations and teachings, Momos (best. food. ever.), makes sand mandalas, and oh yes, His Holiness the Dalai Lama will be coming to campus in May.

          All of this in lil’ old Arkansas. Pretty great. And oooh that tea.

          Having a cuppa of PGTips now. It IS the sex and the key to life. You are both so right.

  1. 0

    Rachel you are like, the perfect human being basically.

    I will need to explore more teas it looks like. I’ve always enjoyed Yogi Tea… the “bedtime” tea specifically. Earl grey, obvs always a favorite. I haven’t been into tea in awhile but omg did this bring me right back in.

    • 0

      I love Yogi Tea boxes. They’re always so pretty and have nice sayings and yoga poses on them and stuff. They make me feel comforted without needing to even drink the tea.

        • 0

          That one is pretty vague. I’ve seen better ones. Don’t feel bad. I feel like a gooey cheeseball most of the time for feeling anything for cutesy phrases. But I do.

  2. 0

    I love green and oolong tea the best. Also jasmine. I used to think of tea as just slightly flavored water that did nothing for me but the more I drink it the less sugar I find myself putting in it. I feel like it’s something you enjoy more the older you get or something. Or maybe that’s just me.

    Also there are remedy teas for different ailments. The only one I know much about is ginger. It’s really strong but it can help an upset stomach, and weirdly enough helps me keep my period regular, which my body has problems doing on its own. It’s like some ancient witchcraft type thing, but it totally works.

  3. 0

    AHEM i do actually drink a fuck ton of teas! i just wanted rachel to talk about them because i love rachel and i love tea so this is like, nirvana, etc.

    ALWAYS GO WITH LOOSE LEAF. ALMOST ALWAYS GO WITH GREEN.

    there’s a local tea place in phx (i know, i was also SHOCKED), White August Tea Co., where every tea is on display for your sniffing pleasure and they have approx 23847 of them to choose from AND they will ship that shit straight to your fucking door WHAT NOW.

    HERE TRY THESE THEY ARE MY FAVORITES:
    + Enlightenmint: gunpowder green tea + peppermint OMG PERFECT
    + Leaves of Fortune: roasted green tea w/ roasted hazelnuts and vanilla blossoms. TASTES LIKE TOASTED MARSHMALLOWS BUT BETTER WHAT I’M NOT EVEN KIDDING SRSLY
    + Mango Away: black tea with mangos and calendula flowers. simple, good.
    + Hello: chamomile, rose, lavender. PRETTIEST TEA. FAVORITEST TEA.
    + White Nectar: white tea, pears, plums, oranges, mangos and pineapples. obvs will not need a sweetener.

    THING I WANT TO TRY BUT HAVEN’T:
    + Russian Caravan: smoked black tea WHAT. it smells like a campfire. i’m told it’s best w/ a little milk.

    also i want a pretty teapot for christmas. also i want to try the one w/ the flower that blossoms right there in your damn cup. I WANT TO BE FANCY LIKE MARIE ANTOINETTE VIA SOFIA COPPOLA.

    having some leaves of fortune now. LOVE THIS POST, RACHEL.

    • 0

      dear laneia, i did not mean to imply that you do not drink tea, it’s just that every time we talk about you drinking anything it’s knob creek, so. also, shit, that roasted green tea sounds fucking delicious. the Lesbian Coffeeshop I frequent has a green tea w/ roasted brown rice, that is insane

  4. 0

    I have an extremely extensive tea collection, my current favourites are ginseng oolong (so good) and this french breakfast I got in Sydney, which is like fruity earl grey? That sounds gross, but it’s actually the best.

    A good thing about have many varieties of tea: when summer comes around, you can make ICED TEA, which is another realm entirely. I made oolong + rosebud the other day, with a tiny bit of sugar, best thing ever

  5. 0

    Earl Grey = NO. English Breakfast = YES! With milk and sugar or honey. Time for a third cup of the English Breakfast? I think so. Pip pip. (PG Tips is also excellent. Yes.)

  6. 0

    When you say cream do you actually mean cream? Or do you mean milk? I always wondered that because outside of American TV I’ve never seen anyone ask for cream in their tea or coffee.

    And as for what kind of tea to drink – Yorkshire Tea! The website is cute! http://yorkshiretea.co.uk/

  7. 0

    perhaps you’ve decided to make the Big Switch from coffee to tea and have 2389752 coffe filters lying around. lucky for you, coffee filters just happen to make perfect bags for loose tea. i put my loose tea in a filter, gather it up like a bag, and twist some thread around it so that it doesn’t spill everywhere.

  8. 0

    GREEN GREEN GREEN. I drink so much of it that I probably have more tea-polyphenols in my blood than hemoglobin.

    I also second the loose-leaf ideology–it’s so much better than pre-bagged. What can I say? I’m a sucker for quality.

    When I’m on the go, I just pack a container/baggie of leaf in my lezzie messenger bag along with a stainless-steel-mesh tea ball. Because reusable muslin bags are a pain to wash and I don’t own a mate straw.

    My favorite thing about loose-leaf is watching the tea leaves slowly unfurl in the hot water. It’s magical!

  9. 0

    EARL GREY yes! It is, at the moment, my favorite tea. Especially Twinings. I’ve also had “Lady Grey” which was sort of similar, but I have no idea what’s in it or what the difference is.(anyone?)
    Loose leaf is for sure the way to go by the way, I especially like chamomile loose because it’s little yellow flowers and the petals come off and are delicious and adorable.

    • 0

      Lady Grey is a blend unique to Twinings and is a lighter alternative to Earl Grey with a gentle, citrus flavour.

      A light, refreshing tea, pale gold in colour and infused with the flavour of Seville orange, lemon and bergamot.

      It’s deffo fruitier, I like it a lot.

  10. 0

    Ugh I just drank a cup of tea and was thinking how I want another one but probably shouldn’t before bed but then again I have a masculinities essay to finish so screw that yay for tea.

    Also the Irish drink more tea per capita than anywhere else and this is our no.1 best selling tea because its pretty much amazing so do yourself a favour and do it Irish style – http://www.foodireland.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Product_Code=520202&Category_Code=lyons&Product_Count=1

    You’re welcome.

  11. 0

    Tea is the best. Nice write up
    I had a whole steeping time, loose leaves & tea infuser, which tea pot to buy dilemma last year
    Then I started drinking Mighty Leaf tea (in their funky biodegradable pouches) and all of that was forgotten
    I’d still like to get a fancy teapot in the future.

    All that being written, their Organic Green Dragon & Breakfast Black Tea are my favorites

  12. 0

    if you’re super poor, go outside to your nearest orange tree, pick leaves, wash em, stick them in water and heat that shit up with a stick of cinnamon, add sugar and then say ahh. anyways, this is awesome, you are awesome. AWESOME

    • 0

      Similarly, I sometimes boil ginger, a handful of dates, and a cinnamon stick. Then you can add honey (or not bc it’s already kind of sweet). But it’s pretty tastey, makes your kitchen smell great. And makes you feel better when you’re sick.

      I usually drink a lot of black tea and oolong. I just wanted to note that if you have any chinatowns or asian areas, try to find a tea shop or herb shop there. We get tons of jasmine pearl tea by the pound for cheaper prices than fancy schmancy tea stores that way.

      All those teas everyone has mentioned sound amazing. I feel like my tea choices are so boring in comparison.

  13. 0

    I love tea a lot. Living in Ireland turned me into a mega tea drinker, and I thought I drank a lot before I moved there.As I shouted above, Barry’s Tea is the best tea ever. Pretty much any good strong black tea and I’m in. I also really like Earl Grey, especially if I’m feeling fancy and want to use my tea cups.

    • 0

      Totally, i LOVE Barrys tea. Even despite the ridiculous rebranding to ‘Nambarrie’ in the UK.

      Barrys tea, with a bacon sandwich that has lashings of Dairygold butter. HEAVEN.

      • 0

        Haha they did that? What does Nambarrie even mean?!

        If I ate bacon, I’d be down with that. I’m down with Dairygold butter though. Like, Tayto sandwiches or…even worse/better…Birds Eye waffles sandwiches. I wish it was a Sunday in Ireland and I was hungover. Damn.

        • 0

          I think it was supposed to sound Indian, lord knows what marketing ‘genius’ thought that one up. LOL.

          Tayto sandwiches…aw man…I miss Taytos so much (I live in England). They are VASTLY better than anything I can get here.

          Waffle sandwiches are the best hangover cure in the world – even if you’re in the depths of truly horrendous hangover blues – waffle sandwiches and a cuppa Barrys tea will sort you right out.

          • 0

            Actually, Barry’s and Nambarrie are just two different companies, not a re-branding.

            And I will forever associate Barry’s with the hostel with the fluffiest comforters EVAH in Dublin. 🙂

          • 0

            ah, sorry, my error then!
            I thought it was a similar thing to Taytos (republic of ireland), Taytos (northern ireland) – which have different packaging etc..

            My bad! 🙂

  14. 0

    Although I’m normally a coffee drinker, coffee doesn’t make you feel better when you’re sick. So at this very moment, I am drinking Sleepytime tea (cammomile). Mmmm.

    I’m also a fan of good ol’ PG Tips.

  15. 0

    you know what’s even better than earl grey, in my opinion? earl grey macaroons. for real.

    i’m not a hot tea drinker (it makes me gag / i dunno why / yes, it’s tragic)…but what is your stance on tisanes? i’ve heard differing opinions about flavor, or lack thereof.

      • 0

        Just curious. It’s like tea, but no actual tea leaves are in it. It is usually made with flowers or fruit leaves, so there’s no caffeine. I’m supposed to have opinions on these things for my job. Basically, all I really want to do in life is be able to enjoy tea with the cool kids. Sheish. (At least there’s coffee)

      • 0

        Basically it’s any infused beverage that isn’t made from Camelia sinensis. So, herbal teas, rooibos tea, etc.

    • 0

      There is such a wide variety of tisanes that it’s hard to generalize, you know? I mean, a rose blossom tisane is pretty flavorless (in my experience), but something like rosehip and hibiscus is going to have a very strong flavor.

  16. 0

    Earl grey is my favorite thing in the entire world. I bought one of those e-cigarette things and I even smoke (vape?) earl grey. Also, sleepy time tea.

  17. 0

    Twinings English breakfast tea is the best thing in the world, I live on it, I can drink t all day every day. I don’t wake up in the morning until I’ve had my cup of tea.

  18. 0

    my personal favourites are english breakfast with milk and money, and lemon tea with honey. i want to drink some tea with you sometime, rachel.

  19. 0

    I’m in India, drinking masala chai all day longgg.
    I was in a train, we were so packed in that I couldn’t lift my arms above my waist, and still there was someone trying to sell me chai.
    I mean really, it’s mostly hot milk,
    but they fucking love their chai.

    • 0

      THIS. YES. Chai is the best — and I’m not talking about that gross sugary crap you get at Starbucks. Half milk, half water, black tea (I use Lipton because I’m poor and can steal it from work), one crushed cardamom pod (sometimes expensive but SO worth it), and sugar to taste. Put it all in a pot over medium heat until it boils and turns a lovely milky brown.

      Occasionally I drink Earl Grey or chamomile, but I can’t get over the sensation that I’m drinking hot flavored water. It might be an Indian thing – dairy is probs 50% of my diet.

  20. 0

    Earl Grey tea – to me it tastes like what car/travel sickness *feels* like. I’m sure there’s probably a logical explanation for that – but nevermind, I just can’t drink the darn stuff! Yuck!

    However, I do love tea – particularly a nice strong Assam – I mean super-strong, stewed till it’s black, with a little bit of milk. Green tea is pretty superb, though I’m a traditionalist, so ‘normal’ tea for me is an Assam.

    I’m quite fond of peppermint tea – it’s really good for you too, much like green tea, so there’s that feeling when you drink that you’re doing something positive for the day! 😀

    And finally, I’ll wrap it up with: Yogi Chai. My gf converted me to this after years – I couldn’t get my head around the idea of so many spices in a tea. IT IS DELICIOUS. You will weep, it is THAT good.

  21. 0

    David’s Tea is a fun place for tea enthusiasts. There are locations all over Canada, but you can buy their teas online, too. But that’s not nearly as fun as going to the store and sniffing the tins yourself!

    http://www.davidstea.com/

    • 0

      I love Davids Tea!

      The shops are deadly though – I always buy more than I should because everything is so damned delicious.

      Love Tea is my absolute favourite. It can cure my PMT just by the scent from the tin. Black tea with chocolate and strawberries! Best. Thing. Ever.

    • 0

      RARGH. Damned brain. Tim Tams.
      Although it has to be said, ‘Tim Tems’ sound like a phonetisation in the style of Her Maj. Bless her.

  22. 0

    is it just me or does earl grey smell like froot loops?

    also, instead of paying a million dollars for some pms tea, steep some raspberry leaves with your favourite tea and it’ll take care of everything.

  23. 0

    anyone for King Cole orange pekoe? I didn’t know about this tea until a few years back (it’s from Atlantic Canada), but it is the best bagged black tea ever! Serious, ever.

  24. 0

    When I had my first girlfriend over for the first time, she looked at my assortment of teas and was all, “I don’t believe you anymore. How long have you been a lesbian?” I was all, “Good idea! Let’s drink some white tea.”

  25. 0

    There’s nout like a good ole English Cuppa!!

    I full expect my mother, when I eventually come out to her, to say “Best put the kettle on”

    “Cup of tea?” is the one sentence that can be used in any given situation in the UK!

  26. 0

    I discovered one of the best teas I’ve ever had the other day. It’s Trader Joe’s Vanilla Cinnamon Tea (the one with the lemur on the box!). I had a sample and literally turned around and picked up a box. So good! Just needs a bit of milk and no sugar. It’s smooth and slightly sweet by itself.

    I suddenly feel reminded of a scene from Go Fish. “Do want some tea? There’s some on the shelf behind you.” *camera pans to endless shelf of tea*

  27. 0

    OH MY GOODNESS Y’ALL
    I AM THE AFOREMENTIONED FORMSPRING QUESTION-ASKER
    I WAS MENTIONED IN AN AUTOSTRADDLE POST, THOSE ARE MY WORDS RIGHT THERE.
    I AM AUTOFAMOUS MY LIFE IS COMPLETE.

  28. 0

    You guys, I just realized that if you go to the Amazon page for the tea cup w/ the infuser(which I bought and received today fyi) it tells you that other customers viewed Planters cashews, Richard Yates by Tao Lin, and a vibrator. Non-Autostraddlers who see that must get so confused.

  29. 0

    Also this is the 100th comment and I would like to use it to thank Rachel for sending me tea. I think it might be the first loose leaf tea I’ve ever had? Anyway it’s good go buy some tea.

  30. 0

    OOLONG OOLONG OOLONG! and green. and this one black tea called golden bi luo that tastes vanilla. i’m obsessed with tea. i have pots upon pots each day… i can barely afford the habit because i’m a whole, organic leaf sort of lady. but that don’t stop me.

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