10 Teas to Start With

Now that we have covered some basics of brewing, we need to lay some ground work on determining just what teas to brew. There are thousands of types of tea and even within a specific type of tea there can be hundreds of variations, it can be daunting. Today we’ll try to compile a list of 10 teas that cover a wide enough spectrum that will quickly show you what types and characteristics of tea you, personally, enjoy and which you do not. This will allow you to explore with some confidence from that point without simply relying on luck. So let’s get to it:

1.) Ceylon – Smooth and generally mellow, this tea is probably the closest  to the standard teabag many are familiar with but a nice upgrade in flavor and quality. It is a fairly rich taste with a very slight bit of astringency and bitterness.

2.) Sencha – A Japanese green tea that is very light, bright, and refreshing. This is a true green tea in every sense of the word and miles apart from what is often sold as “green tea” in most stores.

3.) Long Jing – A very popular Chinese green tea with a bright and almost “nutty” flavor. This is a nice contrast to Sencha and showcases a different side of green tea. Also known as Dragonwell.

4.) Shui Xian – This oolong tea is often associated with tea served in Chinese restaurants. It is a nice basic introduction to oolongs and isn’t that radical a departure from many of the flavors of standard teabags, but the medium fermentation and roasting adds complexity. Also known as Shui Hsien, or water sprite.

5.) Tie Guan Yin – A greener oolong with a slightly floral aroma and flavor. The split in oolongs generally runs along the more roasted/fermented/fruity lines such as Shui Xian and the greener/floral ones like this tea. Again comparing this to the Shui Xian should yield a personal affinity towards one or the other, many enjoy both. Also known as Tie Kuan Yin, or Iron Goddess of Mercy.

6.) Silver Needles – White tea is often shrouded in mystery and mystique, but it is really just minimally processed tea leaf that isn’t roasted or fermented, just dried. It is delicate and often has a sweetness. Also known as Bai Hao Yinzhen, or Yin Zhen.

7.) Keemun – A black tea in the Chinese style which is rich, sweet, and full-bodied. This would be a great introduction tea for coffee lovers since it is not as subtle as many of the others. Some keemuns exhibit a smokey flavor which some may find desirable.

8.) Darjeeling – Sometimes referred to as “The Champagne of Teas” this Indian tea exhibits a wonderful array of flavors from sweet to nutty to grape-ish muscatel notes. Within this one category almost anyone can find at least one or two specific teas that matches their preferences. This type alone could be an entire lifelong pursuit, so try a few different ones in this category before making an assessment.

9.) Jasmine Green – I’ve included this option in the list to offer an idea of what flavored tea is really about. Almost all low-end tea and widely available tea is so heavily flavored and imbalanced that many have lost sight of the fact that the tea itself is the star. A delicate jasmine scent added to a quality green tea is a nice balance and gateway between the overpowered offerings in most cafes and the ultimate goal of the unadorned beauty of the leaf itself. Jasmine pearls are often the best choice in this type of tea.

10.) Puer – This is the single-malt Scotch and cigar of tea. It is highly prized and often aged for many years, and has a dedicated following of devotees. If you like earthy, smoky, and oaky flavors in your wines or enjoy the aforementioned Scotch and cigar, this may be a tea for you. If this doesn’t sound like your style you can skip this one altogether or at least try one to say you experienced it. Again, this is a complex group and requires quite a bit of initiative to dig into properly, there are a number of great resources on the web for those interested however. Sometimes spelled puerh or pu-erh.

These 10 teas certainly won’t show you everything tea has to offer, but it will cover a very wide breadth of styles and flavors that will act as a springboard to further exploration and enjoyment. Feel free to ask questions and post comments and most importantly, Have Fun!

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6 Responses to 10 Teas to Start With

  1. Marlena says:

    An excellent list with good clear descriptions

  2. teasphere says:

    Thank you, I really wanted this guide to help people find a good starting point not just to be another lame top 10 blog list. I thought about my own journey and what teas I wish I had tried early on to give me a better foundation. I know I wasted a lot of money on oolongs hoping they weren’t the flowery ones before realizing there were two distinct categories and how to tell them apart. Feel free to share the 10 you’d have people start with or any questions/comments.

  3. chigamaroo says:

    Thank you for this list! I will definitely delve into your suggestions.

    Since you mention oolong categories, I was wondering – what do you know about Quangzhou Milk Oolong? I heard it was artificially scented – but I quite enjoy it…I can’t seem to find much reliable information about it.

    Glad to have found your blog. Best wishes!

  4. teasphere says:

    Chingamaroo, thank you for the praise, I really hope you do find some great new directions to explore from the list. With tea (especially flavored or something like your milk tea) quality and trust in the vendor is the most important thing. Too often artificial additives and preservatives are added to inferior tea to give it qualities, and sometimes these aren’t the best things to ingest. It goes by a few names so look for “Jian Xuan” or Jing Xuan” or “Jin Xuen” all of these are variations of the name in English. Here are some links to reputable vendors: http://www.holymtn.com/tea/oolongtea.htm and http://www.redblossomtea.com/details.php?sec=formosa&item=46

  5. Lisa B says:

    I love the differences in each tea blogger and their wide range of styles and personalities, it just adds to the greatness of the internet and the wide world of teas!

  6. Jason Witt says:

    The Puerh you have described here is going to be either an aged or “ripe” variety. There’s also the green, young kind. That’s a Puerh that doesn’t yet taste earthy at all.

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