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we often talk about having a coffee with a cigar. what about tea?

i don't drink nearly as much as i would wish to/or should.

found this article which i thought was useful and interesting. from saveur if memory serves.

The Teas to Make You Forget All About Coffee

There's nothing precious about these full-bodied brews

By Max Falkowitz Posted January 7, 2016

If you've found yourself drinking more tea and less coffee lately, you're not alone; more people—including a number of coffee professionals—are talking and learning about high-end teas than ever before. I mean straight loose-leaf tea, unencumbered by paper bags or potpourri fodder, tea so well-made and grin-inducingly delicious that it doesn’t need a drop of milk or sugar (but no punishment if you swing that way).

After all, this is a beverage thousands of years in the making, with a global culture and history matched only by wine. And if you thought coffee could get complex, tea is an order of magnitude more so, with greater variety, flavors, aromas, and characters than anything you'll get from a bean. It doesn't hurt that tea's injection of caffeine is so much gentler on the body, or that there's a whole term, tea drunk, to describe the giddy sense of well being that can come with drinking a quality cup.

Whether you swoon for the fruity sweetness of a hip craft coffee or the sludgy tar of soul-saving diner brew, there’s a tea for you.

Yet even with all these advances, tea in the West remains slandered with an unfair rep as all jasmine blossoms and unicorn tears, better for doily-festooned tea parties than the oomph of morning coffee. Here is a guide that says otherwise. Whether you swoon for the fruity sweetness of a hip craft coffee or the sludgy tar of soul-saving diner brew, there’s a tea for you. The problem is actually an embarrassment of riches: Where do you even start?

The best way to learn about good tea is to drink it, as much as possible from as many sources as you can, but consider these recommendations a beginning. A few things to keep in mind, though, before you start shopping:

Buy loose: Loose-leaf teas are by and large higher quality than their tea bag counterparts. Larger leaves, when given room to breathe in a cup or pot, deliver more balanced flavor and body.

Be prepared to pay: Like all specialty foods, quality comes at a cost, and while everything from growing regions and labor conditions to processing and market demand affects tea pricing, in seemingly uneven ways at times, all the following teas cost more than the bags at the grocery store. Do the math per serving, though, and you’ll quickly realize that even great tea is pretty cheap: A tea that’s, say, $200 a pound translates into 45 10-gram servings, and quality tea can and should be re-steeped many times. That works out to a couple of bucks per cup, certainly less than the cost of your daily latte. (Not willing to pay that much upfront? Most vendors offer small sample sizes so you can try all kinds of tea.)

Don’t stress on the brewing: Beginning tea drinkers often stress over whether they’re making it the “right” way, to the point where it stops them from making it at all. But truly good tea will reward many styles of brewing, each with its own advantages, so get drinking first, then dial in the details. You can brew many of these teas right in your mug—cover them with hot water and the leaves will sink to the bottom after a couple minutes. For something a hair more advanced, here are some tea-making tools, from filters to teapots, to get you started.

Roasted (and Roasty) Green Tea

The best green tea evokes snappy spring mornings and crisp, green vegetables—delicate and delicious, but pretty far from a cup of coffee. In Japan, though, lower-grade tea that’s less enthusiastic about its springtime directive is often roasted into a hearty product called hojicha. Light-bodied but toasty and warm, it’s an inexpensive and very swiggable tea that’s mellow like a well-balanced cup of coffee, minus the acidity. Also seek out genmaicha, another low-cost Japanese green that isn’t roasted, per se, but bulked up with popped sorghum kernels for another easy-drinking brew with a roasty kick.

Try These

  • Hojicha (Ippodo): Mellow and light-bodied with a nice caramelized edge.
  • Genmaicha (Ippodo): You can get genmaicha at most Japanese groceries, but if you can’t find it in person, Ippodo’s is plenty reliable.

Better Black Tea

There’s more to black tea than an English Breakfast tea bag; a really good black tea should have sweetness, body, and structured astringency just like any cup of coffee. Different regions produce different styles that emphasize those qualities to varying degrees. In the hill country of India and Nepal, Himalayan plantations make teas that layer jammy fruit and cocoa but also clean, crisp qualities like a deep breath of forest air. Over in Sri Lanka, quality Ceylon teas can evoke citrus and nuts, and the best kinds showcase a lively balance of sweetness, body, and mouth-puckering astringency. For less astringency and more palate-coating sweetness, consider high mountain black teas from Taiwan, which when done right are rounded and bold enough to linger in your throat for a while.

Try These

Roasted Oolong

Oolong teas are partially oxidized, between unoxidized greens and fully oxidized blacks, and many are traditionally roasted to coax greater flavor, body, and aroma from the leaves. These roasted teas evoke many of coffee’s great qualities: richness and a strong, heavy base that lingers in the mouth but still lets lighter fruit, spice, and floral elements shine. But unlike coffee, these oolongs can be steeped multiple times—five to a dozen or more—and each steeping will showcase a different aspect of the teas’ characters. Oolongs’ dynamism and sheer variety make them some of the most rewarding teas to brew and drink, and these roasted ones are very coffee-friendly.

Try These

  • Dong Ding (Eco-Cha): Moderately oxidized and roasted, this sturdy tea is nutty and a little tangy. You taste the roast right away but also a strong, structured underlying base that balances savory and sweet, fresh autumn vegetables and fermented malt.
  • Original Tieguanyin (Fang Gourmet): At first you only get a strong roast, but soon a dark honey aroma pulls you in along with fresh orchids and, eventually, a deep sweetness. It’s a mouthwatering tea with an almost electric intensity that mellows out to something especially comfortable on later steepings.
  • Old Bush Shui Xian (White2Tea): A more heavily roasted tea that can brew dark and powerful, but beneath that roast you get great floral and toasted grain aromas, a rich chocolatey body, and a long finish full of the signature mineral-sweet aftertaste that Wuyi mountain teas are known for. Brew with lots of leaves for a series of short steepings to get the full oomph.

Puerh

A unique tea that’s often misunderstood in the West, puerh’s most notable distinction is that it’s fermented by friendly microbes that allow the tea's character to evolve over time. Puerh’s earthy depth and strong body make it a perfect candidate for a coffee replacement—if you get the right leaves. For something coffee-like, pick a tea that’s been aged at least a couple years so the leaves’ freshness can start transitioning toward something darker; more aged puerhs generally brew a dark brown or reddish. Also worth considering is “ripe” or “cooked” puerh, which has seen its fermentation artificially accelerated by heat and humidity. Cooked puerh can brew as thick and dark as any espresso or diner coffee, and is priced far more gently than quality “raw” styles, but at the cost of complexity and nuance.

Try These

  • 2008 Bulang (Crimson Lotus): An inexpensive cooked-style puerh that brews inky-black and lasts at least a dozen steepings. It’s earthy and savory but also quite sweet, powerful enough to make you perk up at first but very easy-drinking.
  • 2013 Early Spring Zhangjia (Tea Classico): Another inexpensive introductory puerh, a raw style that’s still a little feisty. Its astringency and twangy acidity recall a light-roast coffee, but with a more satisfying aftertaste that tickles your gums with alternating touches of sweetness, savoriness, and a gentle bitterness.
  • 2008 Moonlight White (T Shop): A little more age gives this raw puerh a darker character, and it’s less savory and earthy than other styles. A malted grainy sweetness and subtle hay aroma make this unassuming but great tea a friendly introduction to puerh.
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I am quite reserved when it comes to pairing tea as well as (good) coffee with a smoke.

With coffee, I feel I mostly miss the fine nuances of the fresh roasts I get here locally. All of those I rarely pair with a cigar. Not saying they won't pair, but it is a waste of good coffee. With aged cigars, if anything, my Sidamo and an Indian Highland working best for me.

The same holds for tea. I do drink quite a bit of different stuff, ranging from full-bodied Assam or Assam blends with milk/cream and sugar, over Darjeeling to diverse unfermented Chinese Greens and “Whites”.

While an Assam as well as a Darjeeling can pair very well with a cigar, also nicely aiding in cleansing and refreshing the palate with their astringency, for me, most other teas will struggle and fight the flavours.

When it comes to non-alcoholic beverages as a pairing, I dare to say, I mostly go with a simple decaf instant coffee (Nescafe Gold). The flavour profile of this I find pairing very nicely with most smokes.

Paul

N.B. - Don’t like the stupid title of the article. There is no tea that could make someone forget about coffee. As if one was saying, the rum that makes you forget about whisky – simply two different beverages that each have their own time and place

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My last purchase was a pu-erh (yunnan golden). I was unaware how much different it is than what most asians call black tea (the Chinese call that stuff red tea). It's very different, but I prefer the "red tea", according to the Chinese. Just a heads up for someone exploring loose leafed teas.

I'm a big fan of an afternoon light to medium corona with black or oolong tea, but that occasion doesn't come very often. One of my dream pairings is a good Oolong with an LGC corona or something of the like.

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N.B. - Don’t like the stupid title of the article. There is no tea that could make someone forget about coffee. As if one was saying, the rum that makes you forget about whisky – simply two different beverages that each have their own time and place

understand that comment but don't blame the writer. headlines are usually done by junior assistant sub-editors who rank level with carrots for intelligence.

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True – can be the case, Ken. But it seems in this case we have to blame him. I just now read the article in full (just browsed the text initially) and it seems it is not just in the title, the whole text is of that tenor - exchanging or replacing coffee for tee. A stance I find hard to follow, to say the least.

There are also quite a few statements being made, which need to be taken with a grain of salt. He is certainly right with the general attitude “just try out and care about the details later”. But, e.g. brewing can be essential - in certain teas the wrong (too high) temperature will strongly affect or even kill the flavours. If you start it wrong you will probably not get into it at all (like in cigars….). Also “five to a dozen” steepings is just b.s.. And beginning to blather about “high-end” teas and then continuing with defining such by its packaging, i.e. “loose or tea bag” is just ridiculous. And what’s a “coffee-friendly” tea, I ask?

The statement of 200 $ a pound is also a very “nice” guidance for a beginner (at whom this is aiming at). Absolutely no need to call up such numbers for any first-class tea, even not the rarest ones.

The writer seems not to be an expert in tea, rather appears to me as someone who read “something” about it, supplemented that with some www-search and then drafted an article on it with the preset idea to go along the lines of tea vs. coffee, as that appeared hip. I doubt he is much of a tea drinker himself.

Sorry, don’t intend to kill that thread, Ken, as it is such an interesting topic.

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True – can be the case, Ken. But it seems in this case we have to blame him. I just now read the article in full (just browsed the text initially) and it seems it is not just in the title, the whole text is of that tenor - exchanging or replacing coffee for tee. A stance I find hard to follow, to say the least.

There are also quite a few statements being made, which need to be taken with a grain of salt. He is certainly right with the general attitude “just try out and care about the details later”. But, e.g. brewing can be essential - in certain teas the wrong (too high) temperature will strongly affect or even kill the flavours. If you start it wrong you will probably not get into it at all (like in cigars….). Also “five to a dozen” steepings is just b.s.. And beginning to blather about “high-end” teas and then continuing with defining such by its packaging, i.e. “loose or tea bag” is just ridiculous. And what’s a “coffee-friendly” tea, I ask?

The statement of 200 $ a pound is also a very “nice” guidance for a beginner (at whom this is aiming at). Absolutely no need to call up such numbers for any first-class tea, even not the rarest ones.

The writer seems not to be an expert in tea, rather appears to me as someone who read “something” about it, supplemented that with some www-search and then drafted an article on it with the preset idea to go along the lines of tea vs. coffee, as that appeared hip. I doubt he is much of a tea drinker himself.

Sorry, don’t intend to kill that thread, Ken, as it is such an interesting topic.

i'd certainly agree it is not the greatest article on tea but i thought it had enough in it to be worth posting for those interested in tea or wanting to learn a little.

i know nothing about the author so did a bit of googling. he has done a number of articles for saveur, the majority of them on tea but also on coffee and other things. i'd find it strange if he was not a keen tea drinker - simply because hard enough to write about these things. much worse if you have no interest. of course, that does not automatically mean expertise. but it does seem a subject that the writer has focused upon.

though i'd suggest that if it is in saveur, it is not necessarily aimed at the beginner. the audience is fairly advanced foodies. and they are fairly strict on their writers - met a couple of them (one was a younger writer - she was incredibly keen and quite knowledgable; the other a much older lady - no idea if she had any expertise in anything but if her knowledge matched her arrogance then she'd be the next julia childs - she was also a bit dimwitted, i thought, which was a surprise).

this bloke recently finished up as an editor at 'seriouseats, which is not a bad site. and even there, most of his articles focused on tea.

i'd agree re the thoughts from you on tea v coffee, but i wonder if the problem is more that "tea v coffee" is how so many people perceive things. how often are we offered 'tea or coffee'?

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I have to agree; tea is not coffee. In perspective, no one on this site would ever compare a NC RyJ to a CC RyJ, much less tobacco to marijuana.

The article is a broad outline of tea for beginners like me. The suggestions are useless considering the way one procures tea, and the different ways it is harvested, distributed and marketed (remember, much of it is grown in the third world).

IMO, the complaint is petty as it relates to what Ken was going after, but not relevant to anyone with even a decent of knowledge of tea.

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i'd certainly agree it is not the greatest article on tea but i thought it had enough in it to be worth posting for those interested in tea or wanting to learn a little.

Absolutely, rightly so! And thanks for the additional background, Ken. That is exactly what I was wondering. Seems to prove me wrong with regard to his background, interesting and a bit puzzling. If he has written quite a bit about tea, the more odd it appears to me what he had written here, at least in parts. The article is aiming at the beginner as he makes clear in his introductory part. With any experienced tea drinker, and perhaps even with many unexeperienced, he wouldn’t need to talk about – pardon? – tea bags…

But my commenting was not at all meant against your posting it. It is worth being posted of course, and indeed interesting to see what he wrote. But I just wanted to provide a reflection on some of those things he wrote that can be seen controversial (or which are simply wrong, like the steeping aspect). At least it served for discussion….

Apart from the fact that both are hot aqueous herbal extractions containing caffeine, for me, tea and coffee have nothing in common. I find no similarities, even not the slightest resemblance of coffee in any tea. Why should I even expect that? And why should I wish to replace that? For me as an avid coffee and tea drinker this attitude is plain absurd. It is not about replacing it’s all about adding diversity. But perhaps he just needed a catchy tag for his story.

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I'm a tea fanatic and have been since about 4 when my Grandpa introduce me to it. I drink about 2-4 litres of Taiwanese Oolong tea everyday at the office with a bit of honey to sweeten it. Tea and coffee to me are like cigars and pipe, apple and oranges. I like both at different times and don't drink one as a substitute for the other.

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thanks for posting Ken. I have been wanting to get into tea in a more serious way for a while now.

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  • 4 years later...
2 hours ago, boomboomkong said:

Yes, dongding oolong  makes me forget the coffee. Dong Ding with strong taste is memorable for people. Brewed tea leaves: light green and uniform. Green leaves are light-red edged. Aroma: elegant aroma, with osmanthus scent and caramel fragrance.

I like oolong and asam teas alot.  Wife buys one called Russian Caravan which is terrific.  Fuller flavor, slightly smoky.  We make tea at home fairly regularly.  I like it with a spot of heavy cream.  We use top buy loose leaf, but now buy the bags.  The same tea is available in either format, but if you don't drink tea consistently, it'll lose flavor too quick buying loose.

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  • 1 month later...

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