My favorite teas

Eventually I hope to have a whole bunch of tea reviews here, similar to An affordable indulgence: “The Tea Spot” Gyokuro, which I wrote some time ago. For now, though, I thought it would be nice to have a more summary list/overview of some of my favorites across the spectrum. These aren’t the only teas I really like, just the ones I return to again and again.

As I’ve noted, I prefer A non-dogmatic approach to tea, so the included steep times are just what I’ve found to produce a good cup for my personal taste. Often times my approach departs significantly from the instructions on the package, or from tradition for that type of tea. I encourage you to experiment, both with the tea (and sourcing), and with steep times, etc.! Also of note, I tend to strongly prefer organic options, even though I’m aware that in the context of tea and its native growing areas it is often less important or meaningful.

Green Teas

I am mostly a green tea person, and I drink about 5 cups a day on average, while black, oolong, and other teas are much more occasional. So most of my list will be green options, with a few others.

Dragonwell from Serendipitea

Dragonwell has been one of my favorite teas since I started getting into loose leaf (bagged dragonwell options are almost universally terrible, whereas some teas like sencha can actually work OK in a bag). It has taken me quite some time to find an affordable and organic Dragonwell, and interestingly, I found it at a company that has no other teas I’m especially fond of! This is a classic, toasty, nutty, lightly vegetal tea that is almost always my first cup of the morning.

https://www.serendipitea.com/product/DragonWell.html

:thermometer:Temperature: 185°
:hourglass_flowing_sand: Steep Time: 5 minutes

Upton Tea’s Genmaicha

There are a zillion versions of genmaicha, it’s one of the most popular green teas, and it can even be decent in bagged form. It took me quite a while to compare the loose leaf versions from each of my favorite tea vendors and see which one I liked best, but I finally (and somewhat surprisingly) decided that the version from Upton Tea was my favorite, and at a good price as well. It has the “richest” body and mouth feel, and somehow seems to get a bit more flavor from the rice that’s added in to this delicious tea.
https://www.uptontea.com/japanese-green-tea/gen-mai-cha-organic-loose-leaf-green-tea/p/V00204/
:thermometer:Temperature: 185°
:hourglass_flowing_sand: Steep Time: 4 minutes

The Tea Spot’s Gyokuro

Another daily cup, though time of day varies. This is sourced from another provider that I don’t regularly get any other teas from, but this gyokuro is notably more consistent and affordable than most.
Details here: An affordable indulgence: “The Tea Spot” Gyokuro

:thermometer:Temperature: 175°
:hourglass_flowing_sand: Steep Time: 4 minutes.
It’s important to note that I brew this very differently from tradition, though only somewhat departed from the included recommendation of 165° for 2-3mins

Rishi’s Deep Kabuse

This is the prime example of a unique style of tea that really must be tried. An incredibly flavorful, vegetal, “brothy” cup, with a rich mouth feel, umami notes, and just generally delicious. I wish I could drink this every day, but it’s far too pricey. So it’s an occasional treat, and it works really nicely in that role. Not always available (goes out of stock), and not organic (though Rishi generally has great sourcing practices). Alternatively, get any of Rishi’s other pricey “Sincha” or Gyokuro options.

:thermometer:Temperature: 160°
:hourglass_flowing_sand: Steep Time: 4 minutes
Like the gyokuro above, I brew this differently from tradition and recommendation, primarily because I don’t usually like multiple steepings, as I’ve discussed previously.

Rishi’s Green Needles Single Cultivar Long Jing #43

This is another unique and delicious tea from Rishi, and one I haven’t seen the like of from any other source (though I’m sure they’re out there). It’s made from a tea varietal that is often made into “Dragonwell”, I believe, and processed in somewhat similar ways. It’s also an early spring harvest, like the nicer sencha/sincha, etc., so it has some of that umami quality, though is not at all “brothy” like those. I’d call it more “crisp”, it has a hint of almost resinous quality, with a delicious vegetal base flavor rather like pea shoots or something. I think of this as a cousin to my daily first-of-the-morning Dragonwell, but due to price it’s a much more occasional treat. It is particularly expensive in 2021 due to COVID shipping issues, but hopefully will come back down a bit in future years.

:thermometer:Temperature: 185°
:hourglass_flowing_sand: Steep Time: 5 minutes

Black Teas

Other Teas

Tisanes (Herbal “Tea”)