Thursday, October 22, 2009

My Cup of Tea

By Brianne Harrison

I’ve never been a big coffee drinker, but like most people, I need a little something to get me going in the morning (and, admittedly, to keep me going all day). So what do I turn to? Tea. The venerable drink once most closely associated with Victorian tea parties and meditative Japanese ceremonies has recently become hip again, which is good news for us tea lovers (newcomers and lifers both!) because it means it’s much easier to get our hands on the good stuff.

A lifetime of drinking tea has turned me into a major snob, I’ll admit it. I can’t stand tea from teabags* and instead make it the old-fashioned way—by brewing loose-leaf tea. Plenty of people think loose-leaf tea is a pain—and yes, it is messier and slightly more work than tossing in a bag that can just be thrown away, but loose-leaf tea’s the best kind—it’s typically tastier than what you get in a teabag because it’s a higher grade of tea. It’s definitely worth trying at least once, so you can taste the difference.

But where does one buy this type of tea? As I said, the rise in tea’s popularity has meant an increase in places to buy it. Wegman’s carries loose-leaf tea, and there are quite a few teashops scattered throughout New Jersey. I, however, prefer to order my tea from Adagio, which is based in Clifton and offers pretty much any tea you could possibly want—black, flavored black, oolong, white, green, rooibos, herbal—you name it, they have it. And if they don’t have it, you can easily create a custom blend through their website. If you just want a taste without the commitment of a whole canister, you can order small sample tins for as little as $2. As a bonus for us New Jerseyans, since Adagio is a New Jersey company, your order will most likely be on your doorstep within a business day, maybe two, depending on when you place your order, so no need to pay for overnight shipping!

Another nice thing about Adagio is its website, which provides a wealth of information. If you don’t know the first thing about tea, you can learn everything you need to know there, and if you’re so obsessed you want to live, breathe, and eat the stuff, you can learn how to do that too (their recipe section is great—I can’t wait to go home and make the fresh fig and Assam Melody tea bread or the Darjeeling braised pork).

If you’re still not quite sold on tea, consider the health benefits. Tea has been credited with helping to prevent cavities, fight allergies, improve memory, lower the risk of certain cancers, lower cholesterol, reduce blood pressure, increase the strength of your immune system, and boost your metabolism. You can’t say that about coffee. And, if loose tea is too much of a hassle, Adagio sells many of its teas in tea sachets, so you get all the benefits of the loose leaf in the convenience of a teabag.

My Picks

Chocolate/Valentine’s teas: I know what you’re thinking—Chocolate? Really? Ew. But bear with me. This tea really does taste like chocolate. Not Hershey’s chocolate, but a nice, mellow, dark chocolate. It has all the (many) benefits of black tea, and it helps me fight my cravings for sweets, which obviously helps keep the waistline in check. For extra indulgence, try their Valentine’s tea, which tastes amazingly like a chocolate-covered strawberry.

Golden Monkey: This one’s a little bit of a splurge, but it’s worth it. The tea brews up a beautiful golden color and has a wonderful, rich caramel taste to it. It’s great for after dinner.
Assam Melody: My new go-to breakfast tea. A wonderful, hearty basic black with a slightly malty taste to it.

Silver Needle: The queen of white teas. White tea is, apparently, one of the healthiest teas you can drink. This particular tea is the best of the best, which means it, too, is a splurge, but also one that’s worth it. The tea brewed from it is light, floral, and the tiniest bit sweet. Unlike most teas, you can brew this one over and over again all day long without really affecting the flavor.

*When I say teabags, I mean the flimsy paper ones filled with tea dust, not the lovely silky ones filled with whole leaf teas. I consider those tea sachets. I told you I was a snob.

No comments: