The World of Tea: Six Tea Recommendations

| 2/17/2011 3:04:12 PM

E.McIntoshErin is the Communications Manager at Mountain Rose Herbs and an apprenticing herbalist at the Columbines School of Botanical Studies, where she botanizes and wildcrafts medicinal plants in the magnificent Oregon Cascades.  

The allure of tea has captivated the world for more than 5,000 years. I, too, have been an enchanted teahead since the delicious liquor of Orange Pekoe first passed my lips. While my friends were slurping down sugary purple sodas and syrupy chocolate milk, I filled my cup with Dad’s iced sweet tea. He made a fresh pitcher every few days, brewing the tea to a strong black amber and then whipping sugar into the hot infusion before tossing just-sliced juicy lemon wheels into the dark swirling goodness. So refreshing during hot summer barbeques, the tea’s sweetness and astringency cut right through the wonderfully salty and greasy southern cooking of my childhood.

Beautiful whole leaf Oolong after a quick steep.
Photo by Erin McIntosh  

The diverse world of tea blossomed for me 10 years ago when I moseyed into a new little tea house in my funky neighborhood. I stood at the counter in complete awe of the tea rainbow that surrounded me. Not knowing where to begin, I decided to try them all and ordered the first green tea on their menu. Within a few weeks, my kitchen cabinets were spilling with bags and tins of Assam, aged Pu’erh cakes, Dragon Well, Yunnan Golden Tips, fluffy sweet rose petals, vanilla chai, and smoky Lapsang Souchong.

I soon discovered my six must-have favorites …

1. Oolong: My absolute favorite green oolong is grown in the high mountains at elevations reaching over 3,500 feet. Each leaf is tightly rolled after withering in the sun and undergoing light oxidation. Boasting a sweet and flowery perfume, this tea is wonderfully floral and buttery, with a gorgeous green-gold liquor. Amazing!