Where there is tea, there is hope.
I found that out on one of those dark night of the soul days, years ago. To lift my mood, a friend suggested that I brew myself a blend of Japanese sencha, mellow chamomile, and lemongrass.
I gave the whole leaf blend five minutes to steep, poured the tea into a dainty teacup and slowly took a sip.
Suddenly—or not so suddenly—there was no jarring notion of suddenness about it—my shoulders lowered a degree. And lowered still. I felt an unraveling. An unclenching.
It was magical.
A cup of tea can help to change your mood. And we have loads of them—moods, that is. Trillions, according to one distinguished scientist who is developing a mathematical model to measure the multitudes of states the brain can be in.
Whatever floats your boat, I say. I’d rather float some tea.
Since the first tea leaf accidentally flew into a vessel of hot water 5,000 years ago, we humans have known that tea is magical and paradoxical. It is yin and yang, up and down, win and lose.
MY TOP 10 TEA-RIFIC MOOD MANAGERS:
Many of my picks hail from Harney & Sons, a family-owned business based in Millerton, NY. Harney supplies the tea at London’s Dorchester Hotel, along with other top-drawer eateries, so they know what they’re doing. Their tea also won’t break the bank. All my choices are whole leaf teas; you can buy many of them in little silk sachets to make individual cups. If you’re going to buy regular tea bags, consider the U.K.’s number one black tea choice: P & G. You’ll probably find it in your local supermarket. Steer clear of tea bags filled with what insiders call “dust,” the residue that falls off the leaves. Quick fact: Herbal teas aren’t technically “teas,” since they don’t hail from the Camellia sinensis plant, like black, green and white teas do, but why quibble?)
Looking for Contemplation?
Sip Harney’s Paris Tea, a black tea with hints of vanilla, caramel, and lemony Bergamot. Or unwind with a cup of Versailles Lavender.
Looking for some Zzz’s?
Try Tay Tea’s Kaapstad, a caffeine-free loose blend of South African red rooibos with vanilla, almonds, marigold petals, and ginger.
Another great caffeine-free choice is Egyptian Chamomile.
Want to revive yourself after horrible at work?
Reach for a cup of Bohemian Raspberry Tea, a Japanese sencha-style green tea with natural raspberry flavoring from the English Tea Store (www.englishteastore.com). After a happy, rhapsodic cup, you’ll want to sing like Freddy Mercury: Nothing really matters, anyone can see . . . nothing really matters to me.
Need a little TLC?
Brew a comforting, mellow cup of Harney’s Ceylon and India, a classic black tea blend of Indian Assam and smooth Ceylon. Even though black tea has caffeine, the percentage pales in comparison to coffee. Green tea has even less caffeine than black, while white tea has less caffeine than green.
Give yourself a boost with Bubble Tea, a giggling medley of tea, hot milk, sugar, and Tapioca curls. Another good choice is Harney’s Chocolate Mint, a black tea blend with chocolate and peppermint leaves. Think Girl Scout cookie in a cup. For a decaf take on the theme, opt for Tay Tea’s Better Than Sex, a rooibos-based brew with bits of Belgian dark chocolate and mint.
Yearning for Enlightenment?
Sip Harney’s Japanese Sencha, a pure green tea that will help clear away the cobwebs. For another take on wisdom, don’t miss a whole leaf cup of Taiwan Tung Ting Mountain Oolong tea. The light, golden oolong infusion will bring to mind jasmine and gardenia blossoms.
Need a Morning Lift?
Relish a full-bodied cup of Harney’s East Frisian Tea, a black tea blend of Assam, Darjeeling, and Ceylon. Or, splurge on a tin of Lamill’s Gas Pedal Tea, a black tea tonic of Indian Assam and the ancient tea tree leaves of Vietnamese Lahn. If you happen to be in LA, order a cup at Aroma, where they call the blend English Breakfast, or order the tea directly from Lamill at www.lamill.com. (It’s not cheap, but it will be worth it. Call it an affordable luxury.)
Pounce on a pot of Harney’s Hot Cinnamon Spice, a strong blend of black teas, three types of cinnamon, orange peel, and cloves. Add a dash of sugar, honey, or agave nectar and feel the fire. Another great choice is Tay Tea’s Day in Provence, a rooibos-based blend of lavender, rose petals, red and black currants, and rose hips. It’s like a stroll on a sun-dappled lane. You’ll feel the warmth in your soul.
6 Top Tea Tips:
• Most superior tea brands offer instructions about how much tea to use and how long to steep it, so follow the recipe. As a general rule, use one teaspoon per six ounce cup, but let your own taste buds be your guide. I use about a teaspoon and a half.
• Generally, whole leaf black teas steep for about three to five minutes; green teas steep for about two or three, and white teas, one to two minutes. Don’t just go by the color of the brew; taste it to know when it’s done.
• For black tea, make sure that the water comes to a rolling boil; green and white teas do best with water that’s hot but not boiling.
• The vessel matters: Champagne tastes better in a flute than a water glass, while black tea tastes best in a cup, not a mug. That said, if you just love that chipped coffee mug, go for it.
• Skip the half and half with your black tea; it will obliterate the flavor. Opt for milk.
• Avoid round metal infusers; good tea needs room to expand and release its flavor. Try an unbleached paper bag specifically made for tea, like the biodegradable, mess-free t-sacs, or try a brewing basket.
NEWS FLASH for Restaurants:
NEVER heat the water for tea in the same machine that you use for coffee. If you do, your customers will complain. Tea drinkers really don’t like to complain, but if, say, your own cup of coffee ended up tasting like tea grounds, you’d mention it to the wait staff, wouldn’t you?)
- The tea water must be fresh and boiling—not lukewarm and stale.
- If you serve first-rate, whole bean coffee, serve first-rate, whole leaf tea!