From the days of Tea Master Sen no Rikyū to present, tea has been revered as an empowering, experiential framework for introspection and euphoria on one hand and a caffeinated burst of energy on the other. In recent decades, its tremendous health benefits have come to the forefront, in particular, the antioxidant-rich nature of green teas. As a tea enthusiast, tea is part of my healthy living. I have personally tried thousands of teas from all over the world. At this point, I have so many teas that I could open up a tea shop, but despite my many choices, there are only about two handfuls of teas that I generally drink as, well, I am quite picky at this point and the ones that I drink are simply the best ones (in my humble opinion). Whether you are a tea enthusiast like myself or just an occasional drinker, the following list provides my top recommendations for healthy, energizing (best in category) teas based my lifelong experiences with teas from all different brands and countries. Drink up!
#1. Seogwang Sencha (really a South Korean jeoncha green tea similar to a Japanese sencha), sold by Tea Gschwendner, is my favorite tea of all and one of the only green teas that I ever drink these days as nearly every other green tea fails to even come close to the flavor and the rich intensity of this green tea (which, if strongly brewed as I like it, is probably the closest a green tea comes to matcha in flavor). This tea is very sensitive to temperature and brewing time (as it will burn if left in past 2.5 minutes, but is well worth the vigilance). Two teaspoons per 8 ounces of water at 175 degrees for 2.5 minutes should make for a perfect cup of green euphoria.
#2 Harney & Sons’ Matcha Iri Genmaicha is a fantastic hybrid of genmaicha infused with matcha. The elements are seamlessly combined to create a rich green tea wrought from bancha leaves with notes of rice (“genmai”) and the rich, headiness and vegetal flare of a matcha. So tasty!
For Matcha (as in the featured photo by CycloneBill on Flickr), I prefer to mix three parts Maeda-en’s (1) Sen-nen no Midori (the lower side of their premium collection which doesn’t have as iodine-like a final note as opposed to many other matchas) with (2) Maeda-en’s Dou-ki no Shiro (which adds more body and some great flavor elements to the matcha mix despite having too iodine-like a final note as a stand alone). The resulting matcha has all of the qualities of a great matcha without any of the qualities that all too often detract from a given brand’s matcha offerings. I would highly recommend this simple blend of matcha to anyone looking for an outstanding cup of matcha.
Black and White Tea Blend
Harney & Sons’ Earl Grey Supreme Tea is quite simply the best high-grade Earl Grey out there, so if you are looking for incredible bergamot and tea notes brought to bear in a rich black and white tea blend, this tea is as artful and delicious as it gets.
#1. Harney & Sons’ Hot Cinnamon Spice black tea gives you the best of cinnamon and black tea with smooth, well-rounded notes that make for a perfect fusion and flavor arc.
#2. Also from Harney & Sons’, Lapsang Souchong smells as incredible as it tastes. This Chinese black tea has a heady and smoky pine flavor that will have you feeling like you’re on top of a mountain. Each cup is pure adventure.
Excluding the storied Da Hong Pao (at its $35,000+ per ounce price tag), Tea Gschwendner’s Nepal Oolong is quite simply the most impressive oolong on the market. The flavor is stronger and richer with a slight smokiness that eclipses every other oolong that I have ever tried. While Republic of Tea makes a decent oolong (their Dragon Oolong), the flavor is just not a decent substitute for Tea Gschwendner’s Nepal Oolong.
Tea Gschwendner’s Blueberry White tea is my favorite white tea. The soft, yet delicious taste of white tea integrated with the distinct taste and aroma of fresh blueberries makes for a terrific white tea drinking experience. It’s simply heaven.
Non-Caffeinated, Herbal Tea (Tisanes)
#1. Organic Buckwheat Tea (though not technically a tea) is known for its healthy properties (including being high in antioxidants and heart healthy). The taste is nutty with a rich wheat-like flavor (even though buckwheat is not wheat). You can find organic buckwheat teas on Amazon.
#2. Tea Gschwendner’s Miss Blueberry tea is my new favorite non-caffeinated fruit tea and tastes like a really delicious blueberry muffin. If you like blueberries, you can’t go wrong on this one. It’s the perfect tea when you want the flavor without the caffeine.
#3. Tea Gschwendner’s Roasted Almonds tea is another amazing non-caffeinated choice. It’s rich and smooth almond flavor coupled with hibiscus and vanilla is so good, you won’t miss dessert!
#4. Harney & Sons’ Herbal Hot Cinnamon Spice is not a good as the caffeinated version mentioned above under black teas, but it is still very good and makes for a great non-caffeinated option, with delicious cinnamon and rooibos notes.