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Help with Tea (please!)

As a 21 year old college student with poor study habits, to say I drink a lot of coffee would be an understatment. I even go to Starbucks, sometimes twice a day (I know, I'm ashamed.)
I'm interested in switching to tea. I have no idea where to start. Any suggestions? I like things sweet. Please help, with any suggestions.
Thank you!

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  1. Here’s a thought. Check these two web sites to see if there is a tea shop near you. If so, go in and try a tea. Next time, try another. Talk to the people running the place. Look at the equipage and the way it is used. Smell the teas. The initial learning curve will be quite steep and in a very short time you will have formed some ideas of what you like, want, and need. By the way, honey and tea were made for each other.


    1 Reply
    1. re: yayadave

      Also try:

      http://murchies.com - they have a lovely autumn chai - kinda sweet on its own

      but yayadave is correct - try a tea shop and talk and sample

      have fun!

    2. Go buy a Twinings sample box, which has five or six of several kinds of tea -- English Breakfast, Irish Breakfast, Earl Grey, etc. You can add milk (not cream) and sugar. Make sure you steep the bags for two minutes in the hot water at a minimum. This will give you decent black tea by the cup, which will provide some of the caffeine you will undoubtedly miss. If you are going to get off the caffeine and want to look at herbals and Chai, have fun in the Bigelow and Celestial Seasonings section. You can get virtually any flavor in the world, and many are decaffeinated. I have never found the decaf and green teas an acceptable substitute for coffee -- probably because you generally don't put milk in spicy orange flavors and the like. Those flavors are best drunk plain or with honey/lemon. Milk and sugar go best in the standard black teas like English and Irish breakfast. BTW, there are some regular brands out there that are cheaper and good too. I like Red Rose, and drink it occasionally.

      1. When you say you like things sweet, do you mean you like stuff that's sweetened with sugar, or just that you like things with a generally sweet flavor profile? Tea (as in real tea, made from the Camilla Sinensis) is not generally exactly sweet, though some types are more sweet than others. I would recommend trying some high grade tea that's prepared without any additional sweetener and see if you can develop a taste for it, rather than just throwing in a bunch of sugar and milk.

        A darker more roasted and / or oxidized Chinese oolong, or a first flush Darjeeling might be interesting places to start. You don't mention where you live; maybe if you tell us that, we can give you some pointers of places to check out (beyond the ones mentioned in the first response). Of all the "chain" type places, I think only Peets really comes close to making a drinkable cup of tea (and selling at least acceptable quality looseleaf tea), though I haven't been in a Starbucks or Coffee Bean for quite some time.

        Buying good quality leaf and brewing tea yourself is probably the best way to go, unless you want to hang out at a coffee shop / teahouse for the atmosphere. A simple asian style cup with a built in strainer is one way to go, or a small pot (Beehouse makes some nice ones). Any sort of infuser device (like a tea stick or tea sock) will work too as long as it allows the leaves to fully open - avoid tea balls and stuff that prevents the leaf from opening. Loose leaf tea can be infused multiple times, so don't waste leaves and only drink the first brew (you may want to do a quick rinse before the first brew, to clean off any dust and to "open up" the leaves).

        Water.... In Chinese tea, water is known as the "mother of tea", and using the right water is very important to having good tasting tea. Purified tap water can work, but ideally, you'd like something with some mineral content but not too much... spring water with low total dissolved solids is ideal. This all may sound a little anal retentive, and it is, but with tea, you'll notice if you're using bad water.

        Temperature is also important. Different types of teas (and different grades of teas) can require very different temperatures. Black tea generally requires water at a full boil, actually hotter than the water at most restaurants / teahouses. On the flip side, white, green, and some oolong teas can sometimes or often benefit from cooler water - ranging from maybe 140 F to 190 F. Don't follow any one person's rule of thumb here - it's not an exact science.

        One other quick tip... pre-heating teaware is important.

        Smell the dry leaf, smell the wet leaf, smell the teacup when you're done drinking... all of these things will help you understand the tea you're drinking better.

        Keep in mind that tea isn't inherently "better" than coffee. Both can have a lot of caffeine, depending on how they're brewed. Some or most kinds of tea *may* have some beneficial health effects, but I wouldn't drink tea just for that reason.

        Upton and Adagio are two of the fairly popular online tea retailers; I think you can get better tea elsewhere, but these may be good starting points, and I think both offer samplers which might be helpful if there isn't somewhere good locally.

        1. Supermarket tea is often stale and big name brands are mostly blends of inferior teas. Go to www.uptonteacom and order a bunch of their sample sizes ($1 each), or try out some flavors at Tea Luxe if you have one nearby. Stick to loose tea, get a basket or filter for your cup if you don't have a tea pot.

          Black teas are often sweetened, green teas not. Also, if you want to lower the caffeine content, pour a little boiled water over the leaves, wait 60 seconds, pour that tea off and refill with water, steep for a few minutes. Caffeine is water soluble so you can eliminate most of it that way.

          Upton has a very informative website, so you can learn about the different varieties as you sample them.

          1 Reply
          1. re: cassis

            I second this recommendation. You will recieve a catalog along with your order that will provide all the info you need. If you chose to sweeten your own tea, I would suggest that you mix up a batch of simple syrup and use that instead of granulated sugar. You'll get a clearer and more consistant result.

          2. I am a big fan of tea, and have so many different varieties on hand. Most are Celestial Seasonings, Bigelow, Traditional Medicinals or Yogi Tea. Here is a link to CS:


            My favorites are Bengal Spice, English Toffee (a dessert tea), and Honey Lemon Ginseng Green Tea. I use honey in my tea, and a touch of lemon, if warranted, but not milk. I also really like the Bigelow Peach tea, Yogi De-tox tea, and Traditional Medicinals Ginger tea. But a good Chai is hard to beat! Just spend time reading the packages. Some have caffeine and some don't. Have fun!

            1. Another place to try is to see if you have a Teavana store nearby they have good tea, and have mixed blends in the store you can try and lots of tea accessories too.

              I really like jasmine pearl green tea. Also you can get chai tea too? That is very sweet depending on how you make it. Also when I want something sweeter I will blend a fruit tea with something else. At Teavana they have a vanilla tea that you can mix in to stuff it was too sweet for me, but might not be for you!

              8 Replies
              1. re: ktmoomau

                In crossing over from the coffee world, your biggest challenge is going to be robustness of flavor, such as what you're used to in coffee. With all due respect to tea aficionados, I find that many of them equate tea quality exclusively with delicacy of flavor. Many, I suspect, have never even tasted the sort of dark, hearty, heavy-hitting cup of tea such as the Brits and the Irish have been subsisting on with delight for a couple of centuries. If you want a tea of a similar punch to a strong cup of coffee, seek out an Irish Breakfast or English Breakfast style (loose or bags--I like PG Tips brand or Barry's), pour boiling water over it, let it steep good and strong, and then add milk (whole) and sugar with a generous hand. That should take care of your caffeine needs, leaving you free to sample all the more delicate styles later, for recreational purposes.

                1. re: Barry Foy

                  I don't know about caffeine strength, but for robust there is Lapsang Souchong. When looking at some of the threads on Chowhound, you find that tea is much more varied than you would ever believe possible.

                  1. re: yayadave

                    "Robust" isn't the first thing I think of when I hear "lapsang souchong" -- its notable quality is its smokiness. You might like robust teas and still not like lapsang souchong, which I find to be on the acrid side, so I wouldn't recommend it for a tea novice. For a tea that's robust and with just a hint of smoke, you might try Russian caravan.

                    Also, if you really want to transition from coffee to tea, I wouldn't bother with Bigelow, Celestial Seasonings (their herbal blends are nice, but their black teas are meh), Twinings, or really any bagged tea -- they'll do in a pinch, but in the spectrum of teas, they're pretty mediocre. In coffee terms, they're the equivalent of supermarket quality canned coffee: better than instant, but not in the same class as fresh ground premium roast coffee.

                    I suggest you take your Starbucks coffee allowance and invest in an inexpensive single-cup basket infuser (you want something big enough for the leaves to expand and the water to circulate) and sampling of premium loose teas. Black teas and green teas are brewed differently, so if you'r not sure how to bring out the best of a specific tea, it's best to ask the vendor.

                    If you do decided to go the teabag route, I'd suggest trying to get your hands on some Yorkshire tea (the red label, not the gold label) from Taylor's of Harrowgate. It's strong enough to stand a spoon up in, and has a slight natural sweetness.

                    Welcome to the world of tea! Next step: varietal honey for your tea!

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      Right you are. I only made the comment about Lapsang Souchong for BF, although I'm sure he knows about it and much more than I do. Lapsang Souchong always makes me think of creosote - don't know why.

                      The comment about the varieties of tea available was more for the OP's benefit.

                      I'm hopin' she'll come down with a nice little tea pot and a selection of loose tea to start with.

                      Truthfully, I think she has enough info already on this thread to get a start.

                      "Varietal honey for your tea!" Oh, my!

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                        just in case you weren't aware, Russian Caravan contains a touch of lapsang souchong...it's a blended tea. might wanna try that before moving on to pure lapsang. the russian caravan is wonderful, my current favorite along with oriental beauty oolong (a completely different taste)

                        1. re: spinach

                          Thank you. I'll look for that for times when I don't want to main line Lapsang. Like 11:30 PM. That's not the time when I want Lapsang to get my motor running.

                    2. re: Barry Foy

                      Yeah I had to stop drinking many diest sodas and coffee because of my stomach, I find I miss all the sweetness in coffee too, I really like honey it for a sweetener over sugar unless I am making iced tea. And Barry Foy is right on with some milk too for breakfast. But beware once you start drinking tea you will convert! I really have to watch how much tea I drink because I like it so much more that I will get way too much caffeine in me or will forget to switch over to decaf in the evening because I want a particular flavor.

                      1. re: Barry Foy

                        I think a lot of tea drinkers like robust flavors, and I would argue that milk and sugar, if anything, detract from a "robust flavor". It is true that the very highest grades of tea tend to (on the whole) be more subtle than another good, but lower grade, tea.

                        But in any event, there are a lot of types of tea that are typically suggested to reformed / reforming coffee drinkers - darker roasted oolongs, and maybe some types of pu'erh. But then again, if you prefer the flavor of coffee, and are mostly interested in fulfilling your caffeine needs, just drink that instead of tea.

                        I don't drink a lot of coffee these days, mostly because I'd rather be drinking tea... but I enjoy the taste of both. They're different

                    3. Here is one of thousands of threads on Chowhound about tea. This thread wanders all over the tea map. If you read it, you will become steeped in much tea lore. Someplace in this thread, I gathered together the web addresses of all the tea merchants who were mentioned in this thread up to that time and there were nineteen.

                      You might just want to find the simplest way to enjoy your tea while you are studying and not want to bother with all this arcane information. We don’t want you flunkin out cause yu mite endd up ritin jest lik I du.
                      Teapot with internal mesh basket - should I get one?http://www.chowhound.com/topics/360379

                      1. Thanks for all the suggestions. It helped a lot. I should have clarified myself a little better. I'm not so much switching to tea as I am trying to cut back on coffee. I don't really enjoy the flavor of coffee that much, which is probably why I like it so sweet. My boyfriend is a big fan of black tea with sugar, and I didn't enjoy that much. I have also tried a chamomille (?sp) tea with spearmint that was, well...like chewing doublemint gum. It was one of the "pyramid" teas. They also have a black caramel truffle tea in the "pyramid" shape that I was considering trying. I'm not looking for spice, or anything too strong. Just like a mellow, mild flavored tea. Something very drinkable. I also love honey, and often sweeten my coffee with it. Thanks again for all the suggestions. You have all been very helpful.

                        13 Replies
                        1. re: linz_e_moore

                          There are some standard teas that are not so esoteric and might suit you just fine, but if I may suggest, I'll bet you would like Earl Grey. With or with-out honey or milk.

                          1. re: linz_e_moore

                            This might get me skewered in these parts, but the "mellow, mild flavoured" description brings the Gevalia [jamine & ancient cherry] green tea bags to mind. As a general rule, I like a good jasmine pearl or white tea and would never recommend tea bags, but when I want something that is easy and drinkable and not terribly complex, it's off to the green tea bags. Moreover, the teas (at least the two that I had) take well to sweetening with honey.

                            1. re: linz_e_moore

                              Also, consider "add-ins" to tea. You can add a few drops of rose water or orange water for something a little exotic. I know you mentioned that you are not looking for spice, but you can add cardamom or cinnamon to tea for an entirely different taste. You can add some citrus slices or herbs. You can add a teaspoonful of your favorite jam. And the list goes on and on and on...

                              Then there is the whole category of "other" teas, such as barley tea. I make a quart of barley tea (one teabag steeps in a quart of cold or luke water in just an hour or so) and then I drink this throughout the day as a non-calorie beverage.

                              Starbucks and the like have lots of variations on their theme, but I think you can do at least that AND MORE with tea!

                              1. re: liu

                                In Korea, true tea and "other" tea are kind of lumped together under "cha" as in bori cha (Barley tea).
                                There are a huge number of these "other" tea/beverages that are made from different fruits/plants, many of which are very good.
                                On the sweet side are some drinks made from something similar to marmalade:
                                Citron, honeyed ginger, Chinese Quince, honeyed ginseng, jujube, etc.
                                Some others brewed from leaves/nuts/buds: Solomon's Seal, Arrowroot, mugwort, buckwheat, barley, corn, brown rice, etc.
                                Just stroll through the "tea" aisle of any large Asian market.

                                1. re: hannaone

                                  hannaone - You have certainly organized the subject much better than I could have, and I thank you for injecting some substance and structure to my attempt to stretch the tea "boundaries" beyond the Lipton bag.

                                  1. re: liu

                                    There is so much more in the world of brewed beverages beyond coffee and tea.
                                    I have been introducing people to these beverages for the past fourteen years, through the Korean Rest that my wife and I owned in Spokane, and now through the place we run in the Seattle area.
                                    Ginger, plum, citron, and ginseng have been the most popular, but we have some people moving beyond their comfort zones and discovering the richness of east Asian herbal, fruit, and plant offerings.

                              2. re: linz_e_moore

                                You may want to try out just the plain Chamomile tea with sugar (minus the mint). Anything mint like always reminds me of toothpaste. Chamomille, or my other favorite - chrysanthemum, are very mild 'tea' (technically more herb/flowers) that can be enjoyed with tons of sugar or honey, hot or cold, and is quite refreshing and definitely should not overwhelm.

                                Other milder traditional tea is a good darjeeling - plain no sugar or milk.

                                You didn't say where you are located, but Peet's is a national chain and I think they sell a decent selection of teas.

                                1. re: notmartha

                                  Yeah - anything not at least partially made from the tea plant is not technically "tea", though the term is widely used to describe a lot of herbal infusions / tisanes / etc.

                                  For a tasty mint "tea" that doesn't taste like toothpaste, just steep fresh mint in hot water - delicious either hot or cold.

                                  1. re: will47

                                    To be honest I'll rather make a good mojito or mint julep with fresh mint than tea. ;)

                                    Something about mint in hot water just makes me want to gag.

                                    1. re: will47

                                      will47 -- I believe Chaya Venice serves mint "tea" this way.

                                  2. re: linz_e_moore

                                    Don't give up because you hated chamomille. I'm a huge tea drinker and I can't stand that stuff. It's actually not a tea anyway (it's not from the tea plant). Also, don't drink the tea at Starbucks. It's awful and it will turn you off tea forever.

                                    1. re: omotosando

                                      Chamomille is for bedtime, sleep or relaxation. Some inexpensive teabags taste nasty. But the Egyptian Chamomille www.specialteas.comi s nice in the evening and generate techicolor dreams for me on occasion.
                                      Better to stick with the Green teas until the body has recovered from the abuse of coffee and cola drinks.

                                      1. re: nutrition

                                        Sleep, relaxation, whatever. High-end; low-end. I still think chamomille is nasty stuff. I guess I just don't like drinking herbs.

                                  3. One more note here (and perhaps this is just my opinion) but the flavor spectrum of teas seems to me far, far greater than that of coffee. Earthy, delicate, sweet, tart, fruity, musty, perfumed, toasty, meadowy...the mind reels. In other words, it may take you a while to find which tea (or teas!) is the one for you.

                                    I applaud your tea odyssey. I used to drink many cups of strong filtered coffee daily, then one day realized my body was rebelling.

                                    Another nice thing about tea...in addition to the caffeine, there's a substance in tea that relaxes as well. It's not all about the buzz.

                                    1. There is a wonderful place called Teavana that has many different teas and if they have a store in your area to go to they are very helpful in explaining all the different varities. If you do not have a store in your area you can find them on the web buy typing in teavana.com Hope this helps

                                      1. I was addicted to coffee for most of my life without being able to beat it. Then 21 years ago, I got some GREEN TEA and it tasted gastly like black tea, so I diluted one bag to about 6-8 cups and drank it thoughout the day as weak as it was, it was NOT gastly. Over several days, as the body cleansed out the coffee oils, ut tasted weaker, so I diluted it less and less. Trying to drink coffee at the same made me sick to my stomach, so I stopped even the one cup a day. Very soon, I was enjoying the energy and clear headedness that Green tea gives without the caffeine in coffee. A wonderful healthy feeling which improved my studies, memory, cholesterol, weight and waistline.

                                        Whole Green tea leaves are better then tea bags, and can be used several times by just adding more hot water. You might want to try Rooibos or Red tea with various natural flavorings. You get the same desired effects and more variety. Look up www.specialteas.com for much information on Green, Red, and Oolong teas, which will cost only pennies a day for several cups. Often free shipping around the Holidays to try more flavors.
                                        I use tea bags to take to restaurants. Do not try to drink the useless cola drinks, since like coffee will make tea taste lousy. Be patient and the body will begin to function more normally with time.
                                        Also, do a Search and read the other lengthy Posts on Green Tea and better if you don't bother with the Black teas, which have always tasted bad to me.
                                        This infomation has worked for many other people, who have made much progress after giving coffee, cola drinks, etc.

                                        1. There is a lot of talk about "robustness" here, as well as some great suggestions about buying yourself a variety of teas. However, I would disagree about trying brews of sample teas in different tea shops UNLESS! they brew the tea fresh for you by the cup instead of community sample pots. I don't personally know of any that do.

                                          You do need to experiement at home. Unlike coffee, you can use tea leaves (or bags) for up to three steepings. Each steeping has subtle differences in flavor. How long you steep tea also has a very strong impact on flavor. And of course, each variety of tea has its own unique flavor.

                                          As a newby to tea who is used to (and loves coffee), you might try Earl Grey tea. It's a version of traditional teas of Turkey, in which oil of bergamot is infused to add another dimension to already excellent teas. It has a unique flavor that first time tea drinkers usually find fascinating.

                                          Teas can range from very economically prices to amazingly expensive for very special small harvest teas. In addition to black teas, there are green teas, white teas, herb teas, and flower teas. For very unique teas, you might try some of the Celestial Seasoning's Holiday Teas (bags) now being more widely distributed for the season. I always stock up on them for the rest of the year.


                                          1. One thing I didn't get from your OP or subsequent - are you looking for caffeine or not? If so, many of the suggestions below won't work - chamomile, plum, lighter greens and whites, etc. If you want a sweeter, fruitier flavor, several of the black teas infused with fruit might also be a good choice. If you have a decent grocer near you, they might carry Republic of Tea, which come infused with ginger, blackberry, etc. They also mail order.


                                            As "comestible" points out, the spectrum of flavors to be enjoyed from tea is huge.

                                            Good luck.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Loren3

                                              I'm not really concerned with the caffeine. I could really take it or leave it. I just really want to try something different. Your suggestions are great. I live in Columbia, MO (population is somewhere around 90,000). I'm not aware of any Asian markets, but I will definitely look into it.

                                              1. re: linz_e_moore

                                                You could try these:

                                                Chong's Oriental Market
                                                701 Locust St, Columbia - (573) 443-1977

                                                Hong Kong Market: Asian Food Sea Food & Gifts
                                                3510 Interstate 70 Dr SE # D, Columbia - (573) 474-2878

                                            2. You should definitely try yerba mate. My family is from Paraguay, where yerba mate is native, and I have drunk it for much of my life. It can get you up in the morning and make you alert/energetic, but a lot of people, including me, don't get jittery from it the way that coffee sometimes makes me feel not so good. Supposedly it is a lot healthier for you, containing lots of vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants (here's a website: http://www.yerba-mate.com/health.htm ), though i drink it because I like it and because of all the traditions associated with it in Paraguay. It's flavor certainly stands up to coffee's. Traditionally we drink it in a group out of a single gourd that one person refills with hot water for each person. But we also make a plain tea from the leaves that can be drunk black but is really good brewed strong with milk and sugar. You should be able to find mate in any teashop but also in a lot of supermarkets.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: dinnerbell

                                                I fear there are much to many suggestions of different hot drinks to make an easy change from strong charbucks coffee to good simple teas. I would recommend you stick to the simple green teas until your body adjusts to the change and you find those few teas that satisfy your taste, the most! Otherwise, you might be running around the stores trying hundreds of different 'hot' beverages recommended on here.
                                                Notice chinese restaurants serve only one kind of green tea with your meals. Sometimes they have an OOlong tea available.

                                                1. re: nutrition

                                                  Tastes for sweet is a learned habit and addiction also. It will decrease as you body begins to function normally without the coffee caffeince, fat and sugar.
                                                  The best no calorie sweetner is Stevia Extract. Just a speck is enough for a cup of green tea. It is natural from the Amazon area. As you make progress with the green tea, you will lose your taste for sugary and fatty foods.

                                                  1. re: nutrition

                                                    Incidentally, stevia, is an herb that is also native to Paraguay (not the amazon) and supposedly has many health benefits. It was classified by a swiss botanist that immigrated to Paraguay, but has been used for millennia by native paraguayans. It's called Ka'a Hee in Guaraní, and I guess that might make it the most traditional sweetener for yerba mate, though they would add the whole leaf rather than an extract to the tea.

                                                    There are still regulatory barriers in the U.S. for wide use of stevia though, which is why you have to look for it in the health food section as a 'dietary supplement' rather than as a sweetener. Japan has used it as a food additive for decades, which is why China produces the majority of the world's stevia, despite the fact that it is native to Paraguay. While I'm on my paraguay promotional kick, a good part of the organic sugar and organic fair trade sugar on the market is produced in Paraguay as well. Sugar is sugar, and still not great for you, but at least this is chemical free and contains some trace nutrients and elements that are taken out of refined white sugar. It has a better flavor too, white sugar just tastes sweet, evaporated cane juice has more vanillay and molassesy notes.