Links to Additional Tea Information

Some Thoughts on TEA

Tea Trader I highly recommend this online mail order source of quality teas

Many Americans tend to think of  tea drinkers as rather stuffy, humorless characters with a British accent.  I suppose this caricature goes back to the days leading up to the American Revolution and the tea tax imposed on the colonists by the King of England.  In protest of this unpopular tariff, American businessmen formed nonimportation leagues, agreeing not to import tea and many colonial housewives signed pledges promising to refrain from using tea.  Then in December of 1773 about 60 colonists dressed as Indians boarded two British ships docked in Boston Harbor and emptied 342 boxes of tea into the water in protest.  The Boston Tea Party, as it was popularly called, became a precipitating event in the revolution and as a result the United States became and still is largely a nation of coffee drinkers.

Those of us Americans who drink tea are a largely ignored yet growing minority, but that doesn't prevent us from enjoying a good cup of tea.

Tea is the beverage produced by infusing the processed leaves of the Thea sinensis plant. They may be processed in a number of ways, but principally the green teas are crushed and dried while the black teas are crushed then "fermented" or oxidized for a short time before being dried. Flavored teas have flavors or other materials such as fragrant blossoms or seeds added. Herbal teas are not true teas but are more correctly called infusions unless they contain actual tea leaves. I avoid decaffeinated teas. They invariably lack flavor and are flat, usually tasting like infused wood chips. If that's the only tea offered, I'll drink plain water instead.


Some of My Favorites

Herbal Teas-

Peppermint- I find some sellers sell spearmint or hybrid mints as peppermint. These may be OK, but nothing is better than real peppermint. For me it soothes the stomach and digestive system. I like to use sugar with this. It also makes an excellent drink iced and can be added to regular iced tea as flavoring.

Pennyroyal- My grandfather introduced me to this many years ago. He would find it growing wild on the hillside behind his house where logging activity one or two years earlier had disturbed the soil. He called it "penneroil" so I had a hard time figuring out what it really was for awhile. I looked in many books for penneroil with no success. It too is a kind of mint with a distinctive, slightly "medicinal" flavor which I enjoy. The leaves of this plant rubbed on the skin help repel mosquitoes. I believe drinking the tea has a similar effect. I also use sugar with this. I especially like it in summer when camping. It's the only mosquito repellant I know of that you can drink. The plant I usually use is a native American annual, Hedeoma pulegiodes. If you buy it or find plants they will most likely be of the European Pennyroyal, Mentha pulegium. If you want to grow your own of the European variety, it's a perennial that needs some protection from hard freezing with mulch. Both plants produce similar tea in my experience.

True Teas-

Yunnan - My absolute favorite all around tea. This tea can steep in the water all day without turning strong or bitter and it even seems to become sweeter. At its best it almost has a hint of licorice flavor. I first found this in the Chinese pavilion at Epcot in Disney World about 15 years ago, but haven't seen it there for over ten years now. I've found various grades ranging from excellent to very poor from three or four sources over the years, but the best and most reliable is the Tea Trader. They have an extra special grade called Black Gold, but the regular Yunnan is sufficient for me. I used to drink this tea late at night while listening to the local morning shortwave programs from Africa. At times a good cup transports me back to those enjoyable nights.

China Green - This tea, simply labeled "China Green Tea" in a green, round cannister I bought in a grocery store in the Chinatown section of Philadelphia. The first few times I drank it I thought it was "so-so". Gradually it has become a favorite, especially when I don't feel like anything else. It soothes the stomach and the spirit. I hope I can find it again before it's gone.

Alberta Clipper - A tea blend from Tea Trader composed of Assam, Yunnan and Darjeeling. It's especially good for long winter nights or even those late spring nights after a cold front passes and unseasonable frosts threaten. The unlikely tale of its discovery is told here.

Flavored Teas-

Constant Comment - A freely available orange and cinnamon flavored tea from Bigelow Teas.  I like it during the winter holidays with some sugar.

Earl Grey-Star Trek fans know this as the favorite tea of Captain Jean Luc Picard. A fine black tea flavored with oil of bergamot that may well be around to be enjoyed in the 24th century.  It's the second most popular tea in the world next to English Breakfast. You could make an herbal equivalent of this with leaves of bee balm, Monarda didyma or try adding the leaves to regular black tea for your own personal blend.

Tea is harvested from the young leaves of Camellia sinensis, formerly known as Thea sinensis.  It is a native of Southeast Asia and records of its consumption as a beverage  by the Chinese go back to the 10th century B.C.  It wasn't introduced into England until 1653 A.D., about the same time as the introduction of coffee.


There have been many elaborate descriptions of the proper way to make tea. According to one source the Tibetans make tea by boiling the leaves in milk and topping it off with a dollop of rancid yak butter. YUM! But since I can't often get rancid yak butter, I prefer a simpler technique: Use hot, nearly boiling water and add about a teaspoon of leaves to each cup. I prefer to avoid teabags when possible because they can affect the flavor. Sometimes I use a springloaded stainless steel tea infuser to keep the leaves orderly, but recently began using a nylon net supported by a plastic frame that fits inside the cup. The leaves can spread out better and infuse their full flavor like loose tea should. I believe the key to making the best tea is to use only high quality water. Exactly what that means is difficult to say, but I can say that bad water will make a good tea taste muddy and hide much of the desirable flavor. With my well water at home, which is not bad tasting by itself, I need to use a Brita water filter to make good flavorful tea. At my workplace the water is adequate right out of the tap, so I suggest experimenting.

I also like to allow my tea to steep for a long time, consequently I tend to use a smaller quantity of tea leaves than someone who might brew it for only a few minutes. The quality teas I use all seem to accept lengthy brewing times without developing any bitterness or excessively strong flavors. I don't add sugar or cream now, but once I used lots of both. I guess one's tastes change as one ages.

Speaking of taste, the best teas should be drunk before eating strong foods.  Though tea will help cleanse the palate, the delicate flavors in the tea itself will be lost on the drinker if he has been eating highly flavored foods.


In recent years the news media have been reporting many healthful benefits of drinking tea.  First they were attributed to only green tea, but now that has been extended to include any of the true teas.  Some of the benefits include increased fertility, reduced risk of heart disease, anti cancer properties, easing arthritis, aiding in weight loss, reducing cholesterol, fighting sweaty palms and more. Most recently a study reported that tea is as effective as any commercial mouthwash against bacteria and tooth decay. If you want to learn more about these benefits and others go to or your favorite web search tool and search for tea. To be completely honest there are some increased risks associated with tea too. Those will come up in the search as well.


Tea contains volatile oils and other flavorings that will dissapate into the air if storage conditions are less than optimum. This will affect the ultimate flavor of your tea and may explain why that tea you used to love has seemed a bit less tasty lately. I suggest a few simple steps to preserve the quality of your teas. First, store it in an airtight container. Most tea suppliers offer their teas in reuseable airtight tins. Buy them and use them. Second, keep the tea in a cool dry atmosphere. Heat and moisture hasten oxidation and in extreme situations, mold. Finally, buy no more than a year's supply at a time. Freshly harvested and processed tea is tea at its best.



CUPPA TEA  A cool downloadable computer simulation to help you decide if you can grow your own tea.

The Way of Tea   An excellent source of information about how and where tea is grown and prepared.

Tea Review Archive- See what others think about your favorite tea, or check out one you're thinking of buying.

The History of Tea from Stash Tea. A good synopsis of how tea and the tea trade have affected world history.

The Book of Tea Full text of the 1906 classic about tea history and philosophy. Reading this will surely alter your image of tea if not the world.

How Much Tea does the world drink?



Last Edited on 5/30/01                                   ©2000, 2001by Dan Sorensen