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The Must-Try Teas of the World

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Favy

on December 02, 2022

The Must-Try Teas of the World

Every tea-loving country has a deep and rich history with the drink, and each one has its own cultivar, recipe, or special method in which it’s served. After all, tea has been enjoyed for centuries (since 2737 BC, according to legend) and it’s the most consumed beverage next to water. 

There are over 3000 types of tea thanks to the different ways in which they are grown, processed, and brewed; they come from a handful of varieties (black green, green tea, oolong tea, herbal tea, white tea, pu-erh tea, dark tea, purple tea, and yellow tea). Most tea comes from the camellia sinensis plant, with the exception of herbal tea, which is considered an herbal infusion and sometimes called tisanes. 

Curious about trying unique teas from around the world? Then look no further. Below, we explore some of the best teas you can enjoy no matter where you go. 

Sri Lanka - Ceylon Tea

Ceylon tea is named after the former name of the country of Sri Lanka. It’s also called Sri Lanka tea, and is known for being one of the best teas in the world. 

Ceylon tea has a few varieties of tea – green, black, white, and oolong – and all of these tea varieties have their own unique flavor due to the specific regions where they are grown. Ceylon green tea has a fuller body, darker color, and a strong, leafy, nutty flavor; Ceylon white tea has a light color and sweet honey-like flavor; and Ceylon black tea is full-bodied, with a dark color and a flavor profile that includes a strong spicy sweetness, vanilla, and brisk orange citrus. 

Ceylon tea is what is referred to as orthodox tea, which means that the tea is produced by hand or by using other traditional methods (plucking, withering, rolling, oxidation, fermentation, and drying), a process that results in a bright and brisk tea.

Because Sri Lanka has a mild climate and only small differences in temperature when the seasons change, it’s possible to harvest Ceylon tea year-round. Most of the tea produced is black tea, which is grown at higher elevations in tea plantations located in the central province, such as the Dimbula district (which includes Nuwara Eliya and Kandy). Teas grown here are full-bodied and robust. 

Teas grown in the mid-elevation (2,000 to 3,500 feet) are found in the Uva province (in cities such as Haputale and Badulla). This region produces both black and green Ceylon tea, and the teas here tend to be darker in color, full-bodied, and have a rich and complex flavor. 

Low-elevation teas from Ceylon come from the Southern province, and tend to be used in darker blends. The Sabaragamuwa province grows teas with high-and-low-elevation characteristics thanks to the variety of climates, which are bolder than those at higher elevations and less robust than those grown at lower elevations. 

Taiwan - Oolong Tea

Taiwan is renowned for its oolong tea. Oolong – also called wulong in Pinyin – is a partially oxidized tea that comes in a variety of flavors: some oolong teas come with a light and grassy flavor that is similar to green tea, while others have a floral and fruity taste with a thick mouthfeel. 

Oolong flavors have many unique and different flavors that vary based on where they are grown and how they are processed: oolong tea leaves are typically picked later in the season than green tea, harvested, and wilted before undergoing partial oxidation by being tossed or shaken. The leaves are then heat-treated to stop oxidation before being tightly rolled, dried, and packaged. 

Oolong is a full-bodied tea that can range from light to dark yellow (depending on the oxidation level) and falls between black and green tea in terms of oxidation and taste. 

Taiwan, in particular, is known for its specialty oolongs – especially the very popular Milk Oolong, which is cultivated from a special varietal of the plant and has a unique, delicious flavor: sweet fruit, notes of cream, a milky/buttery taste and texture, and a sweet floral aroma. 

Taiwanese oolong tea is made using the traditional gongfu style, which steeps a large amount of tea leaves for a short time in a smaller steeping vessel (such as a gaiwan). 

China - Pu-erh

Pu-erh (also known as puerh and spelled “puer” in Pinyin) is an aged, partially fermented tea that originates from the Yunnan province of China in the city of Pu-erh – its namesake. (Fun fact: only tea produced in Yunnan can be called pu-erh.)

Pu-erh is full-bodied, earthy, and rich tea that is as high in caffeine as black tea. It’s green or dark brown-black in color, which depends on the oxidation level – the more oxidized the tea, the darker it is. 

Pu-erh is made by plucking tea from wild trees instead of cultivated bushes, then steaming or pan-firing them to stop oxidation before they are shaped, dried, and undergo microbial fermentation. While there is loose leaf pu-erh, the leaves are traditionally compressed into round tea cakes (or other shapes).

There are two basic styles of pu-erh: sheng pu-erh (raw and non-fermented) and shou pu-erh (ripe and fermented). 

Sheng pu-erh is processed using a more traditional method that ages the leaves with a longer and more gradual process, and it’s often marketed using the year it was made. Raw pu-erh can have a brighter, floral, or fruity flavor when it’s a younger tea, or it can be more earthy and rustic if it’s aged for longer. 

Shou pu-erh is a smooth and earthy tea. It’s initially processed the same way as sheng pu-erh, but eventually goes through a more modern process that accelerates the fermentation process to last a few weeks. 

India - Masala Chai Tea

Masala chai, also simply called chai, is a traditional tea from India made from a blend of black tea, milk, sugar, and a blend of spices (cardamom, cinnamon, clove, ginger, peppercorns, and occasionally others) called masala. There isn’t a specific recipe but it includes all of these ingredients; it’s made by boiling the black tea, spices, and sugar together, then adding milk and boiling it a second time before straining and serving. 

The tea used in chai is black tea, and while there are many types of black tea, the most commonly used one is Assam black tea, due to its full-bodied and strong flavor. 

It’s a popular tea that’s often served in Indian households; however, that wasn’t always the case. Tea wasn’t initially well-liked in India, but became that way when “kadha” – the combination of milk and water boiled in spices – was added to the drink by local vendors, thus creating chai masala and helping tea boom in popularity. 

South Africa - Rooibos Tea

Rooibos tea – also called African red tea, red tea, or red bush tea – is a popular and unique drink from South Africa: it isn’t a true tea since it doesn’t come from the camellia sinensis plant, but it’s classified as herbal tea – technically, it’s a leaf tea made from a plant called Aspalathus linearis, also known as the South African Red Bush. 

Rooibos is a caffeine-free tea that is known for its light, earthy, and slightly nutty flavor that also has a natural sweetness – sometimes even with a subtle hint of caramel and vanilla. It has a smooth mouthfeel, and it’s full-bodied and rich when it’s brewed for longer.

Rooibos leaves turn red once fully processed: ground, bruised, fermented, and dried. Not all rooibos teas are red; green rooibos tea isn’t oxidized and fermented, resulting in a golden orange shade. 

Rooibos tea is delicious enough to be enjoyed on its own, but can also be enhanced with a splash of milk or even mixed with other ingredients to create new blends like Earl Grey Rooibos and Rooibos Chai. 

Red rooibos is full-bodied and has an earthy, smooth, and sweet flavor, while green rooibos tea is mellow, lighter, and has a slightly sweet taste. 

United Kingdom - Earl Grey Tea

Earl Grey tea is black tea blend and the most popular flavored tea in Britain today. It’s named after an English aristocrat named Charles Grey, the 2nd Earl Grey and British prime minister from 1830 to 1834. 

Earl Grey is made with oil from the rind of the bergamot orange, a citrus fruit that falls between an orange and a lemon in terms of flavor and appearance, with some hints of lime and grapefruit. This blend was originally created to mask the taste of cheaper black teas (of course, these days you can enjoy premium black tea). It has a mild, balanced, and bold flavor. 

Brewing Earl Grey can be done in a few easy steps: 

*Heat the water in a kettle until it is slightly below boiling point – if you can set a temperature on your electric kettle, set it to 208 F. 

*Warm up your teapot and teacup by pouring some hot water into it and swirling it around for a minute. This ensures that the tea delivers the best flavor. 

*Put the Earl Grey blend in the teapot and add the hot water.

*Steep it for around 2 to 4 minutes – don’t steep it too long, since tea can become astringent and bitter when it’s brewed too long. 

*Add milk into your warmed cup.

*Pour the tea into your teacup above the milk, then add milk, sugar, or lemon if you want to enhance the flavor. Let it sit for a minute before drinking. 

Japan - Matcha Tea

Matcha is a powdered green tea that has been an important part of Japanese culture for centuries. Although it originated in China during the Tang Dynasty, it was brought to Japan  in the 12th century by the Buddhist monk Myoan Eisai. After it grew in popularity with Buddhist monks, it eventually spread to the upper classes by the 15th century. 

Matcha is commonly served during a Japanese tea ceremony, also known as the “Way of Tea,” where the tea is prepared in a ceremony that represents harmony, purity, respect, and tranquility. 

The popularity of matcha can be attributed to its unique flavor: it’s rich and smooth, with a slightly grassy, nutty, and umami flavor. After having a sip and experiencing these flavors, there will also be a sweet aftertaste. 

Matcha powder can be enjoyed in tea form, but it’s also a versatile ingredient that can be used in baked treats, lattes, and smoothies. 

Matcha tends to be more expensive due to the growing and processing method – it’s shade-grown, requires expertise and specialized care, and only grows in specific locations. 

Turkey - Turkish Tea 

Although tea is a relatively young phenomenon in Turkey – only becoming commonly available in the 1900s – it is an important part of Turkish culture, and it’s one of the most consumed drinks in the country. 

Tea was first grown in Turkey in the late 1870s, but it didn’t really take off until much later. Interestingly, Turkey is also a large exporter of tea, with most of the tea leaves being grown along the coastline of the Black Sea. 

Tea in Turkey is called çay (pronounced chai), and black tea grown in Turkey is sometimes also referred to as Rize tea since it is commonly grown in the province of Rize. 

Turkish tea is traditionally served black, and it’s less about flavors used in a recipe and more about the way it is brewed and served. There are herbal teas that are popular within Turkey, like linden flower (ıhlamur çayı) and rosehip (kuşburnu çayı). 

Brewing a good cup of Turkish tea requires the right ingredients and equipment. First, you need to find the right tea. Turkey has several popular brands of coffee, like Çaykur (the oldest Turkish tea company), Doğadan Çay, and Dogus Çay. 

One way you can check for the quality of tea is to put a teaspoon in a glass of cold or room temperature water, and if the color of the water doesn’t change or changes slowly, then you have good-quality tea. Be sure to store the tea in an airtight container in a cool, dry place to make it last longer. 

It’s essential to use soft, filtered water and have the right teapot. Turkish teapots come in two parts: a bottom metal pot that holds water and a top part made of porcelain to infuse the tea. 

Add water to the bottom part of the teapot. Once the water boils, wait a few seconds for the boiling to stop before adding tea to the top portion of the pot (called demlik). Waiting for the water to cool slightly preserves the taste and characteristics of the tea. Typically, you measure a teaspoon of tea per glass (100 mL), but you can choose how strong you would like your tea to be. In Turkey, it’s specified as “weak or light tea” and “strong or heavy tea.” 

Reduce the heat and wait around 10 minutes before serving. Make sure you don’t boil the water for too long and don’t shake or stir the tea. This keeps your tea from having a bitter flavor. 

Once the tea is brewed, it can be served in Turkish tea glasses, which are clear, tulip-shaped glasses with saucers to make it easier to serve. Use a sieve to filter the tea leaves. 

Whether or not you want to add anything is up to you. Sugar or sugar cubes can be added, along with lemon wedges if desired. 

Morocco - Maghrebi Mint Tea

Maghrebi mint tea, which is also known as Moroccan mint tea, is one of the most popular teas in the world, and for good reason: it has a refreshing, unforgettable taste that can be enjoyed any time of day. 

Moroccan mint tea was traditionally brewed and served by men, and poured from a specific height in order to create foam in the glass. It was also served three times, with the strength of the tea increasing with each serving. 

Today, Maghrebi mint tea is a symbol of Moroccan cuisine, culture, and hospitality – it’s served to family and guests alike, and sometimes enjoyed multiple times a day. 

Brewing Moroccan mint tea is involved, and in some cases, includes a ceremonial process in which tea is prepared in front of guests during formal events and pastries are served. For now, we are going to focus on the actual brewing process. 

In addition to a Moroccan teapot or heat-resistant teapot, and a few minutes to set aside to prepare the tea, you will need three main ingredients: Gunpowder loose tea, fresh mint leaves, and plenty of sugar. However, you can also flavor the tea with aromatics if desired. 

A Moroccan teapot uses active infusion to infuse the tea leaves in the boiling water, which is why it is important that the teapot or kettle is heat-resistant (stainless steel or silver brass) so as not to damage it. You can also use a heat diffuser to protect it. 

Here is what you’ll need: 

*1 tablespoon Chinese Gunpowder tea leaves

*4 branches of fresh mint, preferably the Nana mint variety of spearmint (however, other types of mint may be used)

*2 tablespoons sugar, or to taste

*3 cups water

Optional aromatics: 

*½ teaspoon orange blossom water 

or

*1 tablespoon dried lemon verbena

Other optional ingredients include cinnamon, rosebuds, sage, wild geranium, wild thyme, and wormwood.

Place the green leaves in a teapot and heat the water in a separate kettle. Once the water is boiling, pour a cup of water in the teapot, swirl it (which cleans the tea leaves and gets rid of the strong flavor), then pour the water out through the spout. 

After the tea leaves are washed, add the rest of the heated water into the teapot, leaving one inch of space from the brim. Finally, add sugar and, if desired, the dried lemon verbena.

Place the teapot on the stove and turn the heat to medium. Let it boil for 1-3 minutes (the longer it sits, the stronger and more caffeinated the tea will be). 

Wash the mint branches by swishing it around in a bowl of water and draining, then add it to the teapot (you may have to bend the branches) and ensure it’s beneath the surface of the water to avoid a bitter flavor. 

Allow everything to boil for an additional 1-2 minutes, and turn off the heat when the liquid starts foaming. At this point, you can add any desired aromatics such as orange blossom water. 

If you want an authentic experience, pour the tea from a height to create foam on top of your drink and fill it until it’s around three-quarters full. Some people enjoy adding an extra sprig of mint to their cup for flavor. 

Serving pastries, dried fruits, nuts, and other treats are optional, but encouraged.

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