When the weather gets colder, one automatically starts thinking about staving off the chill with a nice cup of hot tea. Be it black, green or herbal tea, there’s such a huge selection, there’s certain to be something on the market for you. Here are five of my personal favorites.
Red Zinger – this was the first Celestial Seasonings tea I ever tried, and since its launch in 1972, it’s practically become a classic. With its rich red color and sparkly hibiscus, rosehips and orange flavors, this is both comforting and refreshing. The aroma is mainly a citrus one, with a minty undertone that will energize your senses. As it’s naturally sweet, you might find you don’t need to sweeten it at all – making it all the healthier for you. What I particularly like is the addition of peppermint in the tea, which leaves your mouth feeling clean and fresh. Despite this bracing effect, since it has no caffeine, it’s equally good as a late-night drink (and some people like to make it iced for the summer). What really makes this special, and perfect for the winter, is that because it has such a summery glow to its taste, you’ll almost feel like the sun is shining. Mind you, at almost $3 for a box of 20 bags, it’s hardly the cheapest on the market, but many people find they can use one bag for two cups – making it a tad more economical.
Earl Grey Tea – if you’re looking for something more traditional for your winter tea, here’s one that takes fine Asian black tea leaves and infuses them with orange rind and oil of Bergamot – which comes from southeast Asian citrus flower. What this will initially give you is a dark, almost black cup of tea that smells almost as if perfume has been added to it. Aside from this effecting the overall aroma of the tea, there’s also an almost metallic flavor to the drink itself. While this might sound unpleasant, this actually gives the tea a very distinctive taste, which is softened by the orange peel that is a lovely sweet counterpoint to both the acidic china tea leaves and pungent, flowery bergamot. Probably the most famous producers of Earl Gray Tea is made by Twinings and it too isn’t cheap, costing as much as the Celestial Seasonings teas.
Then there is mint, which also makes an excellent hot drink. Take about 8-10 leaves of fresh mint leaves and crush them in your hand while washing them. Put this into your teacup and pour freshly boiled water over them. Just stir for a couple of minutes, add your favorite sweetener (if at all) and there you have it – a cup of pure mint tea. Drinking mint tea is a sprightly experience, with a fresh, cool and slightly peppery aroma, that tastes exactly as it smells. Most people like to add something to sweeten this, and my advice is to try honey, which cuts the sharpness of the mint, giving it a more mellow taste. We like to drink this as is, but many people will add mint to an ordinary (read: cheap) cup of tea to make it more special. What’s more, you can grow mint yourself, making it readily available all year round, and its one of the most hearty plants around. Be careful, however, since mint plants can be very invasive and could take over! If your thumb is less than green, usually you can buy fresh leaves in your local supermarket.
As a lover of Chinese food, I’ve also come to adore the simple Jasmine tea served at almost every Chinese restaurant. Jasmine tea is a blend of any type of normal china tealeaf that’s been infused with Jasmine flowers. The infusion gives it both a sweet scent and flavor. Actually, the word “sweet” is a bit of an understatement, when it comes to the scent here. In fact, it actually has an almost sickly-sweet aroma – smelling very sugary. However, Jasmine tea tastes much less sweet than it smells, and much like the bergamot of Earl Gray, there’s a metallic taste to it, that is reminiscent of a sharp perfume. The biggest problem with Jasmine tea is over-brewing. If the pot has been sitting a while, that metallic taste can become overpowering making it very harsh and astringent.
Finally, there’s good old, every day, Lipton tea! For some reason, this staple of normal black Orange Pekoe tea has always been a favorite. It is always delicious, and is the most versatile of teas around. With a dollop of honey, it’s the perfect comfort drink when you have a cold. If you also add a generous squeeze of lemon and you’ll soon be on the road to recovery. This tea also goes wonderfully with some of that fresh mint I mentioned earlier. Plain, you can play the “Englishman” by adding milk, and this tea stands up to the task beautifully. The scent is a perfect balance of flowery and spicy, which almost reminds me of cinnamon. The taste isn’t overpowering, but neither is it shy, with an undertone of dryness that’s almost woody – something like the way a pine grove smells after the rain. But be careful, this too can taste overly metallic if you let it brew too long, so take that bag out after 3-5 minutes!
I hope this selection will help you feel warm and cozy this coming winter! I know I’ll be curling up with many of these over the next few months.