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New to Tea and Steepster

I’m a new tea drinker and looking to get the most out of my tea experiences with my friends and roommates. What are some teas you would suggest we try? We’ve already started with a few Celestial Seasonings flavors among others, and I recently got some loose-leaf fruit flavored teas from an organic grocery store.

I am also interested in crafting tea beverages Teavana style, so what are the rules when it comes to adding different flavors, sweeteners and milk?

Thanks!

34 Replies
Azzrian said

Uggg I wrote up a bunch of stuff for you and somehow POOF it was gone! LOL start here:
http://steepster.com/discuss/2461-free-tea-sample-thread-ill-start
for some free samples!
That is the best way to get some info on what you like.
Congrats on starting on loose leaf I warn you it is ADDICTIVE and welcome to Steepster! Ask anything no one here will shame you! :)

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James R said

I have written a few articles http://www.examiner.com/tea-in-chicago/steeping-not-all-teas-are-brewed-alike I have one on selecting teaware too just follow the related links

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Thanks! Found the free samples here:

http://www.teavivre.com/contacts/free_tea_tasting/

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Good luck on your tea journey! Sounds like you’ve been doing mostly flavored and tea bags so far. Going to unflavored looseleaf might be a big step. All I can say for Teavivre is that they have excellent quality and as long as you follow the directions on their bags, you’ll be great.

For trying new teas, there’s a swap thread here somewhere where you can swap teas:
http://steepster.com/discuss/641-swaps-lets-swap-some-tea
Some people seem to have had bad experiences with swaps, but I’ve done quite a few and I’d say all but one of mine has gone off splendidly. GIve it a try!

There are also Steepster members here who sell sample sizes of a variety of teas. Try this one:
http://iheartteas.teatra.de/

As for rules, there are no rules! Do whatever the heck you like, dang it. I have a friend who adds milk to his peppermint tea. I think it’s crazy, but he likes it and that’s all that matters. If flavors sounds like they’d work together, give it a try. If you like a sweet, add some sugar. The only thing is that if you are mixing teas that have different temp or steep time requirements, go with the lower variable. Over steeped tea can be pretty terrible. For example, if you are mixing white tea with black tea, use the steeping parameters for the white tea.

ChaMei select said

Ha! I’m enjoying Snowbud, a white tea from Adagio with cheese curls. Better than soda, right?

Thanks for the recommendation @Mercuryhime :)

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Missy said

Welcome to Steepster!

Rules are drink your tea however it pleases you the most. I generally just like sugar in the raw in my tea but there are some teas that require milk or creamer. I’ve also brewed some teas together I thought for sure were going to be horrible but they turned out good. So let your whims take you where ever they please, it might be a good journey.

I agree with Azzrian up there. Samples are a really good way to discern what you like in tea, being cost effective and easy on space.

Enjoy!

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Welcome to Steepster! Man, it wasn’t that long ago that I came here fresh off of Teavana and Celestial Seasonings, it really opened my eyes as to HOW MUCH TEA is really out there.

I think I’d have a hard time saying that any flavor combinations would be ‘out’. I may not enjoy them, but other people might. So feel free to experiment!

As far as what types of tea you may like… give us some examples of what you like so far? A lot of Teavana’s stuff seems… overly complex? to me. Personally, I like things with only a handful of flavors… except when I don’t! A nice vanilla black tea, or a cinnamon-orange black tea, a moroccan mint green tea… those would be things I’d start off with.

Straight, ‘pure’ teas… I agree with Mercury, it’s a big step. It’s a step I’m definitely not ready for (and one I may never take, really). I like vanilla, I like cinnamon, I would consider it a very sad day if I stopped enjoying these things in my tea!

If you have any questions, feel free to ask. We’re still fairly new on our tea journey, and would definitely chat about it :).

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I haven’t had a lot of Teavana’s teas; I had a fruity beverage with cream once before, a few months ago, and since then have started to try some full-leaf fruit flavored black teas, Strawberry, Cranberry, Plum, and Peach.

I would say the only thing I am missing so far is a full-bodied taste. It seems like all the flavors are starting to run together and I’m not really getting a STRONG cup like I might with a CS Cinnamon Apple Spice. Perhaps this has to do with my steeping times or water temp? I usually let the water sit a couple minutes after boiling and then steep for 2-3 minutes for black teas. I’ve got some Green and White samples coming in the mail. I definitely like FLAVORS though!

If you’re going for strength in a black tea, you typically want to just increase the amount of tea you use. Although the variety of tea does matter some. Assam is one of the stronger black teas, if I remember correctly. Though, pick up an Irish or Scottish breakfast tea. Those will usually get your eyes open.

TropicalTeaCo has a pretty killer tea sale for $1/oz for some of their loose leaf teas (which you have to buy 2 oz at a time, which is somewhere around the amount of tea you’d get in 25-30 teabags). If you want to try some different styles, I’d point you in that direction.

The Irish Breakfast is real strong, the English Breakfast less so, the Windsor favorite even less, the Nonsuch estate is about as mild as it gets. Then there are things like the Organic Texas that aren’t exactly ‘bold’ but definitely have an interesting flavor profile, for being a straight black tea.

I agree with the above. If you want more flavor, use more leaf, not more steep time. Follow steeping instructions until you figure out what you like and then you can do it your own way.

If you like flavored tea more, stick with that for now. Moving into the unflavored realm may take some time. It was many years before I started drinking all my teas without honey. Go at your own pace and set your own goals. :) for good flavored loose leaf, I would recommend David’s Tea and Lupicia and Harney and Sons. If you want to stick with bagged Numi and Harney are good for that. Actually, I think Lupicia does bags too.

Keep looking around Steepster. You’ll find a lot of good hints and suggestions. :)

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Blake said

Personally, I wouldn’t let the water sit for black teas. Not most anyway. As I’m still learning myself, I’m a bit of a temp nazi while I try to figure out where I like stuff so I’ve always got a thermometer handy. If you’re wanting a strong black, I say get it at boiling or pour it into a cooling dish for a VERY short period of time. 30 seconds maybe? I don’t know, I’ve been finding that for most of my blacks, I don’t like to steep under three and a half minutes, or under 200 degrees. Then again, I haven’t been drinking too many fruity blacks. Are you letting your water sit in a closed kettle, or in an open container? If you’re letting the water dip too far, you may be missing out on quite a bit from a black tea. I could see the fruity flavors coming out, but the body of the tea itself lacking. I steep all of my black teas at least twice, just because I can still enjoy it even after it’s weakened. If I want to try and balance two steepings, I’ll start with 200 degrees for three minutes, and then go at the second steeping with freshly boiled water for a full five. If I just want a kick in the face in the first cup, I’ll go straight to the fresh boil for five. Granted, that doesn’t work with every tea just because it’s a black, but I only know that for one reason ya dig?

You want to know what I think the most exciting part of any new venture is? The missteps. They aren’t that exciting while they’re happening, but when you finally crush it and look back, it’s that awkward stumbling trail you left in your wake that you can thank for where you are. Like a drunk sobering up, you can generally see it straighten itself and fall in line over time. To put it a bit more topically, go hard man. Not getting enough flavor? Steep it in boiling for five minutes. Too strong or bitter? Take the steep time down a minute. Still a bit off? Drop ten degrees. What’s the worst that’s going to happen? A few not great cups? The point here is really just reiterating what everyone has already said. We can’t tell you right or wrong, just our preference.

The one tip I do have is pretty simple. You do not need to start off with expensive tea. There is trial and error here, and I can’t see any reason to spend a fortune on your tea while you’re still getting your sea legs.

I love your perspective. “Like a drunk sobering up, you can generally see it straighten itself and fall in line over time.” Beautifully put. It is all about trial and error, and there’s no getting around the errors. Not only do they help me to know what not to do next time, sometimes the ‘errors’ are where my best finds are—that is to say, I never would have chose to do it that way, but since I did, that unintended ‘oops’ turns out to be better than any of the other ways I consciously chose to do it. There’s value in BOTH the ‘right’ AND the ‘wrong’ way. Life truly is amazing. : – )

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Welcome James. Tea is such a fun thing. It can provide so much for so little. I offer opportunities to people just like you that are new to the varieties of tea out there. I offer ways for you the sample a wide variety of teas from numerous vendors. If you have questions I would be happy to help in anyway I can. My site is www.iHeartTeas.com as mentioned above by another Steepster user. (Thanks again, Mercuryhime)

Please ignore everything if not interested. Btw, still willing to help you regardless if you want to order from me or not. I am a lover of tea first, and always will be.

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VeryPisces said

Welcome! I’m new too, having begun only a couple of months ago, trying to find a healthy replacement for my Pepsi addiction. I second the FREE SAMPLE idea. Also, CHEAP SAMPLES. And try a variety of tea sellers. I am trying to get a sample of tea of every major variety. I have yet to try oolong, or a true aged pu erh – those are coming up for me!

I’d also recommend not to get too caught up in the Teavana style teas before trying teas “straight”. I wish I had discovered the basic flavors of black, oolong, white, and green teas before I fell in love with sugary Teavana treats. But it’s never too late to undo a bad habit! With the knowledge of the qualities of the unadulterated/less adulterated teas, I will acquire the building blocks needed for tea blends. I’ve already started blending, but I still have a lot to learn.

HAVE FUN- I love my new tea obsession. My work day is so much more pleasant now.

I’m totally stealing less-adulterated from you :/

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