Tea’s reputation as being a lighter, less intense example of a hot beverage (especially compared to coffee) gets as much criticism as it does adoration. Derided as “leaf soup” by some, others consider tea — the most consumed drink in the world after water — to be close to a religion.
Less crass than the heavily-bodied likes of coffee and cocoa, tea rewards the patient; those who are intrigued by the subtlety of flavour and aroma. But where to start? Tea is a huge behemoth of culture, with more variants than you can shake a spoon at.
Several teas provide a smoother, more delicate experience than people may think. The likes of chamomile, oolong and Darjeeling are all known for their lighter notes.
Below are ten dainty teas for you to try out if you already haven’t!
Darjeeling is a black tea virtually synonymous with India. Depending on the brewing process, Darjeeling tea has a golden or bronze colour, with notes of citrus fruit and flowers in terms of flavour. Compared to other black teas, which can be quite bitter, Darjeeling is sweeter overall.
You might be well advised to avoid this one first thing on a morning, however. Try waiting until after you’ve eaten breakfast as tea isn’t always great on an empty stomach, and it’ll have less chance of hindering your digestion. Darjeeling taken after breakfast can even boost your metabolism, helping you burn more calories than usual throughout your day!
White tea is exclusively produced in the Fujian province of China. The leaves are harvested and immediately dried outdoors in natural sunlight. It is superbly simple in a world of often complex tea, undergoing a process made up of just one step.
Dainty as you like, White tea is naturally sweet thanks to the floral and fruity tones. Milder than other teas when it comes to flavour, white tea is a good choice if you’re wanting to please dozens of people at once. Don’t be afraid to add some honey or a slice of lemon to your cup should it tickle your fancy.
Produced in China and Taiwan, Oolong tea is a semi-oxidised tea that is weaker than black tea but stronger than white tea, making it a perfect companion for the milder tea lovers of you out there. The least oxidised oolong teas are called pouchongs. One of the most oxidised oolong teas is known as Da Hong Pao and carries a malty flavour.
While the flavour profiles of oolong teas can vary due to the sunlight, soil composition and rainfall, it generally boasts a medium-bodied taste with a floral zing. Oolong is either a deep amber or light green when it comes to colour.
A variant of green tea, Jasmine tea has a typically soft, delicate and floral flavour with some delicate sweeter notes. As always, the process of brewing and tea be can affect the flavour of jasmine tea, making it as strong or subtle as you wish.
Jasmine tea is also rich in catechins, a group of polyphenols that can prevent tooth decay. A study of 15 people saw bacteria like streptococcus mutans from producing acid when in contact with teeth. Another study of 30 people found that using a green tea mouthwash for 1 week was just as helpful in decreasing plaque as a regular antiseptic mouthwash!
Purple tea is the new kid on the block compared to other, ancient teas. Produced from a rare purple-leaved tea plant in the Assam region of India, today they are primarily harvested in Kenya. With a light body and smooth flavor, purple tea is a perfect choice when looking for a subtler brew.
Similar to oolong teas, purple tea leaves are harvested and wilted before undergoing slight oxidation. They are then shaped and dried. After the brewing process, they evolve into a light-reddish purple, giving it its apt name.
Pronounced mah-teh, mate is the national drink of Argentina, famous for its supposed capability to improve focus. It has been very popular among athletes looking for a healthier source of energy, in particular South American footballers.
Made from the yerba mate, a holly tree native to South America, mate is not a classical tea in that it’s not plucked from the camellia sinensis plant – but it boasts similar benefits to any other tea, such as being rich in antioxidants and containing caffeine. If brewed in the right way, mate can provide an easy-going, woodsy flavour.
Lavender is one of the most sought-after fragrances on the planet, so it makes sense that it would work as an incredibly aromatic tea. Made from the buds of the Lavandula angustifolia plant native to the Mediterranean, it is known as a herbal tisane or tea.
Lavender tea’s flavor has hints of rosemary and mint, as well as an occasional earthy note. Most do tend to be floral and sweet above anything else, making it a great beginner tea for those looking for a subtle, lighter experience. Lavender tea is especially good as a bedtime brew.
A favourite in Asia thanks to its apparent health benefits, pu-erh is made by harvesting tea leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant and subjecting them to high temperatures as soon as possible. That way, the heat kills the enzymes known to oxidise when exposed to oxygen. As a result, pu-erh then becomes somewhat of a green tea.
Pu-erh teas are similar in taste and smell to green teas, while heavily aged pu-erh teas are similar to black tea, in their reddish colour and bitter flavour. Pu-erh tea is known to come in tea blocks, melons, mushrooms, tea bags and loose leaf teas. If you want a subtle experience, go for the lighter raw pu-erh teas.
Ceylon tea mixes a vegetal taste with a sweet one. Rich in antioxidants, this Sri Lankan brew is spoken of highly across the world. For beginners, it’s an easy tea to like.
Many and various are the types of Ceylon tea, based on what altitude they’re grown at. These include Nuwara Eliya, Dimbula, Uva, Kandy, Ruhuna, Uda Pussellawa, and Sabaragamuwa. The tea itself comes in black and green, with the black made of fermented leaves and the green, unfermented.
Chamomile is not a ‘true tea’ in that it doesn’t come from the camelia sinensis plant, but that shouldn’t get in the way of you enjoying a cup. Derived from the Ancient Greek words kamai (earth) and melon (apple), Chamomile has subtle notes of apple mixed with a special honeyed sweetness.
Silky, clean and delicate, it’s one the most popular and beloved herbal teas out there. If you’re looking for pleasant, non-bitter tea to sink your teeth into, Chamomile might be the answer.