Watch any cooking show worth its salt and you’ll hear the old adage that people eat with their eyes first. That’s just as true when it comes to drinking tea – and while we’ll always say that taste matters most, there’s no reason why tea can’t be pretty too. That’s why we’ve assembled a list of the prettiest tea blends that money can buy.
When it comes to the prettiest teas, there’s a lot to choose from. Hibiscus teas are rich in color and flavor, whereas silver needle teas are more pale and elegant. You might even consider matcha, a vibrant green tea, to be the prettiest.
For the sake of clarity, we’re going to be ranking teas based on how pretty they are when brewed. There are definitely tea blends that are very beautiful as raw ingredients, but it’s the magic moment of holding a cup of tea in your hands that we want to capture. Read on to see if your favorite tea made our list!
1. Hibiscus tea
It should come as no surprise that we’re going straight to a herbal tea on our list. Whether it’s mango, cranberry or ginger, herbal teas promise vibrant colors and sharp flavors – if you’re served a brightly colored cuppa, you’re most likely drinking a herbal infusion.
If we had to pick one, however, it would have to be a cup of hibiscus tea. Made from the beautiful crimson plant, hibiscus tea has a sharp and intensely sweet flavor profile. Plus, its rich, almost wine-like color is intoxicating just to look at!
A staple beverage in northern Africa, hibiscus tea is criminally underrated in northern Europe and North America. Served hot and cold, it’s a traditional drink at Egyptian weddings, and is also widely available in Sudan and as far south as Senegal.
Most excitingly of all, hibiscus tea is a key ingredient in the festive Jamaican beverage sometimes known as agua fresca in Central America. By adding ginger, cinnamon and – what else? – a dash of white rum, the tea becomes a warming drink perfect for eating with fruitcake. If that isn’t a beautiful image, nothing is!
2. Sri Lankan (Ceylon) tea
A tea doesn’t have to be completely off-the-wall to be pretty. There are plenty of kooky hues and gimmicky ingredients in boutique blends, but sometimes there’s no beating a tea’s classic, ruddy hue. When it comes to the syrup-like color of a black tea, there’s nothing better than Sri Lankan tea, often known as Ceylon tea.
Whether ‘Sri Lankan’ or ‘Ceylon’ tea is more accurate is disputed, and both terms are in common usage today. The complexity lies in the name ‘Ceylon’ being coined by Portuguese (and later Dutch and British) colonists, whereas the island was arguably better known as Sri Lanka – roughly translated from Hindi as ‘island of prosperity’ – prior to the intervention of colonists. That said, the Ceylon brand of tea is considered a jewel in the nation’s crown by the Sri Lankan people, and it’s easy to see why.
Light, refreshing and often beautifully translucent, Sri Lankan tea might well be the prettiest black tea. In comparison to the earthiness of Assam and the indistinct beige of mass-produced breakfast blends, the honey tone of a Sri Lankan tea feels at once nostalgic and brisk.
Perhaps some taste bias is creeping into this choice: Sri Lankan tea often has more of a citrus flavor than other black tea blends and a crisper profile. Who wouldn’t love a cup of something like that?
3. Blue raspberry tea
Have you ever had a color-changing tea? If you ever needed more evidence that tea is a magical drink, this blue raspberry tea from Bird & Blend has you covered.
For many, a blue cup of tea would be exciting enough – and there are no additives involved. While the blue raspberry flavor of slushies and other remarkable concoctions does derive from a dark-hued raspberry, this tea blend achieves the aesthetic of blue raspberry by using butterfly pea flowers, which have been used as a dye in South East Asia for centuries.
While the taste of butterfly pea flower in tea is typically more woody, Bird & Blend’s inclusion of freeze-dried raspberry pieces adds sweetness to a base of Chinese Sencha green tea.
And as for that color change: simply add lemon juice and watch your tea turn from blue to purple (To spoil the magic a little, this is because of pH reaction from the citric acid – but to us that makes it even more remarkable!) If you want to try it out for yourself, you can buy some blue raspberry tea from Bird & Blend here.
4. Chamomile tea
Any list of the prettiest teas that doesn’t feature chamomile is not a list worth listening to! Popular in Europe as early as the 13th century, chamomile tea is perhaps the most widely available herbal tea in cafés, restaurants and stores – and for good reason.
Derived from the daisy-like flower of the same name, chamomile tea is famed for its delicate, grassy flavor and is considered by many to be a drink with healing properties. While there is little (if any) scientific evidence to suggest that chamomile tea has medicinal benefits, it’s easy to see how the misconception arose: its beautiful hue and elegant flavor feel invigorating to the eyes and tastebuds.
In fact, so lauded are the healing properties of the chamomile flavor that one of its predominant species, the matricaria chamomilla, is affectionately known as the ‘water of youth’ and is a pillar of homeopathic medicine. It’s used to treat a variety of gastrointestinal issues as well as skin inflammation.
That said, there’s more than enough reason to drink chamomile tea regardless of its disputed elixir-like status: its pale, yellow hue is fittingly reminiscent of a daisy, and it makes for a perfect bedtime drink.
5. Maghrebi mint tea
Sometimes prettiness means decadence – and drinking Maghrebi mint tea certainly feels decadent. If you’ve ever drunk a simple mint tea (which can be, at its most beautifully basic, boiling water over mint leaves) and been a little overwhelmed by the starkness of the mint flavour, don’t count that against Maghrebi mint tea.
With a base of green tea, Maghrebi mint tea is infused with sugar and – of course – fresh mint leaves for a sweeter, more rooted flavor. What makes the tea so pretty is the clarity and freshness of the green tea mixed with the spectacle of the mint leaves all the while infusing in the teapot or in your cup.
Named for the Maghreb region of north west Africa that comprises Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia, Maghrebi mint tea runs from the gamut from everyday beverage to deeply ceremonial drink.
A famous Maghrebi proverb describes the first glass of tea being “as gentle as life,” the second, as the mint infuses more deeply, “as strong as love,” and the third and final glass “as bitter as death.” Needless to say, drinking Maghrebi mint tea is a transcendent experience.
6. Silver needle tea (Baihao Yinzhen)
It doesn’t have to be expensive tea to be pretty… but it helps. Baihao Yinzhen, more commonly known as silver needle tea, is a white tea produced in China’s Fujian province. Why the expense? Well, genuine silver needle tea uses only the top buds of the tea plant, which are in scarce supply.
The tea is then sun-dried for three days before being packaged and shipped. That means silver needle tea (without even considering luxury blends) can cost as much as $70 for only 50g. As a point of comparison, a similar grade of Assam tea costs only approximately $1 for an equivalent amount. Turns out it’s not just the infusion of the tea that’s steep!
So: is it worth it? Few would be rich enough to enjoy silver needle tea as an everyday drink, but it certainly makes for a unique tea-drinking experience. For one thing, silver needle tea is famed for its white hairs that float in the tea – indeed, this is seen as the mark of a genuine, high-quality tea.
With its golden color and sweet flavor, there’s an argument to be made that silver needle tea is the prettiest tea of them all. That’s certainly what you’ll being repeating to yourself as you look at your bank account!
Sencha is a Japanese green tea, and that’s literal: while some green tea blends can verge on a more yellow shade, sencha (as well as its close cousins gyokuro and bancha) is genuinely green and vibrant, making it probably the prettiest green tea you can buy.
Even the harvesting of sencha is deeply tied to springtime: the tea leaves store nutrients over the winter months, meaning that their first buds are deeply flavorful and invigorating. These buds are termed shincha, or ‘new tea.’
Sencha is partially grown in the shade, typically only for a week or so before being harvested. This stimulates the concentration of nutrients within the leaves themselves. As a result sencha (and particularly shincha) is highly prized.
These first buds are low in caffeine and high in amino acids, particularly if grown in the shade for longer by using special nets called kabuse. However, this results in a less vibrant color. Whether a subtle or a sharper color makes for a prettier tea is a matter of personal taste.
8. Lapsang souchong
Lapsang souchong is undoubtedly an acquired taste, but it’s certainly pretty. It’s probably the best-known smoke-dried tea that’s widely available in stores, and in these blends the smoke flavour is treated with little subtlety – sometimes it can feel like you’re drinking an ashtray.
This shouldn’t put you off from indulging in quality lapsang souchong blends, however, especially because its pallid, dawn-like hue is truly beautiful. Often cold-smoked from a pinewood fire, the charred essence of lapsang souchong is evident in both its look and taste.
Originating in the Wuyi Mountains, that story goes that lapsang souchong was created by farmers eager to quickly dry their tea before fleeing an advancing army. Tasting the tea later, they discovered that drying the tea very quickly with fire lent a distinctly smoky taste to the beverage.
If we supposedly first eat with our eyes before our tastebuds, you might also argue that we also eat with our noses before our tastebuds. Lapsang souchong, with its unique aroma, makes for a pretty experience for all three!
9. Lychee and rose cold brew
That’s right – it’s not just hot tea that has a monopoly on prettiness. In fact, there’s some very elegant about a cold brew tea, almost akin to the prettiness of a cold glass of wine. Teapigs’ lychee and rose cold brew is a great example of a tea that looks and tastes great.
While it’s very easy to make your own cold brew tea with almost any tea blend you please (why not check out our handy guide to cold brewing?), several brands now stock teabags specifically designed for cold brewing that you can leave all day in a bottle of water while you’re at work, or simply chill in the refrigerator.
It’s the former experience we get most excited about: watching the tea infuse throughout the day, adding more and more color and flavor. In the case of Teapigs’ lychee and rose cold brew, it acquires a soft orange hue and turns sweeter the longer you leave the teabag to infuse.
We haven’t even mentioned the luxurious feel of Teapigs’ vaunted ‘tea temples,’ which they claim makes for the ultimate brew. Why not try it for yourself?
There’s a reason why matcha has taken over Instagram in recent years. Originating in Japan, matcha is a powder made from green tea leaves, and its bright color matches its punchy flavor.
While it’s perhaps a little close to coffee for our tastes (at least in name and style), the prettiness of a matcha latte is undeniable. With the frothiness of steamed milk and matcha’s iconic color, you can find some truly stunning matcha latte art that’s Insta-perfect every time.
Not unlike sencha, a green tea relative of matcha already mentioned in this list, matcha has a luxurious green tea flavor. Where it differs from sencha, however, is in the richness of the flavor: where sencha is more delicate, matcha has a smoother, almost creamy taste.
Even the accoutrements to matcha preparation are pretty – after all, not every tea can say that it has its own ceremonial bamboo whisk!