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Beyond Earl Grey

Beyond Earl Grey

Four Unusual Teas Worth Trying

Connoisseurs have long relished exploring the world of tea, whose complexity and variety easily rivals that of wine. But now a wider audience is learning to appreciate the beverage. Tea sales have been steadily on the rise over the past several years, with consumers seeking out rarer and higher-end varieties.

For tea drinkers interested in venturing beyond Earl Grey, here are four unusual teas to try:

Da Hong Pao

Grown in the Wuyi Mountains of China’s Fujian province, some Da Hong Pao teas can sell for as much as US$1,400 per gram. This is because just a handful of the original trees that produce the tea leaves remain, and for connoisseurs, only tea from these trees (or their offspring) will do. Many vendors who claim to offer the tea are in fact selling blends of other, similar teas. Finding the real deal requires buyers to do their research and ask producers about their tea’s source. But even Da Hong Pao blends can be complex and satisfying; Quality versions have sweet, fruity aromas, dark hues, and rich, toasty flavors.

Seven Cups Fine Chinese Teas
Seven Cups Fine Chinese Teas

Matcha

Matcha, a powdered tea made from green tea leaves and traditionally at the center of the Japanese tea ceremony, has taken off. Several cafes dedicated primarily to matcha-based drinks and treats have popped up in New York, Los Angeles, Sydney—and, of course, Tokyo. Typically, matcha powder is whisked into hot water until frothy, but it can also be used in lattes, ice cream, and other desserts. The tea has both sweet and bitter varieties, but it is often described as having a grassy, umami flavor. Experts recommend varieties from Uji and other tea-producing regions of southern Japan, said to yield the best matcha.

Sazen Tea Co. Ltd. Kyoto
Sazen Tea Co. Ltd. Kyoto

Pu-erh

Part of the fun of pu-erh is that the tea is likely to taste a bit different each time you drink it. That’s because it is fermented, and its flavors evolve over time. You can find pu-erh teas that are months or many years old. When brewed, the tea can range in color and taste depending on whether it is raw or ripe, as well as its age, but expect complexity regardless. And due to its changeability, even if you don’t love your first taste, you might enjoy the tea more as it ages. Enthusiasts also seek out pu-erh for its health benefits: The tea is associated with encouraging weight loss, easing hangovers, and more.

Rishi Tea & Botanicals
Rishi Tea & Botanicals

Silver needle tea

Silver needle tea tends to be the most expensive type of white tea—that is, tea harvested from buds and immature tea leaves. White teas have less caffeine than other types, and a sweeter, more delicate flavor; they’re also often pricier than green or black tea. Silver needle tea, produced in China’s Fujian province, is especially sought after for its rarity: It can be harvested only within a short window of time in the spring, and under specific weather conditions. When brewed properly—using water below the boiling point so as not to scald the buds—silver needle tea tastes subtle and fruity.

Silver Needle Tea Co
Silver Needle Tea Co

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