Tea recommendations for International Tea Day

Abigail Lapp, Opinion Editor

With International Tea Day falling on May 21 this year, it seemed important to share some of my favorite teas I’ve tried and even a little history behind them. Personally, I became a tea lover about four years ago when I realized how fun adding an extra little ritual into my day could be, and I haven’t looked back since (but I won’t lie, I do love coffee, too). Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to try a bunch of different teas from many different countries, allowing me to find my pantry staples and personal favorites.

1. Chai

Chai (which is actually the word for “tea” in several of India’s languages) is an integral part of Indian culture and was invented about 5,000 years ago. Typically, it’s served hot, with a base of black tea leaves and spices, such as cardamom, ginger, star anise, and cloves. Black pepper may also be included. This spicy tea is one of my favorites to enjoy on a cold, rainy day. While the Vanilla Chai Black Tea by the brand Bigelow may not be super traditional, it’s my top comfort tea. I love to add a splash of milk and some brown sugar or maple syrup to make it even cozier.

2. Black Tea

Black tea was actually invented later on, after green and oolong teas. It’s believed this kind of tea was created by the Chinese in an attempt to prolong the storage life of their teas. Through a fermentation process, the tea leaves were oxidized, resulting in a darker version of the leaves that we now recognize as black tea. There are many different brands out there that sell their own version of black tea, and everyone has their own favorite. Personally, I’m partial to the Irish brand Lyons that I have to buy on Amazon. However, I also enjoy Yorkshire’s, which is the most popular tea brand in England (and much easier to find in stores). Black tea is my go-to when I need a little afternoon pick me up, and I prefer it unsweetened with a splash of milk.

3. Chamomile

For a nice, relaxing, bedtime tea, I love a good herbal such as chamomile. Made from the chamomile flower (not actual tea leaves), there are no caffeine side effects to worry about when drinking it in the evening. Many people claim drinking chamomile tea helps ease their stress and aid them in falling asleep, but I also like to drink it when I have stomachaches (which peppermint tea is also beneficial for). 

4. Earl Grey

 Originating in the UK in the early 1800s with a recipe by Earl Grey (hence the name), this British beverage’s recipe was then sold to the brand Twining’s. Earl Grey has a base of black tea with added bergamot oil, and sometimes some other citrus flavors. I also love to drink this tea in the evening, but I make sure that when I do, it’s a decaffeinated version. While the most common way I enjoy it is hot with some milk and honey, I also love London Fog Lattes, which are Earl Grey teas with foamed milk and vanilla syrup or flavoring. They’re super comforting, and another drink I love on a cold, rainy day.

5. Matcha

Matcha, which has origins that can be traced all the way back to the Tang Dynasty in China, was later made popular in the 10th-13th centuries by the Song Dynasty. Many people prefer it because of the L-Theanine it contains, which, when combined with the caffeine in green tea, helps to prevent caffeine crashes that many people may experience from coffee. I didn’t start drinking matcha until a couple of years ago, and I still don’t love it as much as my black teas, but a lot of people do (and prefer it over black tea). Matcha, which is made from green tea, isn’t the same as the typical teabags you would buy. Instead, it’s sold in a finely ground powder made from green tea leaves. When you drink matcha, you’re drinking entire tea leaves, not just the water they’ve steeped in. While it can be a challenge to find good matcha at an affordable price, my favorite one that I’ve tried is DoMatcha’s Summer Harvest variety. My preferred way to drink matcha is iced, with some milk and a bit of maple syrup.

While these are some of my favorite staple teas to always keep on hand, I also love to try fun, creative blends. My absolute favorite brand to do this with is David’s Tea, a Canadian brand that always is switching out with new seasonal flavors, and easily ships to the United States. Whatever your personal tea preference is (black, green, oolong, matcha, etc) they have it, and they have it in lots of exciting flavors. The best one I’ve tried has been the famous Hot Chocolate tea, made with black and pu’erh teas, cocoa nibs, chocolate chips, and chocolate curls. If you already know that you like tea, I’d definitely recommend giving David’s Tea a try, because the selection of blends is insane, and everything is delicious.

Across the globe, tea and tea drinking is an important part of daily life and people’s cultures. It’s a ritual that carries a social significance with meanings of generosity and friendliness. For me, I love having the opportunity to offer house visitors tea whenever I can. Whether you drink it hot or iced, sweetened or not, with or without milk, this beverage has been bringing people together for centuries and has an incredibly complex history that makes it even more interesting. Happy International Tea Day!