With so many varieties of tea, it can be difficult to settle on just one. Many people end up trying a bunch of different teas before finding one they really like, but even then, you need a place to start.
- Health Benefits
- Flavor (i.e. mild or strong)
- Relaxation and Stress Relief
- Caffeine Content
- Ease of Preparation
If you are buying tea for the health benefits, you’ll want to get a shade-grown tea. Spending time in the shade increases the amount of chlorophyll and with it, the nutrients in the leaves. Shade-grown teas include:
- Gyokuro — very high quality Japanese green tea, but also expensive; one of the best teas money can buy [more info here]
- Dragon Well Tea — a Chinese green tea that holds the “China Famous Tea” designation; has a gentle flavor; comes in many grades and is generally quite affordable; a great value and one of my favorite teas to buy [more here]
- Matcha — this Japanese green tea powder is the healthiest tea of all; requires a unique process and special accessories to brew, but you don’t actually need to brew it—Matcha is often added to food and drinks, making it especially popular for those who don’t like the taste of tea [more on matcha here]
- Keemun Tea — the most famous black tea from China; has a fruity, sweet and mellow taste with a distinct floral fragrance [more here]
Flavor of the Tea
- White Hair Silver Needle — the mildest tea of all; highest quality white tea and one of the ten “China Famous Teas”; given the reputation and quality, surprisingly affordable [more info here]
- Golden Monkey Tea — the black tea equivalent of white hair silver needle (both use only the youngest buds); mild black tea from China; very high quality and not easy to find; not yet popular in the west, so still quite cheap [more here]
- Lapsang Souchong — strong, smoky black tea from China; a good choice for former coffee drinkers; try a sample size first, since people tend to either love or hate this one [more info here]
- Pu-erh tea — post-fermented tea from China with a unique earthy flavor that varies a lot among varieties; most pu-erh teas get better (and more expensive) with age; many collectors buy them as an investment [more here]
- Sencha — Japanese green tea with a strong “green tea flavor”; the most popular tea in Japan and very affordable; great value; one of my favorites [more info]
Relaxation and Stress Relief
The best teas for relaxation are ones infused with jasmine, as the essence of the jasmine flower has been shown to have additional calming effects on top of those already provided by tea.
- Jasmine Silver Needle Tea — highest quality jasmine tea made from the famous White Hair Silver Needle white tea; wonderful jasmine aroma with a sweet and mellow flavor [more info here]
- Jasmine Green Teas — jasmine infused green teas give you a wide range of options, from expensive and high quality to cheap and average [more info on the Jasmine tea page]
There is a lot of misinformation out there about the caffeine content of tea and much of it comes from generally reputable sources. Basically, the type of tea does not determine the caffeine content, so you cannot say that white tea, for example, has more or less caffeine than green or black (generally white tea’s caffeine content is quite high) .
The caffeine content depends on a number of factors: the plant variety (the plant used in Fujian teas is low in caffeine, for example), roasting (roasted teas are generally lower in caffeine, but not always), maturity of the leaves (larger, more mature leaves have less caffeine) and the amount of leaves used in preparation as well as the steeping time. Here are a few teas with low and high caffeine content:
Low Caffeine Content
- Houjicha — is a roasted Japanese green tea, meaning it has less caffeine than other green teas; often given to children in Japan, due to lower caffeine [more info here]
- Lapsang Souchong — Chinese black tea made from mature leaves, meaning less caffeine; strong and smoky; try a sample size first, since people tend to either love or hate this one [more info here]
- Big Red Robe Tea — oolong tea from Fujian Province; oolong teas are generally roasted, giving them a lower caffeine content, but this is not always true; since this one is roasted and comes from Fujian, it has less caffeine than other oolong teas [more info]
High Caffeine Content
- Matcha — green tea powder, meaning the whole leaves are consumed; as a result, it has far and away the most caffeine, but also the most nutrients; the healthiest tea [more info here]
- Gyokuro — highest quality green tea; shade-grown means more nutrients and more caffeine in the leaves; expensive [more here]
- White Hair Silver Needle Tea — high quality white tea made from only the young buds, which means high caffeine content; the mildest tea of all; one of the ten “China Famous Teas”; given the reputation and quality, surprisingly affordable [more here]
- Golden Monkey Tea — black tea made from only the youngest buds and leaves; mild, very high quality and rare; not yet popular in the west, so still quite cheap [more info here]
Ease of Preparation
Black teas are generally the easiest to prepare.
White tea and oolong tea are both more complicated to brew.
Overall, black teas are the cheapest, followed by green teas. White, oolong, yellow and pu-erh teas are generally a bit more expensive. Here are the cheapest white, black, green and oolong teas respectively:
- White Peony — one of the best value teas; cheaper white tea than the famous White Hair Silver Needle, but still great quality; many actually prefer White Peony due to a stronger, fruitier flavor [more info here]
- Assam Tea — the cheapest black tea and the cheapest tea overall; used in many black tea blends [more here]
- Gunpowder Tea — cheapest green tea; usually lower quality with a strong flavor [more info]
- Pouchong — Taiwanese oolong that is cheaper than other varieties [more here]
- Gyokuro — very high quality Japanese green tea, but also expensive; one of the best teas money can buy [more info on Gyokuro here]
- White Hair Silver Needle Tea — highest quality white tea and one of the ten “China Famous Teas”; given the reputation and quality, surprisingly affordable [more here]
- Big Red Robe Tea — highest quality oolong tea; another one of the ten “China Famous Teas”; wonderful mellow flavor [more info here]
- Golden Monkey Tea — highest quality black tea and the black equivalent of white hair silver needle (both use only the youngest buds); mild flavor, very high quality and rare; not yet popular in the west, so still quite cheap [more info]
If you already know exactly which tea you want, but not where to get it, my review and comparison of online tea vendors will help you find the best place to buy tea online.