Tea Buying Guide

Interested in drinking tea but not quite sure where to start? This basic guide will help in discovering what variety could potentially be your cup of tea.

Tea Buying Guide main image Tea Buying Guide image

New to what the wonders of tea have to offer? Not completely sure of what flavours might suit your palate? The tea spectrum is incredibly wide and varied and if you’re yet to figure out what your cup of tea is then here are just a few very basic things to consider when looking for a captivating cuppa.

Drinking any kind of tea is beneficial and will offer a range of healthful properties regardless of what you choose. With this in mind, choose a tea you’re going to enjoy the taste of because at least that way you will drink more of it and it will be a pleasurable experience each time.

In terms of “strength”, this is usually in relation to flavour and each tea category has varying flavour strengths. If you’re looking for a tea based on the strength of its caffeine content, then black tea is usually the way to go; however, maccha — a powdered Japanese green tea has a higher caffeine content because the leaves are consumed in their entirety, rather than as an infusion.

Lastly, the taste of tea will differ depending on where and how it’s cultivated. For instance, a Darjeeling is grown at a higher and cooler elevation and produces a light-tasting infusion when compared to the dark, malty infusion of an Assam, which is grown in low-lying, greenhouse-like terroir. Though they are both black teas from India, their characteristics are quite different. This will apply to all other varieties of tea depending on the countries they’re from and the way they’re produced. Tasting notes/descriptions will offer the best idea of what to expect.

Black Tea:

Perfect for those looking for:

  • A little extra hit of caffeine
  • A more tannic and developed flavour
  • A tea to which milk or sugar can be added — however, some Darjeelings and Chinese teas may have flavours that are too delicate for the addition of milk

Green tea:

Perfect for those looking for:

  • A more herbaceous or vegetal flavour
  • Less of a caffeine hit – when compared to black tea (with the exception of maccha)
  • The health benefits as reported by nearly every green tea study ever conducted

White tea:

Perfect for those looking for:

  • A very subtle and fresh (almost floral) flavour
  • The least amount of caffeine in tea
  • A refreshment that is a bit different

Oolong tea:

Perfect for those looking for:

  • Something that sits between a green tea and a black tea
  • More savoury flavours that range from herbaceous to nutty to woody
  • An excellent accompaniment to a wide variety of foods

This is a very rudimentary introduction to the differences in tea varieties. Every infusion will be quite nuanced in flavour and aroma but whole categories, e.g. Assam teas, will share similar qualities.

And then of course you have a whole other category of tisanes that have nothing to do with the tea plant. Herbs, rooibos, and fruit infusions are usually enjoyed as tasty, non-caffeine alternatives but may serve their own healthful purpose. If drinking for health reasons, it is best to consult a qualified practitioner who can point you in the correct herbal direction.