Tea is surely the down and dirty proof that you are British. Give us a cuppa and we’ll keep calm and carry on, or don’t and we’ll struggle to function first thing in the morning.
I am one of a strange group of people who, despite coming from a pro-tea and coffee family, and an annual tasting session to check for any signs of becoming a tea drinker, have never fallen in love with it.
Paul doesn’t drink it, either, which I thought was a cute ‘meant to be’ coincidence when we first met, but soon realised it just makes us difficult house guests. We will always opt for water (read: boring), hot chocolate (read: early onset diabetes) or squash (read: are you seven?). We will always seem slightly awkward in work meetings when tea doesn’t cut the mustard, and can never quite deliver on the work tea round.
I know we’re not alone – several people lately have revealed that they too aren’t fussed about tea, and there are hundreds of alternative options for a comforting brew out there. There’s only so much joy you can get from green tea (read: basically pond water).
So, here are five alternative tea options – with a little tea education on the side – that may be worth a try when you need a cup of something hot:
The one that’s nothing like tea
Who knew that you could flavour tea with chocolate, and chocolate flakes? Ooh la la. When you don’t drink ‘normal’ tea, hot chocolate becomes one of the easiest alternatives, and just about stops you seeming like a fusspot. But given the recent war on sugar, and the fact that I’d quite like to have my teeth in ten years’ time, a healthier halfway point would be great.
This tea, by Teapigs, is made by combining black (read: normal) tea with cocoa beans and chocolate flakes, and happy customers recommend drinking it with milk or cream, and a biscuit. Minus the milk and biscuit, you’re looking at one calorie and the merest hint of sugar and carbs, so you can indulge in this one without having to worry about the consequences.
Other indulgent teas out there include cherry bakewell, fudge, salted caramel and chocolate and coconut.
Chocolate flake tea, £3.99 for 15 teabags, from teapigs.co.uk
The one that will score you wellbeing points
Wandering the streets with a cup full of something that looks like it’s been scooped from the bottom of a pond seems to score highly with the wellness crowd these days. A cup of matcha tea will definitely score you some points.
Matcha is green tea on steroids. It’s made by grinding green tea leaves down into a powder, which you then mix with hot water. Unlike green tea which you’d usually infuse in hot water, you drink the whole of the tea leaf, and so get a much higher dose of its nutrients and natural caffeine. Typically, you can expect twice the caffeine of coffee, and ten times the antioxidants of green tea. Antioxidants, in case (like me) you need a re-cap, protect the body from damage by harmful free radicals, which are believed to play a part in the development of conditions including blood vessel disease and cancer.
Rebecca Straus, a writer for Women’s Health, spent a week drinking matcha tea instead of coffee and felt the benefits: “Caffeine makes my thoughts race and my stomach queasy if I have too much. With matcha, I felt alert, but less jittery than I do with coffee.” This all fits together perfectly, as a phytonutrient called l-theanine, which is found in matcha, is known to lift mood and improve concentration.
The one that will rival the Pumpkin Spice Latte
There’s got to be something in this pumpkin and spice combo, if it gets Starbucks customers foaming at the mouth in the run up to launch every September.
This tea version, which jumbles up pumpkin pieces, apple, rose hip peel, beetroot, cloves and other wintery allies, delivers the same nutritional benefits as black tea, but with a fruitier taste.
Winter warmer pumpkin tea mix, £5.40 for 100g, from hebdentea.com.
The one that eases you into tea life
White tea uses young buds and leaves, and is the least processed of all teas. If you’re a trainee tea drinker, this is a good place to start. Like green tea, white tea doesn’t go through any sort of oxidation process, so it keeps hold of its antioxidant polyphenols. According to Twinings, “white tea is seen by many cultures as the crème de la crème of the teas and they only serve it at special occasions”.
As you might expect, then, white tea has a subtle but fragrant taste. The experts advise that you skip the milk, but do try brewing for different periods of time, and adding sugar, honey, or a slice of lemon, to work out which you like best.
Clipper’s range includes a plain, organic white tea, along with versions flavoured with lemon, orange and vanilla.
The one for the weekend
If you’re a natural born dinner party host, but spill the beans (in more ways than one) a little too often, there’s a tea alternative to serve alongside your meal. Sonoma’s ice tea flavours include cabernet, chardonnay and rose.
The chardonnay uses grapes from California’s Sonoma County, along with pineapples and peaches to create a calorie and sugar free drink. As you would expect from any white wine, it’s recommended with cheese, salads, white meat and fish.
Sonoma Chardonnay Iced Tea, $7.99 for six large pouches, from The Republic of Tea
Based on this, and some initial panic over the state of my waistline after an indulgent holiday, I’m going to try out some matcha. How about you?