In this country, tea sometimes takes a backseat to its energizing and mug-friendly cousin, coffee. We love a good cup of coffee, but tea is equally appealing, with its vast spectrum of styles, origins, and flavors.
There’s much to explore and enjoy, from matcha and green tea to loose leaf varietals and even instant incarnations. Moreover, there’s the ceremony involved, often inspiring small groups (while social distancing, of course) to gather around a warm kettle like moths to the flame. You sip, you converse—or reflect, or read (or listen)—and you repeat. It’s a tradition about as old as civilization and therefore deserving of some good tea in your favorite cup.
Best Overall: Steven Smith Teamaker Portland Breakfast
With phenomenal selection, beautiful presentation, and captivating, nuanced flavors, Steven Smith makes great tea, no matter the kind. Whether you’re after Jasmine Silver Tip or Big Hibiscus, it’s a fair bet that whatever you land on is going to be your new favorite. The Portland Breakfast is a fan favorite and for good reason, with a dense profile of rich, dark, nutty, and slightly smoky flavors.
Best Green Tea: Kimikura Premium Japanese Green Tea
When you have a lot of fragrances and flavors at play, balance is everything. This tea excels at that, offering a well-rounded sip with deep, lasting layers.
Best Chai: Dona Masala Chai Concentrate
Before you jump to conclusions about what you think constitutes a concentrate, know that this one means business. It’s a remarkable recipe that deposits you on the busy streets of India and features freshly ground spices that sing in your cup. All you need to do is add a little milk.
Best Earl Grey: Kusmi Prince Vladamir Russian Black Tea
A Russian riff on classic Earl Grey, this blend is bergamot-centric but also features additional spices, citrus, and a touch of vanilla. You’ll love the fresh aromatics and how it opens up the senses, readying you for a fine day ahead.
Best Matcha: Naoki Ceremonial Blend
This outstanding Japanese matcha is versatile and excellent sprinkled atop gelato or mixed into a latte. But it’s so complex and enjoyable, you’ll want it all on its own.
Best for Sore Throat: Art of Tea Egyptian Chamomile
The natural health benefits of chamomile have long been known. This soothing tea is soft on the throat, with a mild but interesting flavor profile and eco-friendly biodegradable tea bags. It’s caffeine free, so it’s great for the wee hours.
Best for Sleep: Trader Joe’s Well Rested Tea
This caffeine-free herbal option from the eclectic grocery store chain is tasty as well as effective. It’s a nice and sleep-inducing mix of minty, floral, and subtle peppery notes.
Best Instant: Waka Black Tea Powder
The instant tea category isn’t a large one — unless you include the many pre-made canned and bottled versions out there, which would be a lot — but it’s evolving. The folks at Waka, who make a mean instant coffee as well, have a nice product here, one that’s easy to make as well as tasty, no steeping required.
Best Oolong: Harney & Sons Pomegranate Oolong Tea
A great nod to traditional oolong tea as well as a scrumptious flavored option, this tea is lively and reviving. The fruit notes match the partially oxidized tea flavors wonderfully.
Best to Gift: Fortnum & Mason Darjeeling Tea
Originally a Williams Sonoma exclusive from iconic English tea house Fornum & Mason, this tea is teeming with tremendous quality. It’s made from some of the highest elevation growing areas in the world in the Himalayas and comes in a beautiful canister the recipient will want to show off atop the kitchen counter.
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