teas guide

5 Teas For Coffee Drinkers

With this advice, the averse can learn to love joe's caffeinated counterpart.

Superfoods may come and go, but the news about tea’s health benefits—fighting inflammation, reducing risk of certain cancers, improving heart health, just to paraphrase a few of the heady findings—continues to pour in.

And yet, plenty of dedicated coffee drinkers remain indifferent. After all, as robust as the reports are for tea, its flavor is disappointingly less so, at least for the espresso crowd. We’re not referring to the caffeine differential here. We’re talking about that fantastic bold, tongue-lingering taste in every mug of joe, one that provides substance with every gratifying gulp. For those who wish they could love tea a little more, follow the advice below: 

(1) Choose the right tea: Tea lovers vary in opinion as to what tastes most robust, but these will get you started:

Irish Breakfast Tea is a bodacious blend, dominated by leaves from Assam, a state in northerneastern India. These leaves are among the strongest of black teas, and lend each cup a malty flavor. 

Da Hong Pao—“Big Red Robe” in Mandarin—is a dark oolong from the Wuyi Mountains. As the name suggests, it’s got bold flavor. But there’s also a subtly sweet taste, notes Chas Kroll, executive director of the International Tea Masters Association. 

Hojicha comes from green tea leaves that are roasted. The process produces a toasty, nutty flavor, explains Linda Villano, co-founder of SerendipiTea, an online tea purveyor. It also reduces the caffeine content, making it a sensible choice for afternoon breaks. 

Pu-erh teas are made with leaves that are fermented, sometimes for decades, so you get probiotic perks, along with a rich, earthy flavor. Each type is distinct from the other, depending on the climate and terroir. Kroll sticks to those aged at least 5 years (one of his favorite full-bodied picks is the Superior Aged Pu-erh

Matcha is a thick-bodied brew concocted from green-tea leaves, milled into a fine powder, and then whisked with hot water. Drink  “ceremonial grades” from Japan, which boast a fresh, smooth taste. “Food grade” matcha, meant for cooking, are grittier and more astringent. 


(2) Opt for loose leaves: The more leaves that come into direct contact with your steaming hot water, the more flavorful your tea. That said, the conventional flat square tea bags are not optimal, given that they restrict exposure. Pyramid-shaped pouches are better. But to bring out the most flavor, try loose-leaf tea leaves, says Herbert Stone, Ph.D., past president of the Institute of Food Technologists and a sensory scientist who has consulted on teas. Don’t stuff them into a tea-ball infuser. Instead, steep them in a brewing basket that fits over your cup or pot. This gives each leaf the space it needs to expand and swirl about in the water, infusing its flavor throughout. 

(3) Brew your tea right: What’s “right” is, again, up for discussion. You can start with the packaging instructions, but Kroll himself adheres to a strict protocol. Whatever he’s steeping, he measures out a flat teaspoon of leaves for every 6 ounces of water. (Note: This is roughly the amount served in a teacup, not a mug.) For green and oolong teas, he heats water to roughly 170 degrees Fahrenheit (when steam first appears) and steeps for 2 minutes. For black teas, he heats water to about 190 degrees (just as large bubbles start surfacing) and steeps for 3 minutes; pu-erh teas are steeped until the color resembles coffee, but for not more than 1 minute. Matcha teas are made like other green teas, but with half a teaspoon of powder and whisked.  If any of the resulting drinks isn’t strong enough for you, try brewing for 30 seconds longer. Purists may wince, but as Villano says, “Should you deviate with pleasant results, by all means consume as desired." After all, it’s your (wake-up) call.