Here at Red Blossom Tea Company, we love good coffee as much as any San Francisco foodie. The explosion of coffee culture in recent years has given us the opportunity to try a multitude of delicious, single origin beans, and we are always fascinated by the flavor differences produced by different places of origin or roasting styles. To us, this modern approach to coffee makes perfect sense, because it’s the same approach we use to source traditional teas.
For many coffee drinkers, however, tea is still represented by mass produced tea bags - a form we often compare to instant coffee. It’s no wonder that most people associate tea with health benefits or bitterness, rather than complex flavor.
Whether you’re a coffee drinker looking to expand your palate or cut down on caffeine, or a tea fan looking to convert your friends, these single origin, loose leaf selections are the perfect introduction to great tea.
1. Bold and Caffeinated: Assam, Mi Xiang
Trying to kick a morning coffee habit? This black tea is made with Assam leaves, and offers the energizing boost and bold flavor of a traditional breakfast blend, without the bitterness. In contrast to traditional Assam teas grown in India, this tea was grown in relatively temperate Taiwan, where slow growth gives the plant time to develop complex flavor. This year’s harvest is also bug bitten, resulting in a uniquely sweet flavor so you can skip the milk and sugar.
2. Roasted and Complex: Grand Scarlet Robe
One of China’s most famous teas, this dark oolong tea is roasted over a charcoal fire for unparalleled depth and complexity of flavor. Grown among the rocky cliffs of the Wuyi Mountains, this tea recalls a medium roast coffee with notes of oak and minerals. Make sure to steep these leaves at least 3 times to uncover the naturally sweet undertones of ripened stone fruit.
3. Sweet and Toasty: Tung Ting, Dark Roast
For a lighter, sweeter roast, try this Taiwanese oolong. This naturally floral tea has been given a caramelizing roast, resulting in notes of toffee and brown sugar. While this is one of the more delicate options on our list, it offers a nice balance of rich texture and captivating aroma. It is perhaps comparable to a light roast coffee, without the acidity, and with a whole new array of unique tea flavor instead.
4. Smoky and Rich: Tung Ting, ca. 1980
This aged Taiwanese oolong delivers an intense, bold flavor akin to dark roast coffee, thanks to a series of roasts during the aging period. The resulting smoky overtones can be overwhelming when steeped too long, but multiple short infusions of this tea will reveal subtle notes of plum on the finish. Coffee drinkers are sure to love the rich depth of flavor in this tea.
5. Full Bodied & Digestive: Grand Shou Wild Leaf Lincang Pu-erh, 2006
This aged and fermented pu-erh tea defies expectations, with a rich, full bodied brew, but no hint of bitterness. Notes of earth and dried cherry along with a thick, malted texture make this tea surprising, yet satisfying. As an added bonus, the friendly microbes that cause fermentation will aid digestion, without the harsh acidic bite of coffee.
Have you switched from coffee to tea, or convinced someone else to? Tell us which teas got you started in the comments below!
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