Building off of my recommended list of tea retailers, I always get asked for a recommendation or "what tea should I drink?" or "where do I start?" It is really a difficult question to answer as there are thousands of teas out there, and I have only tried a fraction of them!
First of all, I would try samples of each of the main tea styles, while reading the Introduction to Tea from the Tea Series. Within the main tea styles is where the options become overwhelming. Below are my recommendations, which consist of the most popular teas that represent the diversity of each style.
White Teas - Very simple, as there are only a few types of tea in this style
- Bai Hao Yin Zhen (Silver Needle) - far and away the most popular and prevalent. I really like the quality from Seven Cups, who I ordered my white tea from.
Green Teas - Extraordinarily complex subject. There are a LOT of green teas, and a LOT of imitation and low quality examples. Also, Chinese and Japanese green teas are very different. Here's my must try list of green teas that demonstrate the variety. TeaVivre has some great green teas AND they sell it by the sample (hint: Green Tea Sampler Pack).
- Longjing (Dragonwell) - THE green tea
- Taiping Houkui (Monkey Leader) - A very interesting variety and an awesome name
- Bi Luo Chun (Sea Snail) - Popular and very different taste than other styles
- Liu'an Gua Pian (Melon Seed) - I really, really love this tea
- Gyokuro - Japanese green tea. Why not recommend sencha? In my opinion Japanese tea does not have the variety of Chinese, so get a nice gyokuro and steep a low temperature and you have a good idea of what Japanese tea is all about.
Oolong Tea - Again, I could spend all day recommending away and explaining the difference between Taiwanese High Mountain Oolong vs Chinese Rock Oolong. Here are my picks:
- Taiwanese - I am in love with the offerings of Mountain Tea Co. Grab some samples of their Dong Ding (no jokes) or Alishan, and TieGuanYin. That's just the tip of the iceberg, but if you love it like I do, keep exploring.
- Chinese - Keep the variety going with Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe) and a Chinese TieGuanYin to compare to the Taiwanese version.
Darjeeling - I'm skipping Yellow Tea, as that is a niche area to explore. Darjeeling is amazing on its own and I have recently harped about it and shown my recommendations from Thunderbolt Teas.
Assam - I usually go with a FTGFOP from Upton Teas. Great for making iced tea and that's about it!
Chinese Black Tea - So much to explore
Puerh - An absolutely ludicrous amount of tea to cover. If you're overwhelmed with options at Yunnan Sourcing, I suggest heading to White2Tea for a smaller, curated selection. They won't steer you wrong so feel free to just pick up what strikes your fancy! I will suggest having a raw or sheng puerh as your first foray into this style.
Here's a list of teas that I recently bought a friend who wanted a good assortment. These are all samples from TeaVivre and cost $19.00 total!:
- Huang Shan Mao Feng Green Tea
- Organic Nonpareil Ming Qian Dragon Well Long Jing Green Tea
- Tie Guan Yin “Iron Goddess” Oolong Tea
- Golden Monkey Black Tea
- Keemun Black Tea – Grade 1
- Silver Needle White Tea (Bai Hao Yin Zhen)
- Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe) Wuyi Rock Oolong Tea