How many cups of tea should you drink each day, and when should you drink them?
There are no hard and fast rules, but here’s Certified Tea Master, Alison Dillon’s go to guide for what kind of tea to drink morning, noon and night.
The first cup of the day calls for something bold, brisk and energising. My go-to tea to start the day is always a black tea at the more malty and robust end of the spectrum. Use English Breakfast tea as your inspiration but be adventurous. English Breakfast tea is a blend that often draws on black teas from India, Sri Lanka and China, and increasingly, Africa. Opt for something that’s single estate with known provenance. A full bodied black tea will give you the kick start you need for your day.
I find it hard to go past Himalayan Black Summer tea which is an exquisite tea grown high in the mountains of Nepal in the Eastern Himalayas. It is rich, full bodied and has a lovely smoothness on the palate with hints of toffee and maple. It’s perfect for a crunchy piece of toast drizzled with honey, works surprisingly well with yogurt or cereals, and can still stand up to a hearty hot breakfast. It will also tolerate a splash of milk.
An oolong is an excellent choice for early in the day. Oolong tea sits between green and black tea and offers more flavour diversity, complexity and expression than any other type of tea. I generally reach for something lightly oxidised from Tawain or China – usually something at the greener end of the oolong scale.
Around mid-morning I’m usually starting to seek out something with a sweet or fruity touch. Regardless of what you crave, you’ll find solace with an oolong. A skilled craftsman can coax out such a huge range of flavour by the way they process and treat the leaves from creamy, smooth tones, through to buttery caramels, toasted nuts or gorgeous florals.
Master Chen’s Lishan Spring or Master Zhang’s Tie Guan Yin are two high quality ball style oolong’s I have on high rotation. A teaspoon of either will last you for the entire day. You can have your first steep at 9am in the morning and still get excellent flavour and endurance seven infusions later at 4pm in the afternoon!
For the coffee lovers who would usually be opting for cup mid-morning, try a highly oxidised oolong like Master Mao’s Dark Roast Sumatra. This tea is charcoal fired and really packs a punch thanks to the mineral-rich, volcanic terroir or the garden. There are strong smoked coffee and caramel notes, with an all-round earthy boldness and the slightest hint of cinnamon.
Depending on what’s on the menu, lunch usually calls for a green tea pairing. A Japanese green tea like Houjicha is a safe, delicious bet thanks to its versatility when paired with food. Houjicha is lower in caffeine than most teas as a result of the high heat roasting it undergoes during processes and the fact that the leaves are generally large and from lower down the tea bush – the top tips and young shoots of a plant tend to have the highest concentration of caffeine.
Houjicha aids digestion and quenches thirst thanks to its low tannin levels and limited astringency. It is a great base for a cold brew tea so if you’re after something iced with lunch it’s the perfect option.
At around 3pm the post-lunch slump starts to hit and I will reach for a white tea. White tea is the least process style of tea and retains the highest amount of antioxidants. Myths abound that white tea is low in caffeine, but that’s not accurate, which is why it gives a nice little boost to get you through the rest of the workday.
When it comes to white tea, make sure the quality is good. There is very little processing involved compared to other types of teas which makes the terroir and provenance all the more essential. I rarely drink anything other than bud only white tea and 99% of the time I’ll choose something from China, like Master Wu’s Silver Needles. This tea is made from the Da Bai Hao cultivar which is the original and authentic white tea plant, found in Fuding in Fujian Province.
Make sure your white tea buds have lots of velvety fuzz all over them and they are all of a similar colour and size (key indicators of a quality white tea).
I absolutely recommend you consider tea in all its applications – especially in cocktails. Tea cocktails are becoming increasingly popular as mixologists discover the versatility and flavour profile of the leaf. The good news is that just about any type of tea translates well to a pre-dinner aperitif, but to truly get the right balance of flavours make sure you’re ordering from a skilled bar tender.
Discover a great range of tea cocktail recipes including a Dark Roast Sumatra Martini, Spring Peach Tea Punch and Oolong Mojitos
I’ll often pair a tea with my evening meal but it is always dependant on what style of food I’m eating. In the same way you would use key principles to match wine with food so too can this be applied to tea to find a perfect style to compliment your dish. There are some wonderful dining options around the world where you can enjoy exceptional food paired with tea, by a tea sommelier.If you have the opportunity to experience this, you will be amazed at what a skilled paring can mean for both the tea and your food.
At the tail end of the evening, I’d recommend transitioning to something lighter as you wind down before sleeping. A jasmine scented green tea is a wonderfully settling option. Make sure you opt for something hand scented not flavoured.
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