How to Choose a Good Black Tea

How to Choose a Good Black Tea
Thinking about how to choose a good black tea? It’s easy to find when you know where to look! If you’re not sure where to begin, just ask yourself a few simple questions to begin your journey toward a fully-stocked tea cupboard bursting with black teas perfectly suited to you!

Choose Your Own Adventure! Be the Master of Your Fate.

Choosing a good black tea is much like a Choose Your Own Adventure story. (Anyone else read those back in the day?) You have to know what you like. Imagine this:
You open a cupboard. Inside are five tea blends: one is fruity; one is floral; one is nutty; one is spicy; one is sweet. Make your choice, and turn to page 7.
The first step in finding any good tea is narrowing down all the choices to one broad yet specific category. That is where the adventure begins. Once you’ve taken that first step, you will be confronted with another choice. Say you chose fruity teas. Your story may continue thusly:
You have selected a fruit tea. Well done. You open the package, the crinkling of the plastic tickling your ears before the intoxicating aroma of scented leaves floods your nose. Is the smell: bright citrus, sweet berry, or grounding stone fruit? Turn to pages 9, 12, or 17, respectively.
Keep going like that, narrowing your category each time, and see where the journey takes you! A fun way to work through those questions is to take the Plum Deluxe tea quiz! It’s simple, free, and very effective!
I found most of my favorite teas using the tea quiz. You can think of it as a “skip to the end” approach to reading a Choose Your Own Adventure book. You avoid the twists and turns along the way, and still wind up with your favorite ending.

Write Your Story! Again and Again

Of course, it’s always fun to test each different scenario in a Choose Your Own Adventure.
The tea quiz is the short-cut method, but trial and error through many different blends is fun, informative, and very much in the spirit of adventure! (Plus, you can always track your progress with a tea journal! Maybe you follow the fruit path all the way to the end and find favorites along the way.
Maybe the full-bodied mélange of elderberry, blueberries, Aronia berries, and black current with the hibiscus twist (found in Huckleberry Happiness) is just what your berry-loving adventurer was longing for.
Maybe your stone-fruit adventurer discovered serenity sipping Sweet Georgia Peach, enjoying the nuanced blend of peach, maple, and walnut essences from the comfort of a picturesque wrap-around porch.
Maybe your citrus-centered adventurer had a spicy side that paired perfectly with The Spice of Life and Comfort Blend black teas, combining the zest of orange peel and orange extract with the warming spice of cinnamon, ginger, and clove.
Maybe you took an unexpected detour to the tropics with Smooth Sailing Mango or Coconut A La Crème!
But then you want to start again from the beginning and see where the floral journey guides you. Your story may begin like this:
You have selected a floral tea. Wise choice! You tear open the smooth packaging, and the aromatic smell of the leaves transports you to a beautiful flowery oasis. Is this destination: a soothing field of lavender? A tranquil rose garden? A bountiful meadow of wildflowers? Turn to pages 14, 21, or 25, respectively.
Follow your path, and fall in love with teas along the way.
Relax with a calming cup of Delightful Morning Lavender Earl Grey, a fragrant blend of orange peel, bergamot oil, Oregon lavender, and vanilla essence. (Also available in decaf for a delightful evening!)
Curl up with a good book and enjoy Reading Nook, a gorgeous bouquet of rose petals, lavender, and chamomile bathed in a wash of vanilla essence. (Also available in decaf – I love it at all times of day, not just while reading, and am in fact drinking some as I type.)
Deviate from the black tea path with green or herbal teas. Boost your spirits with Hope Blend jasmine tea — a perfect take on a classic tea. Or enjoy a quiet moment with Evening in the Garden, a lovely combination of honeybush tea, elderflower, and rose, enhanced with lemon and vanilla! (It also makes a wonderful cocktail!)
As with any adventure, there is no “correct” decision. Different choices will lead you down different paths, and more than one path may appeal to you. The great thing about tea is: you get to wander down all the paths you want, because unlike a Choose Your Own Adventure story, there’s no risk!
You’re not committing to one fork in the road that will either lead you to the enchanted castle or a goblin dungeon. You’re just drinking tea!
So there’s no harm in trying all the teas that strike your fancy. None of them will lead you to fall into a volcano. (In the normal course of events, of course. I don’t know your hobbies.)
A great way to try out a lot of teas at once without breaking the bank is a tea flight! Choose any three teas that pique your curiosity, or throw caution to the wind and let fate decide for you!

The Story is in the Details

There are a lot of elements that make up a good black tea. The tea leaves are an important base…kind of like the blank page the story is written on.
The flavor choices you make along the way (fruity, spicy, nutty, etc.) are like your cast of characters, each bringing their own special dynamic to the overall story. But as the creator of your own story, there are many more decisions to be made that will affect your tea experience…many more adventures to choose.
The setting, for instance, is very important. That starts with a mug. Is it whimsical like this owl mug with its sweet feet? Natural like these Cheerful Blooms, Forget-Me-Not, and Positive Poppy mugs? Sweeping and full of possibilities, like a giant mug you need two hands to hold?
Or tasteful and contained, like a daintily painted china cup? Choose a receptacle that reflects your tea and your mood. Then do likewise with a complimentary infuser, and your stage is set!
Tone is also important. It could be cozy. Reflective. Celebratory. Escapist. What feeling would you like to cultivate? This is of course affected by flavors in your tea, but it can also be largely influenced by the decision of hot versus cold. Even within those categories, there are decisions to be made.
Is your cold tea iced? Sun tea? Cold-brewed? The choice is up to you!
Now it’s time to sprinkle in some nuance. Themes and motifs, if you will. Those are your tea add-ins. Cream and sugar? Lemon and honey? Perhaps a sprinkling of maple dust?
These are the details that can give your story extra depth and subtlety. Try a dash of this and a drizzle of that, and see what speaks to you!
In the end, if you listen to your instincts and follow your heart, your story will be written and it will be epic.
Enjoy your journey as you search for one good black tea after another! You never know where the path will lead you. Happy travels, my friend!

Erica Jolly

Erica Jolly is a born and raised Pacific North Westerner. Rainwater flows through her veins. She is a tea drinker by day, wine drinker by night, and lover of food, yoga, and rambling conversations.
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