Since my system of warrants was inspired by the British, I think that I am obligated to give warrants for tea. It makes sense, right? Okay, here we go.
First, I need to outline the difference between “tea” and an “infusion”. Tea is an infusion of the leaves of Camellia sinensis. Depending on how these leaves are treated between being picked and being brewed, one can end up with black, green, white, or oolong tea. These are all, as we all oughta know by now, very different and very charming in their own ways. An infusion of any other substance is just an infusion. Coffee and yerba mate have names of their own, but any other infusion tends to go, erroneously, by “tea”. Chamomile tea, nettle tea, sassafras tea, etc.
I grew up drinking real tea made by Lipton and by Bigelow–especially Constant Comment and Cinnamon Stick, of the latter. These are all charming in their own special ways, and bring back lovely memories of tea parties with friends and Tea Day in senior English class, which happened about once a month and which involved a large number of electric kettles. I am not, however, giving warrants to or showing pictures of them.
For pure unadulterated tea, tea, tea! I like Twinings English Breakfast. I had a long Irish Breakfast phase, when in high school I would make myself a thermos of it in the afternoons before heading off to my job as a clerk and decorative painter in a stationery and bric-a-brac shop. I have grown, since then. If I want a nice basic cuppa to go with one of my tea parties, this is what I go for. Your Tetley, your Yorkshire Gold, your PG Tips, yeah yeah. I like this.
If, on the other hand, I want a huge steaming mug of fragrant tea all by itself, I use Marco Polo by Mariage Freres. The horrific marketing practices of Mariage Freres–which prevent it from being sold online (!!!)–mean that this tea feels like a scarce resource. Sometimes I can get it at Williams-Sonoma, sometimes I have to, horror of horrors, make a telephone order for it. It smells like strawberries and chocolate and, with some milk and honey, tastes almost as delicious. There are a lot of fragrant, floral, fruity teas in the world, but I think that this is the best.
Adagio.com sells very large tins of tea at very affordable prices, and has an adorable website to boot. I am, oddly enough, not recommending any of their teas shown here because I don’t have a tin of the tea I want to recommend at the moment. I am recommending, as my favorite oolong, their Jasmine #12, which arrives as three tea leaves and one jasmine blossom apiece rolled into tiny balls that unfurl as the tea brews. It’s fun to watch and the resulting tea is, oh my, so very very good both to smell and to drink. I gave it to an epicure friend, and he asked me, “is this what an angel tastes like?” So yes, I do recommend Jasmine #12.
If you want, however, to feel like a stodgy and practical European who simply can’t be without a cup of something hot to drink at every minute of the day, you might want to try Pompadour, the American re-branding of the German Teekanne brand. It’s available in most grocery stores, and is both the least disagreeable chamomile and the least disagreeable peppermint tea I have ever found.
And finally, if you want to have fun, both in the way of trying all kinds of teas and infusions, and in the way of blending them with other interesting flavors, do have a browse at MightyLeaf.com. Their tea bags are pretty widely available in the coffee houses around here (which is how I groked to them), and, oh my, their silk (yes, silk) tea bags contain the lovelist bits of dried herbs and flowers you’ll ever see. My particular favorites are Chamomile Citrus, Orange Dulce, and Pear Caramel Truffle.
So, Snapdragons warrants for teas and infusions are as follows:
For basic black tea: Twinings
For floral black tea: Mariage Freres
For oolong tea: Adagio.com
For herbal infusions: Pompadour
For all-around fun: Mighty Leaf