When I’m out in front of customers at a tasting, teaching a class, or just geeking out about tea in our downtown Boulder location, I inevitably get that familiar question, "what's the best tea for me to drink if I am trying to eliminate coffee from my morning routine?"
Well, as many folks might know, kickin' coffee ain't the easiest thing in the world. I myself love a rich and robust cup of Joe every now and then. And then as I’m five minutes into my afternoon stress reaction with nothing in my stomach I quickly remember why I no longer drink coffee. Nonetheless, I readily admit that I was a coffee drinker long before I re-invented myself as a “tea snob”. Not to worry though… you won’t find me tipping my pinky finger or wearing a funny red hat as I enjoy my tea.
So what I really try to emphasize with folks looking to wean their coffee habits are two things...
First and foremost, if you are going to start drinking tea as a replacement to coffee than I would highly suggest starting with whole leaf teas in loose form. The vast majority of tea bags simply will not yield the same flavor or taste as whole leaf teas. With that being said, a good majority of wanna-be converts express to me that "tea just doesn't have enough flavor" or "enough body" to replace their morning cup of coffee.
"Well, young grasshopper," I exclaim, "that's because you need to experience tea in its true form! Try keepin’ loose and see what happens!" Okay… maybe a similar message but in not so many words.
But the important thing to consider is that whole leaf teas in loose form inherently yield a tastier experience than the broken leaves, dust, and fannings found in the majority of tea bags. Why? Because whole leaf teas retain their essential oils and those oils are the precursors to great flavor and taste in ANY cup of tea... and Lord knows that we all could use a little additional “flava” in our daily routines! Tea bags consist primarily of the smallest parts of the tea plant (dust & fannings) that are typically left over after tea has been processed. In addition, tea bags can contain other parts of the tea plant (twigs, stems, etc.) that are often ground up and milled with the leaves during processing. I mean, truly... do you honestly think that you can get flavor that even comes close to that of coffee out of a tea bag containing broken leaves, dust, fannings, twigs, etc?
I didn’t think so.
So, first recommendation is always, always start with tea in it’s loose and whole leaf form. Ultimatley, the additional flavor and taste that you gain from whole leaf teas will give you a bit of a head start in that struggle with your coffee habit.
And the second recommendation that I always make to those coffee drinkers trying to kick their daily cup(s) with the aide of tea is to start with a rich, robust, and full-bodied blend of black tea. Typically a blend like English or Irish Breakfast that uses Assam as the base tea will produce good solid results. Assam teas are grown in the Northeastern region of India and are primarily known for their full body, brisk flavor, malty aromas, and strong, bright colors.For my own experience, that Assam based tea became our own Bolder Breakfast Blend. This particular tea is a blend of six different black teas including Assam and Pu erh. Some earthy, some chocolatey (I think that I just invented a word), and some malty in their aroma and taste. But what I found is that a cup of Bolder Breakfast Blend (or BBB as we sometimes affectionately refer to it) provided me with enough body, plenty of flavor and taste, and sufficient caffeine (50 – 60 mg per 8 oz. cup) to eventually kick my own coffee habit. Oh… and did I mention that this tea is also the first thing that I reach for after a long night of ummmmm let’s just call them “shenanigans” on the town? Yep… BBB is quite the hangover cure too. I hope that all of you CU students are reading this and taking notes.
Finally, I think that it’s worth noting that I also credit this tea with one other thing. Now, I know what you’re thinking but the truth of the matter is that BBB had nothing to do whatsoever with introducing me to my current girlfriend. Oh wait… I’m daydreaming… again.
But in all honesty Bolder Breakfast was my first true introduction to a number of different black teas including Assams, Ceylons, and my all-time favorite “comfort tea”, Pu erh. And for that, as well as its integral role in curing my coffee cravings, I am forever grateful.