I am surrounded by building and construction equipment right now. Road construction and new building construction machinery fills the air daily with the din of building noises. It struck me that building a well rounded tea collection is similar to building an abode. The ideas and suggestions represented are subjective and open to your own rendition of building blocks with tea.
Laying A Foundation
A good foundation is crucial to the success of the building it is supporting. Throughout time, building engineering feats have occurred only after the correct foundation is laid down. The pyramids, the Eiffel Tour, the Great Wall in China, The Gateway to the West (the St. Louis Arch), and skyscrapers would not be standing today without the undergirding of sturdy foundational support. Attention to detail is crucial for correctly building a foundation for a building. Tom Silva, who is a celebrity contractor with the PBS show “This Old House”, states “without a good one, you are sunk.”
Likewise a good tea harvest can quickly turn bad if attention to detail is not there. The entire batch of tea leaves can quickly become moldy, broken, too dry, or burned during the processing of the leaves. To me, it is important to start a tea collection with classic teas that have been carefully processed, keeping the integrity of the leaf intact. I feel classic teas are the fundamental building blocks of a great tea collection. Having several classic teas represented in a tea collection gives a solid base to build upon. Appreciation of subtle nuances of classic tea blends lends to a further enhanced appreciation of newer, bolder, specialty crafted tea blends. I think a well rounded tea collection could include black, green, white, Oolong and Pu’erh teas.
Each category of teas from the Camellia sinensis plant can create a great base to build upon. In the black tea category I would include an Assam tea from India with its malty taste, and a Darjeeling from India with its light muscatel flavor profile. Other teas to include would be a Keemun from China for its slight coco and stone fruit flavor profile, or a Yunnan China tea with its smooth and maple sweet notes. Another tea to include would be a Ceylon tea from Sri Lanka with its bright liquor and honey notes. As far as classic black tea blends are considered, I prefer an English breakfast blend and an Earl Grey blend.
A few Oolong teas that I would add to my repertoire of teas would be a Ti Kuan Yin from the Anxi County in China with a dried fruit aroma and a nutty and a buttery grain flavor. I would also include Oriental Beauty Oolong from Taiwan with its intense floral aroma and light floral notes, and a Jade Oolong from Taiwan with a light green color in the cup, and mild and sweet taste.
I feel green tea is a vibrant addition to any tea collection. Several Japanese green teas that would add vibrancy to any collection would be a Japanese Sencha tea with its sweet green vegetable note or a Genmaicha Japanese tea with bits of puffed rice that add a nutty flavor to a sweet green bean profile. I feel a tea collection is not complete without Japanese Matcha ceremonial grade green tea with a very green vegetable note and bright green color in the cup. A few Chinese green teas that would be a great accompaniment to the Japanese teas would be a Chinese Lung Ching green tea with its toasty and nutty vegetal profile, and Jasmine Pearls Chinese green tea with a heady aroma of jasmine and a delicate floral profile.
White teas can have a very subtle flavor profile. I feel they can add a delicate, light and delightful change to a more full bodied flavor profile of other categories of tea. For example, a Pai Mu Tan white tea from China is refreshingly sweet with a delicate flavor. A Silver Needles white tea from China has a subtle taste of honey and can include a citrus note while the aroma is light, sweet with a hint of floral.
I think an extensive collection of tea would be incomplete without Pu’erh teas. There are cooked and raw Pu’erh teas that would add a wonderful component to any tea collection. Cooked, ripe, or Shu Pu’erh is a tea that has been accelerated in the aging process. Its flavor profile is a well rounded, full bodied tea with an aroma of mushrooms, and earth. Raw, uncooked, or green Sheng Pu’erh has not undergone the accelerated aging process, and is left to naturally age. The profile of this tea is minimally astringent, with a slightly earthy flavor profile.
Viewing Notre Dame, Salisbury Cathedral, or Cologne Cathedral one can see what is structurally called flying buttresses on the outside of the cathedral walls. These additional support structures allowed the builders to build taller, airier, buildings. These structures precipitated the incorporation of more windows and thus enabled an increase of infused light to enter the building. Similarily, additional flavored tea blends can increase your collection and add interest, as well as support to your expanding collection of tea. I believe additional flavored, specialty crafted tea blends can allow your tea collection to soar to new heights!
When looking for tea blends to add to your repertoire of tea, think with our nose. Meaning, what goes past your nose will usually go in your cup. If a tea captures your senses and attention in a pleasant way via its aroma, that would be a tea to try in the cup. Usually, what is a pleasing aroma will have a taste profile that is engaging and delightful on the tongue.
Some points to consider when adding to your tea collection would be to try to have a good selection, or representation of varying tea blends. For example, I love anything chocolate; chocolate pudding, chocolate ice cream, chocolate candy, and chocolate flavored tea. I purposefully branch out from teas that are chocolate flavored and add new blends to my private curated collection of teas. I am intentional in making sure that I have spicy, floral, citrusy, fruity, grassy, earthy, smokey and sweet tea blends in my collection. If I find that I am becoming heavy, or lopsided in my selection of teas and I primarily have one category of teas, I mindfully will fill in gaps, or holes in my tea collection.
There are a plethora of tea blends that are available for consumption. It can be a purely subjective preference regarding what teas to add to a collection. My recommendation would be to add a category of tea that is not already existent in your collection. Start with a few classic teas in each tea category. Then, within that category, notice if there are there flavor profiles that are absent? That may be the next tea to possibly procure for your collection of tea.
In building a curated selection of teas, the sky's the limit. Anywhere from the classic teas to small batch crafted teas are available today for building your collection. Lavender Earl Grey tea, Matcha, Sugar Kissed Rose tea, Milk Oolong, Pumpkin Spice tea, Darjeeling tea, Chocolate Lovers’ chai tea, Moroccan Mint green tea, and Lemon Ginger Rooibos teas are all examples of great building blocks for a soaring tea collection.
Have fun building your collection,
About The Author
Leslie Sundberg is a World Tea Academy Certified Tea Specialist, a World Tea Academy Apprentice Tea Sommelier, a Specialty Tea Institute Level IV trained Tea Specialist, and a Tea and Business Etiquette Specialist. On any given day, Leslie can be found teaching, speaking or sharing in the joys of a cup of tea. No matter what Leslie is doing or where she is, one thing remains constant: 4:00 in the afternoon is tea time!