#body {margin-top:10px;}
Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Tea for Effort

Get it?  I'm blogging.  See, I can do it.  Even if that means that I haven't since last month...  Are you judging me?  I think you're judging me.  Stop it.

Today is my little blog's 5th birthday.  I have big dreams for her during the next year.  I wish I'd spent more time with her this past year, but like my Granny said...  "Wish in one hand and {insert something entirely inappropriate here} in the the other.  Which one do you have more of?"  Here's to hoping I'll produce much more {again with that inappropriate thing} this year on the Manifesto.

January is National Hot Tea Month.  As in, last month was National Hot Tea Month.  The irony here is that I began drafting this blog in early-January and it sort of seems silly to post it on the first day of February.  So to mix things up a bit, I'm declaring February an extension to National Hot Tea Month.

Years ago, I was a coffee drinker, but when the caffeine began to give me heart palpitations, I made the switch to tea.  While I appreciate the smell, taste, and texture of coffee, there's really no comparison to how well tea administers a solution to my every mood.  And, the options are endless. 

Since it's award season, I've compiled a little list of my favorite teas...and some of my not-so favorite.

Best Black
Republic of Tea Ginger Peach
I fell in love with this particular tea when I was working at Books-A-Million in high school.  Our Joe Muggs cafe featured a selection of Republic of Tea.  I worked the customer service desk with a little old lady named Arlina, who complained often of her fibromyalgia flare-ups.  She drank Ginger Peach and would re-use the tea bag several times with fresh hot water.  Anyway, I was intrigued by the sweet and spicy aroma wafting from her mug, and it didn't take long for me to become hooked.  This tea has little bits of peach pulp dried amongst the leaves, and has just a touch of heat from the ginger.

Best White
Celestial Seasonings Perfectly Pear
One of the things I love about white tea is the caffeine lift but in a delicate, feminine package.  White teas undergo very little processing (except from the sun) and much less fermentation than black teas.  This makes them naturally sweeter and softer.  I would recommend white tea to a new tea drinker who wants a little more panache than an herbal.  Both Republic of Tea and Mighty Leaf make fine white teas, but my favorite is this little gem from Celestial Seasonings.  I remember many a lazy Sunday afternoon sitting at my old apartment, the Aspen Bungalow, enjoying a cup of Perfectly Pear with a good book.

Best Green
Tazo Zen
This green tea is not boring like I find some green teas to be.  It's the perfect afternoon tea because it's so refreshing, featuring flavors of lemongrass and spearmint.  Just one inhalation of this tea delivers invigoration while simultaneously soothing the senses.  You can quote me on that.  I like to drink Zen after work and before I head out again for evening plans.

Best Oolong
Mighty Leaf Orchid Oolong
Christmas of 2008, my mom was given a Mighty Leaf sampler pack as a gift at work.  ML tea bags are made of silk and stitched with unbleached cotton, and the pouches are large, allowing the curly, twisted leaves to float around, maximizing the brew.  The quality of these tea bags makes them a bit pricier than most, averaging a little over 66 cents per bag.  In the sampler pack, I found the Orchid Oolong, and prepared a cup while writing this blog post.  I found this tea to be light and smooth, with a fragrant tropical floral scent.  It steeps a soft beige and yields a quiet response.  Orchid Oolong makes me feel like I'm at a spa retreat.

Best Rooibos
Numi Red Mellow Bush
In high school, my brother worked at a coffee, tea, and smoothie shop in Hendersonville.  The store eventually closed down, and my brother came home with some of the leftovers.  Part of the stash included a large selection of Numi teas, including Red Mellow Bush.  This tea is made with rooibos, a native South African tea leaf.  The flavor is smoky, earthy, and rich, and feels like a late-September afternoon...warm and windy.

Best Herbal
Celestial Seasonings Honey Vanilla Chamomile
My roommate, Amy, first introduced this tea to our household several years ago.  Celestial Seasonings ups the ante with this chamomile tea, adding honeyed vanilla.  I'm not lying when I say you can taste the vanilla and the honey coats your throat.  I drink a cup of this before bedtime almost every evening.

Best Breakfast Blend
Bigelow Earl Grey
When I began drinking hot tea on a regular basis, my taste generally trended toward softer, herbal teas.  It wasn't until I went to London in 2008 that I began to enjoy tea with bold, unique flavor.  I ordered Earl Grey with my cucumber sandwich and scone at The Orangery Tea Room in Kensington Gardens.  It came with rich cream and sugar cubes, and I found a new obsession.  The Bigelow variety is some of the best that can be found Stateside.  The bergamot oils in these tea bags are so potent that the bags turn bright yellow in their foil lined wrapper.  Bigelow's Earl Grey is one of my favorite morning traditions. 

Best Afternoon
Republic of Tea Blackberry Sage
I get restless at work everyday around 2 p.m.  When I open my tea drawer (yes, I have a tea drawer in my office), I typically reach for the can of Blackberry Sage.  It combines the caffeine of a black tea with the fruitiness of an herbal tea.  The sage adds a kick of pepper, and I find that this tea helps me to kick start my productivity.  

Best Chai
Bigelow Spiced Chai
I've had some really bad Chai teas.  Sometimes they're too spicy, burning the throat with the aftertaste, or they aren't spicy enough, creating only lightly seasoned water.  I've found that Bigelow produces an amazingly spicy Chai, but it still manages to be smooth.  I like to enjoy a strong cup of hot chai with a splash of International Delight Sugar Free French Vanilla creamer.  This is the beginner tea that I would recommend to a coffee drinker, wanting to make the switch. 

Best British
Fortnum & Mason Queen Anne
On our first night in London in 2008, we visited the famous Fortnum & Mason department store on Piccadilly.  My sole purpose in shopping was to stock up on British tea.  If there hadn't been ten days of Europe left on our trip, I probably would've filled up my suitcase.  My favorite tea purchase is the Queen Anne.  It's some of the strongest, blackest tea I've ever experienced.  It's so dark that you can still smell it through the packets, even though the box is closed.  It's genuinely British, and deserves to be brewed long and hard, and then rewarded with a generous amount of milk and a heaping tablespoon of sugar.

Best Seasonal
Bigelow Pumpkin Spice
Autumnal-inspired teas always hold a special place in my heart.  In the spring and summertime, I typically drink lighter, fruity teas, so by Fall, I want something that compliments the changing of the leaves and the crisp weather.  I'm kind of a sucker for pumpkin anyway, so any tea that features the flavor has me sold.  This tea is like eating a piece of pumpkin pie in a cup, with a strong side of cinnamon and clove.

Best Nighttime
Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime
Even if you aren't a regular tea drinker, I bet you've reached out for the stuff when you're sick.  You want something hot, light, and soothing.  Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime tea is the perfect combination of calming chamomile and cool spearmint.  It simultaneously relaxes you to sleep and helps clear the head of congestion.  In my humble opinion, this tea should be a staple in your kitchen cabinet...or in your nightstand.

Best Non-tea Tea 
Tazo Organic Apple Red Herbal Infusion
Technically, this "non-tea tea" has a base of African rooibos, but there's so little of it that it's more accurate to call this a cider...or, as Tazo calls it, an "Herbal Infusion."  Once brewed in very hot water, you can taste the apple, caramel, and cinnamon saturation.  Because of it's natural flavor, you don't even need to add sugar...it's already sweet. 

 Best All-Around
Republic of Tea Honey Ginseng Green
I'm really excited to share this tea with you.  It's my favorite for several reasons.  First, I dig the subdued caffeinated assistance.  Second, the Chinese green tea offers powerful antioxidants targeting cancer, heart disease, and promoting general circulatory health.  And third, the flavor of this tea is incredibly unique.  I attribute this to the twang from the ginseng.  I enjoy this tea with meals, and it's my old standby when I visit a cafe or beverage shop offering Republic of Tea.  I especially like it with a slice of fresh lemon.

A list of the "best" is not complete if you don't round it out with the "worst."

Epic Fail 
Twinings of London brand teas
I've given this tea brand more than a fair chance.  I've tried their herbal teas, their black teas, and even their green teas, and all were met with disappointment.  For some reason, these teas fail to steep well even in the hottest of boiling water and turn out weak and flavorless.  From a company that's been around since the early 1700s, I expect more.  My guess is that in the overall history of the company, they were committed to fine ingredients and excellence, but somewhere along the way, they sold out to cheaper processing and commercialization.

Honorable Fail
Lipton brand teas
For your general, all-American iced tea purposes, Lipton will do.  Their basic bags get the job done for the masses.  But when they got into the specialty hot tea business several years ago, they may have been feeling a little too ambitious.  Their herbal line tends to create a bitter aftertaste, and their pyramid line leaves a large amount of sediment floating in my cup.  There's nothing more unpleasant than sipping dirty tea.

And now for something really fun...

In celebration of The Queen MAB Manifesto's 5th Birthday, I'm giving away a tea gift basket valued at over $50 in tea and tea-themed goodies.  All you have to do is leave a comment.  You can wish my little blog a Happy Birthday, or tell me your favorite kind of hot tea, or anything else that you'd like to imprint in cyberspace.  One entry per person, please, and no entries past Friday, February 4 at noon.  The winner will be chosen randomly and contacted by email on Saturday.

Thank you kindly for reading, friends.  I appreciate you.


Blogger Amy said...

Well it's about dang time! Just kidding, I hereby retract my judgemental comment. I'm so very proud of your blog revival. I feel the spirit movin'! Wonderful post! Way to kick off Feb! And thanks to you & Em, I also have become an avid tea drinker. An honorable mention should also go to our AWESOME cool touch hot water pot that will boil water faster than you can get out the tea bag. I will miss that little booger in SA. Happy Blogging to you! The world is glad you are back!

5:08 PM

Anonymous MOM said...

I am your mom, my birthday is this month and you know I love tea. Guess it would look rigged if I got the tea basket. Oh well. I am happy to see a blog entry! I love to read what you write and I am not just saying that! Love you and love your words! Mom

7:00 PM

Blogger Christy Nicholson said...

Yay, tea basket! I was just thinking that my tea stash is several years old and needs to be refreshed.

7:08 PM

Blogger Natrudy said...

How can I compete with your mom, that's sacrilegious!?! I am so very glad that you're blogging again. I've missed you. I've been using Bigelow tea bags for years. Now that you've brought up these other brands I'm so excited to try them out and see if they really are better. Thank you!!

8:10 PM

Anonymous Miss Angelaths said...

Mary Anna! I absolutely love reading your manifesto and, even though it's been too long since we've seen each other, your observations continue to make me feel close to that sharp wit and hysterical personality of yours. My favorite blogs so far have been the office pranks and the beauty finds. I miss you my dear friend and wish you all the best! If you ever publish a book in the future, I'll definitely buy it, especially if it's dedicated to your Mom.

9:50 AM

Anonymous Marcie H Rainey said...

Five years old already! Congrats! I would love to win the tea basket! I used to drink green tea all the time when I lived alone. I'd watch my Sex and the City dvd's and drink it with lots of honey! I hope I win!

9:58 AM

Blogger Jessica Lewis said...

Whoo hooo! I heart tea. And giveaways. And YOU. Fingers crossed!

10:03 AM

Blogger Amanda said...

HELLLLOOOOO! I am drinking hot tea right now! I want to win sooooo bad. Sadly, I am drinking Lipton green tea at the moment. I drink a bunch of the yogi tea, not because it taste good, but it is like opening a fortune cookie. They have cute little inspirational sayings on them. For example...I keep one taped at my desk. It reads..."Life is a flow of love; your participation is required." Hope you have a great week Mary Anna!

10:49 AM

Blogger Aileen said...

I love this Mary Anna! I definitely want to try your chair recommendation, the only one I've had is the Tazo chai. Thanks for sharing!

8:51 PM

Anonymous Hadley said...

Happy Blogging Birthday!!! A warm cup of tea sounds like the perfect way to celebrate. Some of those are my favorite too, and I need to try some others to give them a chance to shine!

9:09 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy bloggiversary! I agree with your earl grey recommendation. mmm It's great with honey and soy milk.


2:59 PM

Anonymous durl said...

Happy anniversary to your wonderful little blog! Being a good southern boy, (extremely) sweet tea is the only tea that passes my lips. I just wanted to show my support to the incomparable QueenMAB.

Hey...how about a section dedicated to the Best Sweet Tea - Restaurant Division?

No? Well, it was worth a shot.

10:15 AM

Blogger Lindsay said...

Happy Blog Birthday! I just love reading your view on the world Mary Anna!

10:41 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

YAY for your blog MAB! Love you and LOVE your words! Maybe your love to tea will rub off on me!! love you!
Christa =)

1:29 PM

Blogger Natrudy said...

Miss your blogging Friend.

8:17 PM

Anonymous Bedroom Ideas said...

Good day
Tea For Effort
I read your distinguished article and I think your blog will be one of the best if you keep up the good work!

4:07 AM


Post a Comment

<< Home

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]