Being the tea fanatic/importer that I am, I am frequently asked many, many questions about tea. Most questions I more than happy to answer, as I am always in the mood to discuss tea, the best ways to chose them, store them, infuse them and taste them. There are thousands of different ways of appreciating a good cup of tea, and I love exploring all the different infusion and tasting methods the wonderful world of tea has to offer. However, there is one question, my most frequently asked, that I have a very difficult time answering: “What is the best tea in the world?”
The best tea? Out of all of them? 39 tea producing countries in the world, 5000 varieties on the planet (conservative estimate), all picked and rolled and dried and cooked and fragranced in different ways… it’s a tall order to find the best one.
When I was first asked this question in our store, La Dépense, I was truly and utterly stumped. I had a customer who was a coffee drinker who wanted to give his daughter, more of a tea drinker, “the best tea in the world” for her birthday. I had no idea what to say. I tried asking him what kind of tea she usually drank. Was she a fan of scented teas or natural teas, did she have a teapot or preferred the convenience of teabags... to no avail. He was rushed for time, and simply wanted to get the best tea in the world for his little girl, and didn’t care about the price.
Long story short, I helped him find a nice gift for her, a glass teapot with a flowering tea (not the best tea in the world, but all the rage in’04) and he was on his way. I, however, was left to ponder: What was the best tea in the world? Over the years, I went through all my tea books, my tea journal (which contains everything I have ever learned about tea), the internet and even spent a ridiculous amount of money on the finest teas I could find.
I bought all the high altitude, virgin picked (seriously???), $2000/kg, produced in a small valley by a family that had been making tea for 100 years, I could find. I have followed meticulous instructions on brewing, bought all the right tea utensils, cups and pots one would need to make all these exceptional teas. Basically, I did my homework.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have loved every minute of it! Tasting all these great teas and having all these amazing adventures finding them has been one of the most fantastic experiences of my life. And after all these years of research and tasting, can I finally answer the question, what is the best tea in the world? Yes I can! Drum roll please…
The Best Tea in the World is…the one you love.
Appreciating tea is not a contest. It is a flavor adventure and therefore every tea experience is in the eye of the beholder. The best tea in the world is the one that helps wake you up the morning. The best tea in the world is the one that lifts your mood. The best tea in the world is the one you used to drink with your grandmother on rainy afternoons. The best tea in the world is the one that hits your lips and makes you want to exclaim “This.is.the.best.tea.in.the.WORLD!!!!!”
It may seem like a simplistic answer to a difficult question, but I assure you, it isn’t. One cannot discuss taste as it is a personal opinion, one formed by our personalities and experiences and backed by the honesty of our own taste buds.
Fortunately, there are thousands of tea to discover, and choosing the right tea for you (future blog post) is an adventure I heartily encourage you to embark on. Hopefully, your new favorite tea is among our collection of specially selected tea and blended marvels.
So drink on tea lovers, and let me know, what is your “best tea in the world?”
Marika de Vienne literally grew up in her parents’ catering service, where she learned the finer points of cooking, spices, and service. She later helped open the family’s store in the Jean-Talon Market before leaving for China for several years to develop her understanding of tea. Today, she’s involved in just about every aspect of Épices de Cru, from plantation to store shelf and everything in between. Marika has a near-addiction to oolong tea, loves green cardamom and the cuisine of the American south.