There is, according to Rachael, a lot of hustle and bustle around tea in the UK at the moment. People are trying different types of tea–whether it be green or black or white or the newfangled herbal blends. “But also,” she added, “there’s been a resurgence of the traditional afternoon tea and enjoying that, so there’s these different worlds of tea that are coming together.”
This same movement is just starting to take root in the US. But whether or not tea-drinking ever becomes a culture in our coffee-driven, restless society, you have an interest in the beverage and are looking to try a few, right? However, it’s difficult to know how to begin and find a good sampler for yourself. So we’ve got some words of advice, as well as some brands we’d like to introduce you to.
How to Choose an Assorted Tea Sampler – Buying Guide
You may be wondering, who is Rachael? She’s a tea enthusiastic and blogger from the UK. Because when we talk about how to search for assorted samplers–which can contain a head-spinning variety of teas–it’s best to turn to an expert from a country with a long history of sipping tea.
Tea and Lifestyle Blogger
Rachael has been a lifestyle blogger for more than six years, with tea always the center of fun at Tea with Rachael. She regularly attends tea-related events in the UK and USA and reviews a wide range of different teas from companies around the world on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and her site.
Rachael is a content, communications and marketing specialist, a history and ancient history geek, lover of dance, film and theater, and passionate about vintage and sustainable fashion. She lives in Teddington, South West London, with her husband and their cat, Max, who is quite popular on Instagram!
How Wide Should My Selection Be? Well, Try Starting with Six to Eight Teas
If you are just now picking up your first cup of tea, try for a sampler with a bit more variety. It’s a simple matter of probability–the more tea you sample, the likelier you are to discover your tastes and preferences. Rachael says anything from three up to ten types of tea is acceptable, with six to eight being that sweet spot.
This also holds true if you are sampling a new or heretofore unknown brand. You may be a tea sage–but even the same type of tea or similar blends can taste different at the hands of different makers, so it’s better to try a wide selection to see what the new brand is capable of.
If, however, you’re fairly confident you know what you like, then get a smaller selection by all means. You can hone in on a type of tea you’re partial to–maybe try a tea sampler that only offers green teas, but in unfamiliar varieties. Or you may go for samplers that are centered around a theme; it may focus on warming winter blends, for example, or tea meant to soothe and put you to sleep.
I’ve tried quite a lot of brand-new brands that are just coming to market, and it’s great to hear their stories and about the provenance of the tea. And usually they’ll send me a range of different types of tea to try, and people who read my blog know that my preference is black tea. But I like to try lots of different ones and make up my mind as to which are my favorites.
Convenience or Taste? Looking at Whole versus Broken Leaves
Tea can come in many shapes and sizes: as whole leaves, as little bits of twig and dust, or as anything in between. Just remember: the shape of the leaves will determine flavor and, to an extent, price, so choose carefully.
For Convenience and Savings, Get Bagged, Broken Leaves
With broken tea leaves, there is still flavor and caffeine, but you lose a lot of depth. Sometimes, the broken tea leaves are nothing more than the dust and fannings of the tea leaves. These have lost a good amount of the essential oils and aroma they had when they were full leaves. Because of that, more tannin is released when the tea is steeped, and you get a more astringent, bitter flavor.
However, broken tea leaves in filterbags are the easiest to steep, often requiring nothing but hot water and a mug. You can also just throw a teabag in your pack and enjoy a cup of tea whenever the fancy strikes. But we will admit that broken tea leaves aren’t your best option if you can afford the time and extra care loose leaf tea requires.
But I just love tea generally, to be honest. If they’re good quality tea bags, I will quite happily have them. I think most tea brands are moving away from the dust-filled tea bags and looking to provide a better quality of tea leaf, better quality of blend.
From my perspective, it’s a little bit more of a sustainability issue. It’s actually best for the environment if you’re using loose leaf teas. But also, a number of brands are bringing out very eco-conscious versions of tea bags—no bleach, no plastic.
Tea Aficionados, Experience Full Flavor with Whole Leaves
With whole leaf tea, you don’t have the limitations mentioned above. This tea can come in loose pyramid bags, which allows the leaves to expand to give their fullest flavor. This option is more expensive than filterbags, but it gives you the convenience you’re used to–you do not need to measure out the leaves or collect any brewing equipment.
If you’re experienced with tea–and have the equipment needed to brew it–you can go even further. Dare to get the loose leaf tea that just comes in a tin, which requires that you measure it out and make it properly–using perhaps a Teavana PerfecTea maker, a steeper, a tea strainer, or an infusing basket.
You can get novelty ones in the shape of dolphins and a little man sitting in his bath of tea, which I’ve got. I’ve got a pug as well—pug in a mug—that is a little rubber steeper that sits in the mug itself and steeps the tea leaves.
And if you know where to look, there’s also some lovely organic tea bags that you can get that come in a box. They’re just very simple, quite large bags that you directly put the loose leaf tea into. And you can just rest them in your cup or mug in the same way that you would with a tea bag—or, indeed, put them in a tea pot.
Need Extra Zest or Sweetness? Consider Flavored Teas
If you like the concept of tea, but aren’t a huge fan of plain tea, don’t worry. There is an abundance of flavors for you to try, like Moroccan Mint and lemon tea. It seems each month, tea makers are coming out with more wild varieties, like Salted Caramel, Wild Raspberry Hibiscus, Ambrosia Plum, Blood Orange, and Mountain Rose.
With these teas, you get exotic flavors without having to resort to artificial sweeteners or mounds of sugar–although you can, of course, add milk and sugar to these as well, if you like!
Also, there are a few really good blends now that are so fruity and so full of flavor that you don’t need sugar. And I’m saying that with a real sweet tooth. So if you are trying to cut down on sugar, for example, there’s a number of healthier blends out there that are perfect iced—and you can have them hot as well.
Some of the fruity blends are quite soothing if you’ve got a sore throat. Having lemon and ginger with a little bit of honey—that’s very good. And it helps coat the throat when you’re not feeling very well.
Tea-Drinking Initiates and the Eco-Conscious May Benefit from a Robust Informational Section
Think about it: reading with a cup of tea on a warm, lazy afternoon. It’s not something you think about often, but words can enhance your drinking experience. Some samplers come with information about where the tea was picked, how it was produced, and the brands themselves. This knowledge can lead tea initiates to new discoveries and more tea that they find enchanting.
Also, as lovely as tea is, there are sustainability issues with tea production. It begins with the exploitation of the workers on the plantation. It spreads out to the acres and acres of land used to cultivate tea, which leads to deforestation and soil erosion. There’s also pollution from insecticides and water conservation issues.
So before you purchase, read the product description and the provider’s site, if they have one. Check for sustainability and information about the people who toil to bring the tea to you. It’s ethical, yes, but also just a fun experience—and you might pick up some facts that will help you make informed decisions about tea far into the future.
The Tea Tourist subscription service is pretty impressive. They send out a large selection each month from a number of different brands all across the UK. And they have a lot of information about the provenance of the tea—the people who made it, the people who distributed it.
There’s also always brewing instructions, different ways to use it—recipes for cocktails and making yourself other blends. And it’s a tea adventure—you’re trying lots of different teas, seeing which ones you like, and you get all the information for when you want to go ahead and try more of that kind or order again from that particular tea provider.
Packaging is Crucial if You Want Your Tea Leaves Fresh
If you want good tea, you need fresh leaves, as they maintain the most flavor and aroma. However, most tea travels over oceans to get to us–so it can be excessive to demand newly harvested leaves.
Tea storage is perhaps one of the most underrated aspects of enjoying tea. When tea isn’t packaged properly, it quickly loses its taste and aroma. Airtight containers–especially glass one–help retain freshness and prevent any of these pesky troubles.
When tea is stored in a container that isn’t airtight, it absorbs the aroma of whatever food is close to it–and pork and onions do not make a good accent to your afternoon tea. Airtight containers keep out these odors, as well as humidity. When tea comes in airtight container, it can be kept on the kitchen counter or in the fridge (recommended for green teas).
I think the emphasis is on the tea distributers to package it in the right way and make the most of the freshness for their customers. Most brands now seal their tea leaves up very carefully, either in foil or in sealed packaging within a tin or within a box.
Tea does tend to take on the flavor of what it’s packaged in, so a lot of times, if it’s just packaged in cardboard, it can get a bit of a musty, cardboardy flavor, and that’s not very pleasant.
Top 10 Best Assorted Tea Samplers to Buy Online
Now it’s time to introduce ten tea samplers we love, suited for a variety of different palates. (Rachael was also so kind as to chip in and recommend a few brands that she’s partial to) Tea and flavor is, of course, subjective–so you may like the tea in, say, tenth place more than the one in first.
10. Tea and the Gang Meet the Gang Pack (11-Count)
Unique Teas with a Wide Range of Personalities, Perfect for Aficionados Seeking Something New
Tea and the Gang is based in the UK–but we just had to introduce the gang to you because, as Rachael said, they’re “funky and fun.” Each tea is given a character with real personality. The Viking, for example is Pu-Erh with a kick, including earthy herbs and spices like cinnamon and licorice.
Cool Caribbean is as tropical as you’d expect, featuring mango and pineapple. The Rat Race is a tongue-in-cheek spin on English Breakfast. The Nurse is a healing blend–rooibos mixed with honey and lemon. It’s certainly far from traditional–but while this pack might not serve as an amazing primer, it’s an eye-opener to aficionados seeking something new.
9. Heavenly Tea Leaves Tea Sampler
An Orderly Selection of Teas for Those That Are Still Discovering Their Preferences
This sampler’s strength lies in its orderly variety. There is green; there is black; there is even white. There is flavored; there is plain. There is caffeine; there is tisane. If you are completely new to tea and aren’t sure what variety you’d like, this is as good a place as any to start.
Reactions were varied–most found the teas fresh and flavorful. However, at times, the lids can come loose, and there’s nothing worse for tea leaves than being drowned in air and humidity. You also need a high-quality steeper to properly handle some of the teas. However, Heavenly Tea Leaves does pride itself in its organic, sustainable leaves–as well as its reusable and biodegradable materials.
8. Zhena’s Gypsy Tea Variety Sampler Tin (16-Count)
Made up of Four Very Sweet and Unique Blends (Featuring Licorice Root)
Make way for Zhena, who presents us with a delectable black, green, white, and herbal selection. Raspberry Earl is a spin on the classic Earl Grey. The Italian Chamomile is especially lovely and soothing, with its spice blend unique to Zhena. And licorice root is present in three-quarters of the teas.
They are very strong brews and may only appeal to you if you have quite the sweet tooth. The tea is of good quality and features exciting flavors for the adventurous palate. But if you’re new to tea, these will not be representative of any main types. For the eco-conscious, the sachets are made out of hemp, and they’re oxygen bleached sans chemicals, making them better for the earth and you.
7. Numi Organic Tea Variety Pack, Numi’s Collection (16-Count)
Ethically Sourced Organic Teas Spanning Many Varieties and Flavors–From Earthy to Light and Refreshing
These teas were carefully spread out over a wide variety. They include representative greens (from the smoky gunpowder green to the light and fragrant jasmine), as well as classic blacks (such as Aged Earl Grey) and emergent whites. There are flavored teas (Chocolate Pu-erh) and herbal blends (such as Rooibos Chai and honeybush).
The teas can be earthy and pungent with spice, or very fresh and bright. It’s a healthy and lovely pack to experiment with–and tea initiates just may find a new niche. Numi also prides itself on its ethnically sourced teas, with even its boxes made mostly of post-consumer waste.
6. Teamonk Global Tea Samplers Assorted Collection (5-Count)
One of Each Variety of Finely Crafted Teas, Bringing You a “Garden in a Tea Cup”
This set includes exciting flavors you won’t find anywhere else–like Koge Jasmine Green Tea. It has a slightly floral aroma, which, as the makers put it, can make you feel like you have a “garden in a tea cup.” With the smell of flowers and relaxing power of jasmine, you’ll still get your caffeine fix without a bitter taste. The teas are loose leaf in pyramid bags, delivering to you that rich aroma.
There is just one of each tea sachet, which we suppose will appeal if you aren’t much of a risk taker. By the time you decide the tea isn’t to your liking, you’ve already brewed your entire stash–it’s done and over with. By the way, Teamonk has partnered with Fairtrade certified plantations and the Rainforest Alliance to bring us sustainable, ethical leaves.
5. Tea Forté 28-Count Loose Tea Sampler (28-Count)
24 Fragrant Single-Serve Loose Leaf Blends, Already Measured out for Your Convenience
For those wanting the taste of loose leaf tea without the hassle, here’s the perfect compromise for you: each tea comes in its own pre-portioned single serving pouch. The unique gourmet teas, like caramel nougat, pear cobbler, and honey yuzu, are a delight for the senses. Indeed, they pack a heady fragrance, as the blends feature various fruits and blossoms.
If you are just beginning to dip into teas, descriptions of each brew are printed onto the box–giving you something to read and learn as you steep. Just be sure to either have an infusing basket or tea strainer to make the tea right. (There are, however, just 24 single-serve pouches, mainly of unique blends–so attempting to sort out your likes and dislikes may make your head spin.)
4. The Republic of Tea Ultimate Green Tea Bag Assortment Jar
Well-Balanced Green Teas from an Adventurous and Ethically Sourced Tea Provider
Like many others on the list, the Republic of Tea offers a variety of samplers based on different themes. We highlighted the green tea assortment because they’re a nice middle ground. That is, they are deep and satisfying, but not so strong as to be bitter. There’s fruit, berry, and herb blends, as well as a decaf thrown into the mix, so you can try them all and see how the different components complement each other.
The Republic prides itself in being both socially and environmentally responsible. It is part of The Ethical Tea Partnership and supports a number of nonprofit groups. It’s a simple but important way of giving back, just by enjoying your afternoon tea.
3. Ahmad Tea Classical Variety Gift Box (60-Count)
Classic Teas from a Staple in the Tea Industry, Wrapped in Foil to Preserve Freshness and Bold Flavor
Rachael brought Ahmad to our attention as a big, traditional brand that’s trying interesting things. But we wanted to take you back to the classics. The pack features big names–English Breakfast, Ceylon, and Earl Grey. It’s a perfect introductory course from a staple in the tea industry for those just starting their tea journey.
The teabags are wrapped in foil to maintain freshness. That’s probably why the flavor is so deep and bold; even those who usually drink loose leaf will admit that this still brews up a good, easy cup. Should you like this provider and wish to try more, there are other themed variety packs–such as herbal and quality teas–as well as funkier infusions and whole leaf pyramids.
2. Whittard of Chelsea A Taste of Tea (40-Count)
Taste of Both Classic Giants (Earl Grey) and Trendy Blends (Mango and Bergamot) from Across the Pond
Whittard, Rachael mentioned, is a “traditional, very British brand”–so if you want to be transported across the pond for just a a single afternoon, try their teas. We picked out their “Taste of Tea set” as an ideal introduction to their teas. You have traditional blacks, such as English Black and Earl Grey. Then, there are lighter greens, such as Jasmine and Mint. We finish with a trendy twist, in the form of those sweet, fragrant blends–both flowery and fruity.
So you get the best of both worlds–modern and traditional. Rachael also mentioned Whittard’s subscription service. It’s luxurious, and the first pack includes a nice steeper and a lovely little silver spoon.
1. T2 Tea Five Famous Five Assorted Tea Sampler Gift Box
From the Mad Scientists of Tea: Sweet and Wacky Blends Will Sate Your Sweet Tooth
“T2,” Rachael says by way of introduction, “has a massive range of every type of tea you can think of.” We picked this mix of their most popular flavors, each featuring some unique spin. Strawberries & Cream might as well be a parfait in a cup–featuring little strawberry granules, apple, hibiscus, and yogurt crisps. This theme of fruits, flowers, and berries continues throughout the pack, melding into a sweet fragrance that needs no extra sugar.
There are, of course, more traditional blends, as well as packs centered around different themes–such as breakfast teas from around the world or soothing herbals. Rachael also recommends their subscription service, “which reflects the fun around the brand.”
What Characteristics Do the Different Kinds of Tea Share?
Sampler packs will often offer plays on one type of tea (blends featuring black tea, for instance) or an eclectic assortment. Here is what makes each kind of tea unique.
Green Tea: Bright Taste, Light Caffeine
After tea leaves are picked, they undergo oxidation and withering, but at different levels depending on what kind of tea is desired. Green tea leaves are heated quickly after picking to prevent oxidation. The result? The leaves don’t turn as brown or withered, but rather stay a shade of green. Green tea tends to be lighter than black tea, and it also has about half the caffeine.
There are many different types of green tea, with flavors ranging from mild to quite smoky. Two common flavors are jasmine green (light and airy) and gunpowder green (smoky).
I think what's important is how you brew green tea. You really shouldn’t steep it for very long because, otherwise, the leaves get burnt and it can get a very bitter taste. Whereas black tea, I will steep for as long as possible to get a really, really strong cuppa.
Black Tea: Robust Flavor, Strong Caffeine
As you may know, black tea has the highest caffeine content out of all teas. As such, many find it a pleasing alternative to coffee. Black tea has been oxidized far longer than its white and green counterparts, giving it a stronger flavor, deeper color when steeped, and darker leaf color.
The most famous may be Earl Grey. Earl Grey combines the citrus tones of bergamot to black tea leaves like Ceylon or Darjeeling.
I like really rich, earthy tasting teas, so I enjoy a good strong Assam or a blend with Assam—perhaps vanilla or even lavender. It’s actually one of my favorites, lavender flavored tea. It’s a very strong taste, and it’s not for everybody, but actually it’s very comforting. I like it when I’m not feeling very well.
Oolong Tea: Between Green and Black Tea, Varies in Taste and Aroma
Oolong tea falls somewhere between green and black in terms of oxidation. The less oxidized the leaves are, the closer it is to green tea; the opposite holds true for its similarity to black tea.
Oolong is known for the distinctive shape of its leaves. They can be curled into tight balls, twisted, or in thin strands. This shaping of the leaves can affect steeping and the taste of the tea. Leaves that are tightly rolled can be steeped several times, while those that are lightly twisted tend to lose flavor more quickly and can be steeped only once or twice.
You’ve got a lot of the health benefits and the flavor that you would expect from a green tea—I mean, there’s health benefits in all types of tea, so it’s not just green tea. But oolong is just that really nice middle ground. And you don’t need to steep it for very long.
White Tea: In Color and Taste, It’s the Lightest of Them All
When we say light, we aren’t just referring to color. White tea typically isn’t oxidized, which means it has a light, delicate flavor. We say “typically” because there’s varying definitions of white tea. It might be tea made from immature leaves or normal tea that is minimally processed.
As a general rule, however, white tea is pale in color with a gentle, breezy taste.
I think it’s that light, refreshing taste, something that can be enjoyed without milk. It goes very well with sweet food, so if you are having a traditional afternoon tea with cakes and pastries, it will accompany them very well because the flavor’s not so intense that it takes away from the flavor of all the different treats.
Herbal Tea: To Relax and Heal
Herbal tea is a great resource if you’re feeling unwell; it will also relax you when you can’t sleep. It’s ideal for people who are sensitive to caffeine.
Here, though, the title of “tea” is somewhat misleading, as there are no tea leaves in these beverages (hence the zero caffeine). Instead of steeping tea leaves, you steep herbs like rooibos or flowers like chamomile or peppermint leaves, and since the resulting beverage is similar enough to tea, that’s what we call it.
I’ve always been a big fan of peppermint tea or different mint blends. That’s probably more for the health benefits. It’s quite nice after a meal or, again, if you’re not feeling very well. But there’s so many different herbal teas out there now that have been designed for the health benefits. There’s moringa tea; there’s lots of different fruit and herbal blends.
If you’re wanting to avoid caffeine and you’re still wanting a nice hot or, indeed, iced tea, there’s a number of different herbal ones out there that are nice to try. I mentioned lavender and ginger earlier. And that can be quite nice iced as well and mixed into cocktails if you’re wanting alcoholic drink. So there’s all different ways you can use them.
There’s more to tea than meets the eye. Yes, the flavor and the effect it has on your body is important. However, there is too the issue of sustainability–whether the tea is being harvested in a way that guarantees that the drink and the planet will be around for future generations to enjoy.
We hope these samplers serve as an introduction to the world of tea. We’d like to end by saying that Rachael mentioned a number of wonderful, eco-conscious brands to us–such as Niko Ceylon, We Are Tea, and teakruti. (Tea Tourist also offers a great subscription service.) Unfortunately, they don’t offer any sampler packs, but once you are well on your tea journey, please pay them a visit.
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If you’re constantly ripping little shreds of skin from your lips, you know you need lip balm. But every lip balm has its own features and benefits: it can be medicated, tinted, scented, or flavored; it can provide UV protection; it can be made up of anything from natural beeswax to petroleum and mineral oils. Choosing the right lip balm can be an overwhelming task. That’s why we’ve done it for you. We have compiled a list of 10 popular lip balms that are truly effective, so you can finally say goodbye to dry, chapped, and sore lips. How to Choose a Lip Balm – Buying Guide It’s not just the icy northern winds; the suns’s beams can also dry out your lips. In order to keep your lips hydrated, a good lip balm is a must-have item, all year round. Many balms make your lips lush and shiny for a second–and the next second, the desert’s back on your face. Here’s a few tips on how to choose a lip balm that’ll actually last. The Good: Moisture-Boosting Ingredients Step one, read the ingredi
About 65% of Americans own an American flag. About 90% of Americans households have peanut butter somewhere in the house. It’s official. Loving peanut butter is now more American than flying the flag. All jokes aside, it seems that most of us aren’t going to give up peanut butter anytime soon. So might as well find something that isn’t going to give us diabetes. Though most peanut butters have all kinds of extra junk added in to them, there are healthy options. Let’s talk about how to sniff them out, so you can go back to making PB&J, guilt free. How to Choose a Healthy Peanut Butter – Buying Guide Let’s start talking about America’s favorite condiment. We’ll show you how to find a peanut butter you can lick off the spoon without horrible health effects. Ingredients: Get a Peanut Butter That’s All-Natural and Almost All Peanuts Thinking about it logically, peanut butter is just peanuts ground into paste–which shouldn’t be unhealthy. What’s unhealthy are the extra ingredients: na
At some point in our lives, we all need to hang something on a wall. Whether you’re a parent proudly showing off your child’s art or a college student decorating a dorm room, there’s always something new to be displayed. Unfortunately, a lot of times putting things up on the wall also means ruining walls. But while heavier items may actually require some nail pounding, lighter objects like posters and pictures can easily be mounted with some mounting putty. However, there are seemingly endless amounts of mounting putty out there, and almost all of it looks the same. So naturally, it can be a pretty tough decision. Luckily, we’ve put together this quick guide to help you find one that works for your needs. If you still find that you’re having a hard time choosing, we also have a list of our ten favorite mounting putties for you to consider. How to Choose a Mounting Putty – Buying Guide Having the right putty can make or break your decor. Here’s how to make sure you choose the right one