Yesterday, I wrote a rave review for The Art of Holding On and Letting Go by Kristin Bartley Lenz. It’s a wonderful debut novel about loss, the meaning of “home”, and the healing force of nature, rock climbing, and friendship. In the beginning of the novel, there is a scene where the main character, Cara Jenkins, sips on peppermint tea to soothe her nerves before a rock climbing competition. It was such a small detail, but it was one that helped me connect with the character almost instantly. I’m a sucker for peppermint tea too! Although, while I do appreciate that it can have a calming affect, I actually tend to drink peppermint tea whenever I’m working on projects that require creativity (it gets those creative juices flowing!).
As it turns out, Kristin Bartley Lenz is a tea drinker too, and to celebrate the release of her book, The Art of Holding On and Letting Go (WHICH IS OUT TODAY, SO GO GET IT NOW!), Books & Tea happily presents you a guest post by Kristin Bartley Lenz, which is about her discovery of loose leaf tea, some of her favorite types of tea, as well as a visit to a tea plantation… in China (so lucky!).
I have always preferred tea over coffee. Sleepy Time and Good Earth were my first favorites, but I’m not sure I even knew loose leaf tea existed until I entered Far Leaves tea shop in Berkeley, CA in my late twenties. The shop was new, only a few blocks from my house, and I wandered in out of curiosity soon after they opened. The owner was preparing tea gaiwan style and offering tastes in tiny round cups. Green, white, and oolongs from China and Taiwan – I discovered a whole new world of tea beyond the little bags and boxes I had known.
Here are my current 5 favorite teas:
- One of my everyday favorites is Wenshan Baozhong, an oolong that’s almost green from Taiwan. It’s a great tea for beginners because it doesn’t become terribly bitter if you oversteep it, and it lasts for multiple infusions in one day. It’s often described as light and sweet with hints of melon, elderflower, and grass.
- A few years ago, a doctor recommended I drink white tea because of its high antioxidant levels, and White Peony became a new everyday favorite, especially during the warmer spring and summer months. This Chinese tea is also known as Bai Mu Dan or Pai Mu Tan. There are no actual peony flowers in this tea, but it does have a slightly floral aroma. The Fragrant Leaf is one of my favorite online teashops and they have an inexpensive organic White Peony.
- My most recent favorite tea is Dragonwell or Longjing, a pan-fired green tea with distinctive flat leaves, and I was actually able to see these tea plants on a trip to China last year! My good friends, Monique and John, are on a two-year assignment for work in China, and their first stop was Hangzhou, a region known for Longjing tea. The tea wasn’t being harvested on the day I visited, but the tea fields were beautiful.
- I don’t drink as much Pearl Jasmine green tea as I used to, but it’s still a favorite to share with friends, especially if they’re just learning to like green tea. The fragrance is intoxicating, and it’s fun to watch the leaves unfurl from the tight pearls as it steeps.
- My favorite winter tea is this rooibos-based Herbal Chai. It brews to a gorgeous red hue and has a slight peppery kick, depending on how long you steep it. This is the only tea I drink with honey and milk, especially coconut milk – yum! Guaranteed to warm you up on a gloomy, frigid day.
I know, I said five, but I can’t stop – one more! Silver Needle is a white tea that can be kind of meh, but I stumbled upon a wonderfully fragrant, rich version at an organic, biodynamic tea farm in Traverse City, Michigan. Yes, Michigan! I didn’t know it was possible to grow tea here. Their story is on their website, and their tea is expensive, but it’s truly a very special treat.
Thank you so much to Kristin Bartley Lenz for writing this guest post (and for putting Light of Day in Traverse City, MI on my map!). I also have to say, the rooibos-based Herbal Chai sounds absolutely divine (and a must-have to get me through the impending winter months here in Michigan).
Connect with Kristin Bartley Lenz: