The World’s Most Democratic Drink

Tips for Experimenting with Tea, the World’s Most Democratic Drink | Chicago Shopping | Groupon

Tea is one of the cheapest and easiest beverage to make. Yet with fancy names, foreign ingredients, and multistep preparation methods, loose-leaf teas can still be intimidating. Here are three tips for tea novices and experts alike.

Matt Crews, the tasting manager at the Gold Coast’s TeaGschwendner (1160 N. State St. and 557 W. Diversey Pkwy.), believes tea is misunderstood.

“People think tea is just for Downton Abbey,” he said. “The cool thing is realizing it’s the most democratic drink around.”

And he’s right. Really, all teas are just dried plants and hot water—some of the cheapest and easiest beverages to make. Crews encourages tea drinkers to experiment and trust their own palates. Why not mix tea varieties?

“You might as well drink what you like,” he said. “And they’ve been mixing green and black and oolong for years. So, as long as it tastes good, I say go for it.”

Even though he’s a strong proponent of tea experimentation, Crews admitted he’s had his share of mishaps. Once, he steeped high-end Japanese green tea in boiling water for 10 minutes. “And it tasted like a dead fish,” he said. “Not like a fish that’s been cooked. I’m just imagining if I were to bite into a fish that had been lying outside for 10 days. It was disgusting."

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For those not yet comfortable experimenting with this centuries-old drink, try one of Crews’s suggestions.

* Novices should try naturally sweet white varieties, such as elderflower, to ease them into tea drinking. These teas often give off light aromas like peony and vanilla.

* Pu-erh tea, a fermented Chinese tea, has a pleasant earthy taste, despite “smelling like a barn,” Crews said.

* Crews counts organic South Korean green teas among his favorites. They tend to taste similar to high-end Japanese green teas.