When I'm writing, it is very likely that there is a cup of tea not far away. Everyone has their drink of choice, be it coffee, tea, soda, or some other beverage, including a variety of alcohols. The saying that writing happens when drunk and editing while sober exists for a reason, though I don't tend to drink and write.
I'm a lightweight. Last time I tried to drink and write, I wrote a paragraph I couldn't read the following morning, but I was convinced it was God's gift to readers. I'm very thankful it wasn't legible.
My choice of poison is tea. Every cup of tea tells a different story, which appeals to me as a storyteller. I find there are just so many more variants of tea flavors than coffee provides, and the subtle tones of tea don't distract me from my work. Coffee, on the hand, tends to rot my gut and send me straight up a wall, though I expect that's due to the vast amount of sugar I use to get rid of the taste of the coffee. There is a joke about those who like certain frozen coffees from Starbucks and that drinkers of those just really like ice cream. At least in my case, it is so true.
Since someone on Google+ asked me for my recommendations on teas, I thought I'd spend some quality time talking about the unsung hero of my writing: Tea.
I'm going to group this tea commentary into three categories: Mild Teas, Medium-Strength Teas, and Robust Teas.
Yes, I took all of these photographs myself. Please don't reuse them without permission. Thanks!
Greens, herbals, and white teas often fall into the category of mild teas, as do some variants of red teas. Black and mixed teas tend to be more robust, and depending on what is added to the teas, greens, herbals, and whites can shoot up to the middling ground. Here is a selection of my favorite milder teas from three different tea makers:
Toasted Walnut by DavidsTEA is one of my favorites. It blends the robust flavor of walnut (with large chunks thrown into the green tea!) with the subtle notes of green for a marriage of flavors that keeps me coming back for more. This tea is a bit more robust than what most are likely used to when it comes to green teas, but it still has the delicacy of a green. Sugar is strongly not recommended for this tea. This is a tea that I don't recommend steeping for too long, as the delicate flavors of the green can get overpowered. That said, I let it steep for too long each and every time. This is a more adventurous green tea, and changing how long you steep the tea can significantly impact the flavor. Since I can handle a little bitter, I have no problems with letting this tea steep for hours. By the last cup of a 54 oz pot, both the walnut and the green linger, though it packs a robust punch after that long of steeping.
This is a tea I tend to drink year round without any consideration to my writing. It adapts well to almost any type of scene, making it ideal for when I want a big pot of tea without feeling like I need a different taste because I've changed the type of scene I'm working on.
Pink Flamingo by DavidsTEA is another milder tea. Unlike the Toasted Walnut, this is a fruit-based tea. It is served best without sugar and cream will likely curdle in it, but I haven't tried that yet. While sugar can be added, I think you'll find the presence of all of the fruits that are already in this tea are more than sufficient to please the average person's sweet tooth. This is a summer tea, and I tend to drink this when I'm writing a more soothing scene with an upbeat mood.
Indian Summer by DavidsTEA is a white tea. This is even milder than green, and the marriage of the flavors in this tea is just dreamy. This one blends apple and lemongrass with the subtle notes of white tea. I definitely recommend against using any sugar. I found that steeping this one longer didn't hurt its flavor, but if you like your tea mild, steep per the instructions. Every type of tea is supposed to be brewed differently. One thing that is really nice about DavidsTEA is that they give the brewing instructions on each and every label. It's pretty easy to do it right. The temperature can be hard to get right, but when you do, it shows, especially with this tea.
This is another summer tea for me, but it is more versatile for my moods than pink flamingo.
For the second phase of the mild teas, it is time to change brands. tealux, like DavidsTEA, operates out of Montreal. I discovered it when they opened shop not far from my old condominium. Unfortunately, this store is now almost 40 minutes away from me, but, fortunately, I can still order online.
For lovers of herbal tea, Chamomile Sweet Dreams by tealux is a dream. It blends the soothing power of chamomile with a hint of sweetness. This is not a tea I drink while writing very often. For some reason, passive voice and no writing happens when I get involved with this tea. That's not too much of a problem, though. It's still a very lovely blend, and it's a very colorful tea to look at. Like other herbal teas, you want to follow the steeping directions carefully, as I find this tea doesn't withstand being brewed for too long like other teas can. Sorry, no link to this one, it seems like tealux stopped offering this one online or has renamed it. If I had to make a guess, this tea is the closest one to it.
Banana Dulce by tealux is a great blend for those who want a mild, fruity tea that doesn't get in the way. This one is a little bit like taking a stroll through paradise. The hints of banana and other undertones aren't so powerful to shock those who want a gentle tea, but it's adventurous enough to appeal to those who aren't just after a standard cup of tea. I tend to write more relaxed scenes or political intrigue with this type of tea, as it's rather, well, intriguing. While it isn't a terribly strong tea, it withstands being steeped too long with grace and dignity, which suits me fine, as I tend to forget to take tea bags out when I'm writing.
Also Recommended in the mild tea category:
Rose Oolong and Lavender Oolong (both by tealux) These two teas are lovely, with mild flavors married to oolong tea. These are all-purpose teas for me, and can suit whatever writing mood I happen to be in.
I couldn't finish off the mild tea section without a shout out to Mandarin Silk by tealux. This tea has won awards, and it has won awards for a reason. It's an oolong, and it is out of this world. It has so many flavors, and finishes off with something I can only describe as the silky texture and taste of caramel on the tongue.
Anytime I find a stick in my tea is pretty awesome, too. It gives it more character.
Call me crazy, but I don't have too many photos or comments about midline teas, but there are few i think are worth mentioning.
White Guava Ginger is another tealux tea that is both mild and medium-strength, but due to ginger's ability to add quite a kick, especially when left to steep too long, this tea got shifted to this category despite its irrefutable status as a white tea. I really enjoy this tea. The guava and the ginger both add a bit of kick and a bit of sweetness to this tea. For a white, it is really robust, and can even handle the addition of sugars. I recommend agave-based sweeteners over honey or sugar, though, as agave doesn't add too much of its own flavor. I don't know what I write to when I drink this. Because of the ginger, I usually reserve this tea for when I'm not feeling well and I want to settle my upset stomach.
White Coconut Cream by tealux is another white tea that gets shifted up to the ‘medium-strength' rank due to its inclusion of coconut. This is a strong white, and it has a strong coconut flavor. This is one of my favorite teas. I could — and have — consumed nothing but this tea for a week or more at a time. This is definitely a summer tea, and it works well both cold and hot. I love it, and recommend it to anyone who wants a coconut and tea adventure. This tea is currently unavailable. Good thing I just bought a 50g bag of it.
Jessie's Tea by DavidsTEA is a medium-strength tea that borders on being robust. Which surprises me a lot because it's a really soothing tea. It uses lavender, spice, and everything nice for a really great tea-drinking experience. It's also a very, very pretty tea. Sometimes I open my bag up just to smell it and look at it. I don't drink this one too often, as I find it doesn't have quite the flavor I'm looking for, but when the mood for something soothing but strong hits me, this is what I go for. This tea also, for whatever reason, matches well when I'm writing action sequences.
Chocolate Cinnamon by DavidsTEA — fondly known as cacoa canela — is a medium-strength tea that can tolerate sugar and cream but can stand alone. When it stands alone, it borderlines a mild tea. It can even withstand the addition of a cinnamon stick without anything being lost. This is an action sequence tea for me, and I love it to pieces. This is a Mate tea.
Chocolate Chili Chai by DavidsTEA is just amazing. Chocolate, Chili Pepper, Black Tea. This is definitely an upbeat tea for me, and I'll drink this instead of hot chocolate. Robust enough to withstand the addition of cream and sugar without losing any of its depth and warmth. I love this tea. I love writing bloody action sequences while drinking it, too. I wonder what this says about me? Sorry, folks. This is a seasonal tea. It'll be around again during the winter, so I can't link to it.
… I think I'll stop now. I'm rather thirsty. If I tried to list and photograph every single robust tea I owned, I'd be here for months rather than hours.
I hope you enjoy a tiny glimpse at my tea collection, and that you'll forgive me for the lack of more robust teas in this listing — the simple truth is, I drink a lot more of the milder teas when I write, which is why there is so much of a focus on those.