Drinking Tea: Where to start

A Teapot and the text Tea 101

What to buy?

A lot of gongfu centered tea blogs focus on experienced tea drinkers, which is great and it’s also something I plan to write articles for. However, I see more and more people asking where they should start and which teas they should get. Also, I will be holding a tea workshop for people new to the hobby this weekend and this might be interesting to some of them. So here is a quick recommendation on how I would start if I had to start all over again. This isn’t the perfect way to tea, it’s just the way I would do it.

There are basically two ways you could start. First, buying as many different kinds of teas as possible, trying them and then digging deeper into the categories you liked. Second, get a lot of one category of tea and then do so for the next, and the next, and so on.

I’d prefer method one because this way you don’t buy too much of one type of tea that you might end up not liking at all. And you can also get an overview faster of what types of tea are out there. However, the disadvantage is that there is still a lot of variety even within one category of teas. So, don’t completely give up on one category, just because you didn’t like your first sample. You can always get another sample of oolong with your next order of all white teas for example.

So what are the types of teas I’d recommend getting in your first order?

  • Green
  • White
  • Black
  • Oolong
  • Sheng
  • Shou
Theoretically, there are still other types out there like yellow and heicha, but if it’s your first order I’d keep them for later. If you want to get more tea, then I’d further devide those categories. For example instead of one Oolong, get a green Oolong and a dark Oolong. Instead of one Sheng, get a young and an aged Sheng. Maybe also fresh and aged White tea. And if you still have money left and want more get a purple tea.

What is purple tea?

There are basically two types of purple tea. Purple Beauty and Purple Bud. One is the result of human cultivation and the other has changed due to climate and seasonal changes. Both are pretty interesting to me. They aren’t really an own category since there isn’t just Purple tea, but there is purple, sheng, purple-green, purple oolong and so on. Which one to get is up to you, but I promise you it will have quite a different flavour profile than the regular teas from that category. You can find an in-depth comparison between the two in the description of this tea.

But where can I buy those magnificent teas?

Well, there are lots of vendors out there. For your first order I’d suggest Yunnan Sourcing because they have a huge selection of every category. Of course, this can make it hard to decide which teas to get. If in doubt, just sort by Best Selling, this will most of the time be teas that most of the people liked and that aren’t too expensive, so a good entry point.

And then?

Well, now it’s up to you. Which category did you like the most? Dive deeper into that category while still maybe getting one or two samples of other categories to see what else they have to offer. Also once you get more experienced you might want to try different vendors. Here is a list of vendors that were ranked by users. Of course, if you find another vendor that you like and that you trust there’s nothing wrong with that either.

So long and enjoy your adventure through the various kinds of tea.