The clichéd student with baggy, bloodshot eyes is typically clad with their laptop, an energy drink and an excuse (or two!) for their incomplete assignment. Sure, maybe my image is a bit bleak. Yes, perhaps there’s a slight chance they just have the assignment in hand rather than an excuse. Or more likely they could have a travel mug of coffee instead of an energy drink. Or for that matter, tea.
With the increasing popularity of loose-leaf varieties and accompanying accessories, tea isn’t just for your grandparents anymore. It’s cheap, fun and actually healthy. However, I propose that students look beyond English breakfasts and earl greys. We’re constantly asked to challenge and rethink norms in our studies, so why not in our tea selection too? Here are five of my less conventional favourites.
Love barbeque? Or campfire-roasted marshmallows? Chances are you’re attracted to them for their inherently smoky taste. Well, lapsang souchong, is all about that smoke. It’s a Chinese black tea traditionally smoke-dried over pinewood fires. Like any variety, the better the quality, the more hard-hitting the flavour. And this is one I wouldn’t skimp on for that reason.
If you prefer your tea on the sweeter, fruiter side, give rose tea a go. Steeped whole dried rose buds should remind you of the classic candy, Turkish Delight or the slightly less classy, Big Turk (minus the chocolate exterior). Despite the floral flavour, rose tea depending on the variety doesn’t taste soapy. And better yet with consistent drinking you’ll boost your intake of Vitamin C and relieve the pain of menstrual cramps.
Fresh mint tea
No, mint tea is not a revelation, but for me at least, fresh mint tea is. You’ll find fresh mint leaves in the produce section of your grocery store either bundled or in plastic packets. Give each leaf a gentle rub and then steep for a minute or two in hot water. The flavour is far more refreshing than the dried variety and as long as you’re regularly drinking it when the leaves are at their freshest it’s as cheap. (That means don’t let the leaves rot and thusly become a waste of money.) I wouldn’t recommend freezing the leaves as they tend to lose their flavour. Freezing herbs is fine for cooking, but not so much for tea where they’re in the spotlight. Best of all when you’ve finished your tea, you can snack on the leaves.
I vividly remember the first time, a nettle plant brushed my arm and caused a stinging sensation. Thankfully, an Elmo Band-Aid (and time) eased the pain. However, dried nettle leaves make for a fine tea—fresh too, but unless you know where to find a patch, you won’t find them at your local grocery store. It’s mildly bitter in taste, so a touch of honey is always welcome. Health benefits abound including treating the symptoms of allergies such as hay fever when drinking it on a regularly basis.
Oolong or jasmine tea (aka Chinese restaurant tea)
Now this is one that’s not necessarily transferable to the travel mug between classes, but for me nothing soothes like the pot of tea that accompanies a meal at Chinese restaurants. Of course, what the blend it is varies depending on the establishment, but likely it’s a blend of oolong and jasmine-scented teas. The best bet is to give a couple a go, discover your favourite and ask for the brand. Or keep it a mystery and treat for those few times you make it off-campus for a meal out.