People often associate coffee to hackers. That's true. Coffee is still the favorite beverage amongst hackers. But only because hackers do not know the qualities of tea. Tea is a much better hackers' companion and today we are going to discover why.
What is tea?
Biologically, tea belongs to the class of Dicotyledoneae, the order of Theales, the family of Theaceae, and the genus of Camellia. All tea comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant. If you are drinking something that comes from the Camellia Sinensis, it is tea. Tea trees are mostly distributed in the tropics and sub-tropics. China is the native land of tea and it possesses the most numerous tea varieties amongst all tea producing countries. Japan also produces great teas but mainly the green ones. And there are other interesting tea producing countries such as India and Taiwan to discover.
Six categories of tea
There are many ways to classify teas but I embrace the one that classifies teas by the processing methods. There are six tea types:
- Green Tea (绿茶)
- Yellow Tea (黄茶)
- White Tea (白茶)
- Wulong Tea (乌龙茶)
- Red Tea (红茶)
- Dark Tea (黑茶)
The post-harvesting processing determines the amount of oxidation, color and flavor.
A better hackers' companion
Tea contains caffeine. But also an amino acid called L-theanine. L-theanine increases alpha wave activity in the brain. Alpha brain waves boost creativity, reduce depression while keeping a relaxed-but-alert mental state. It is also believed to be an important part of selective attention.
Coffee gives a great boost but its energizing effects do not last forever. People experience a crash in energy and mood. Caffeine initially stimulates your body to produce more adrenaline and dopamine than usual. Adrenaline and dopamine contribute to energy and positive mood. When these chemicals begin to drop, you can experience fading energy and a drop in mood.
The energizing effects of tea last more. You do not experience any crash in energy and mood. That's why it is a better hackers' companion.
The Asian-style tea stepping
If you want to get serious tea, you need to embrace the eastern way of steeping tea. Small teapots, a small quantity of water and a large quantity of tea. Very short but multiple infusions that reveal a different facet of flavor each time. That's the Eastern way.
First of all, you need a small teapot or a gaiwan, called also zhong. A gaiwan (or zhong) is a cheap Chinese lidded bowl used for the infusion of tea leaves and the consumption of tea. The volume of a gaiwan should be 100ml/3oz or 150ml/5oz. It's a cheap and very flexible teaware. You need just a single gaiwan to steep all the types of tea.
You could also use a Yixing clay teapots. Yixing clay teapots can deliver better results when steeping Wulong, Red and Dark teas. The clay of the Yixing teapots absorbs a tiny amount of tea into the pot during brewing. The pot develops a coating that retains the flavor of the tea. And the tea tastes better. Yixing teapots are wonderful but expensive and require a better knowledge when steeping tea. Buy your first Yixing teapot after a practicing period of steeping with a gaiwan.
How to use a gaiwan? It is simpler to see it. Check this brief video:
Keep in mind that a good water is mandatory to get a good tea. Steeping good tea leaves into bad water is useless.
Each type of tea will taste best when steeped in a certain way. Different teas have optimal temperature requirements.
That's the reason why I developed a very simple progressive web app, called Teaists.
Teaists is a tool for new tea lovers. You can search teas and discover how to steep them properly. Use it as a reference but remember that every tea is different and has a sweet spot you can discover only experimenting.
If you want to explore further, there is a good book to buy: Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties. On the web, World of tea, Tea for me please and Tea Journey offer wonderful resources to discover tea and tea culture.
Where to buy delicious tea
Based on my experience, here is a list of the best tea shop I have tried in Europe and US.
If you are in the US, visit or order on T Shop. Theresa Wong, tea expert and owner of T Shop, is an amazing tea connaisseur selling great teas. Keep in mind she does not sell Japanese teas. If you want Japanese green tea, visit or order on Kettl. They are doing a great job.
If you are in France, Terre de Chine delivers an amazing quality of Chinese teas. In my opinion, Terre de Chine is the best Chinese tea shop in Europe. If you love Japanese green teas, Jugetsudo is the best one you can find in France.
If you are in Italy, Théophile Boutique, owned by the sweet and gentle Isabella, delivers the very best Chinese and Japanese teas. It is the best tea shop in Italy, reselling Terre de Chine and Sunday.
Have a great week and drink good tea,
Gaiwan's photo credits: Nannuoshan