For those of us who live in the West, there was a time when tea meant one thing — black tea in a tea bag, typically served with milk or cream and a sweetener of some sort. Needless to say, things have changed considerably in recent years. Nowadays, we have access to a wide range of teas of every type, and herbal beverages such as yerba mate and rooibos have also made leaps and bounds in popularity.
Which, for most of us, is enough variety in tea for at least a lifetime or three. But if that’s not enough selection for you, you can avail yourself of a few tea-related beverages that are a little more unusual.
Like Tibetan tea. Butter tea, also known as po cha, starts with a base of black tea, and is flavored with large quantities of yak butter and salt. It’s something of an acquired taste for those who haven’t grown up with it, but Tibetans drink whopping amounts of the stuff. Po cha isn’t readily available outside of Tibet, but if you’re in the Minneapolis area, you can drop by Gangchen Bar and Restaurant and try some. More here.
If you’re looking for something a little more palatable to Western taste buds, you could try a tea-based soda. Kombucha is not tea in the strictest sense of the word, but this unusual beverage, which is brewed from a yeast culture, is of interest to tea lovers since it’s often blended with tea. Once almost strictly the province of avid enthusiasts who brewed their own, there are several manufacturers these days who have brought kombucha to the commercial marketplace. One notable one, according to yours truly, is Kombucha Wonder Drink, a “curiously tart, sparkling fermented tea” that’s available in several flavors.
If yerba mate, the popular South American herbal beverage, is more to your liking, you might want to check out Materva. As with po cha, yerba mate can be something of an acquired taste for those who have not grown up drinking it, so a yerba mate soda like Materva can be useful in bridging that gap.
Then there’s Tisano, a newer product that bills itself as a chocolate or cacao tea. Which is arguably more about chocolate than tea, but the manufacturers refer to it as an herbal tea nonetheless and appear to have taken the product’s name from tisane, a French term that essentially means herbal tea.
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