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7 Must Sip Specialty Teas

Specialty Teas – What are they and what’s their history?

You ever see those names of teas in the supermarket and wonder what the heck they are or how they came to be? I call them specialty teas because they’re out of the norm. They’re not a plain old black, green or white tea. There’s a little something extra added to them that makes them unique.

Some of the names of these specialty teas sound so exotic or proper — Jasmine Green Tea, Genmaicha, Irish Breakfast, Earl Grey.

But where do they come from? And what exactly is in an English Breakfast tea?

(P.S., You can pep up your tea in a jiffy. Click here to get 9 Quick Tips to Perk Up Your Morning Tea.)

Here are 7 specialty teas you must sip.

1. Breakfast Blends

There are three breakfast blends that you’ve likely seen in the store.

All of them are combinations of black teas with bold flavors that are malty and smoky. Each tea house creates their own recipe. There’s no set recipe for these breakfast blends.

The strong black teas are usually Assam and Ceylon teas from India, Keemun tea from China, and often Kenyan black teas. These robust teas can stand up to cream and sugar. 

Scottish Breakfast teas are known as the strongest of the breakfast blends.

It’s unclear exactly where the term “breakfast” tea came from because people sip it throughout the day.

No one seems to know where the first breakfast blends were created. One story is that black teas were blended in the U.S. in the 1800s, and yet another story has the English blending black teas from China and India out of necessity because China imposed an embargo on teas during the Opium Wars.

2. Genmaicha

This savory treat combines green sencha tea leaves and roasted rice. Sencha tea leaves are needle shaped, and they have a rich dark green hue.

Genmaicha originated in Japan, but China produces versions as well.

Back in the day, this tea blend was only sipped by the poorest of Japanese. The roasted rice was a supplement or filler to the more expensive tea leaves. It’s become more popular all over the world as more savory teas have become appreciated.

Side note on green tea: The Japanese retained the traditional Chinese technique of steaming tea leaves to create green teas. (China developed a pan firing technique and gave up steaming tea leaves when producing their green teas.) You can read more about green tea production by clicking here.


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Some Genmaicha have bits of popcorn in it. The roasted rice sometimes pops to create this fun (and tasty) addition to the tea.


Want to pep your morning tea quickly and easily without having to buy one of these specialty teas? Click here to get a free PDF of 9 Quick Tips to Perk Up Your Morning Tea.

3. Jasmine Tea

Usually you’ll see jasmine green tea in the stores, but white and black teas are used as bases as well. It’s produced by laying jasmine flowers on top of green tea leaves. Because the leaves are so fragrant, they impart the aroma onto the tea leaves. It takes several hours for the aroma and flavor of the blossoms to be absorbed into the tea. Yum.

If you live in California, you’re likely fortunate enough to walk past a jasmine plant every day during the summer. It’s fragrance follows you as you walk past it. The jasmine plant probably traveled from South Asia, through India, and making its way to China in about 200 BC. It wasn’t until about 500 BC that some bright person decided to scent tea with this lovely blossom.And over a thousand years later, these scented tea leaves began being exported. Woot!

4. Earl Grey

Bergamot is the secret ingredient to Earl Grey teas. Bergamot is an orange grown in Calabria, Italy (that’s the tip of the boot about to kick Sicily on the map).

The black teas used in Earl Grey are usually Assam, Ceylon or Darjeeling. Then they’re flavored with the oil from the rind of this citrus fruit.

There are a few different stories about how Earl Grey originated, so I don’t want to spread misinformation here. Like breakfast teas, there are numerous recipes for Earl Grey teas. Most Earl Grey tea blends include different black teas with bergamot added.

Earl Grey’s sister tea is…

5. Lady Grey

So what’s the difference between Earl Grey and Lady Grey? First, Lady Grey blends add lemon and orange peel. Second, Lady Grey is a trademarked tea made by Twinings, so no other tea house makes its own blend. It’s delish.

In the mood for something a bit more adventurous? You may like…

6. Lapsang Souchong

Maybe you haven’t seen this in the supermarket. It’s an acquired taste that the mainstream hasn’t embraced…yet.

Lapsang Souchong has a distinct smoky flavor that comes from smoking the black tea leaves over spruce or pine wood.

I’m a big fan, but some people (ahem, some of my friends) think it smells like burnt tires. Philistines.

It’s a Chinese black tea that originates in the Wuyi region of Fujian Province. The story of its “birth” is that the tea makers heated the teas over pine wood to hasten the drying process to satisfy the demand for tea.

Growers pluck the fourth and fifth leaves of the tea plant. Once they’re smoked, they create a yummy tea.

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Tea leaves may be placed over different elements to create a smoky flavor. Here are teas being heated over coals that are placed in pits beneath the baskets.

Want to pep your morning tea quickly and easily without having to buy one of these specialty teas? Click here to get a free PDF of 9 Quick Tips to Perk Up Your Morning Tea.

7. Hojicha (or Houjicha)

Like Lapsang, you probably haven’t seen Hojicha in the supermarket.

It’s a Japanese green tea that’s roasted in a ceramic container over charcoal rather than steamed. Its savory flavors are reminiscent of the nutty flavors and aromas in Genmaicha.

The leaves become a rich brown to red color. Roasting tea reduces caffeine content, so Hojicha has very little caffeine.

Want to sip unique teas from around the globe? Click here to check out the 14 Day Tea Tour. There’s only a few boxes left from this season, so don’t wait.

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The leaves of houjicha tea are a brownish red and may contain twigs from the tea plant.

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