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DIGEST | Spring Tea Drinking

With warm, sunny days in the park followed by rain and a 20 degree temperature drop and back again, we know spring is really here. We’d love it if this season were a little more predictable, but that would be like asking for spotless subway platforms, which is to say it will never happen. Instead, we’ve been embracing uncertainty–something New Yorkers have a bit of experience with.

Whether it’s drinking elderberry syrup, packing an umbrella, or breaking out our lighter oolongs, we’re ready for anything. We think of tea like our wardrobes: we like to change it up seasonally to match the weather, and spring is always a wild card.

In traditional Chinese medicine all foods and drinks sit on a spectrum from warm to neutral to cold, and achieving balance is the best way to stay healthy. Of course, this is an extremely simplified version of the CliffNotes explanation of Chinese medicine–we’re no experts–but it works for the purposes of tea drinking. You can read this if you want a slightly deeper dive.

It won’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s asked for recommendations in the tearoom that black teas are warming, green teas are cool, and oolongs are mostly neutral from this perspective. Most of us prefer bolder flavors in the winter and lighter, more aromatic teas in the warmer months–makes sense, right? If only transitional weather were so linear, but alas; it wasn’t meant to be.

In spring, we love the slightly warming toastiness of Frozen Summit and Seaport Oolong for the rainy days, the fresh lilac-esque aromas of Mount Qilai or Graceful Hill’s gentle notes on the sunnier days, and Royal Courtesan’s subtle florals on the days in between.

That’s just our taste of course–some people gravitate towards roasted teas and prefer the aged Iron Goddess in the spring, and others only drink greener styles or only black tea. And in Chinese medicine that’s normal too: it’s not just foods that live on the warm-cold spectrum, but also people.

This comes as no surprise to anyone who often finds themselves in shorts when everyone else is still in at least three layers or who always has an extra sweater handy for the inevitable moment the A/C is just a few degrees too cold. Achieving balance isn’t just about eating, but also taking your body’s own warming or cooling tendencies into consideration.

For those of us who tend cool, that might mean sticking with lighter styles of oolong rather than going straight to green tea in the spring. On the other hand, green tea might be the perfect spring choice for people on the warmer side since its cooling properties can help to maintain a more moderate temperature as the weather warms us up.

If you’re interested in spring and summer tea recommendations, the UK-based lifestyle company TOAST interviewed Elena about Té Company and her top tea picks for the warmer months of the year, and make sure to check out the link at the bottom of the page where Elena goes into a bit more detail about her summer tea picks.

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