Five Unique Teas From Around the World
From tea fertilized by panda dung to tea made from insects, the world of tea certainly knows no boundaries. The weirder, more unique teas, the better. Nobody is condoning that you abandon your daily cup of traditional green or black tea made from Camellia sinensis. We just want to remind you that it can be an exciting experience to branch out and try something new.
Additionally, it shows your worldliness to your friends. Drinking one of the below teas shows your refined taste buds have graduated from “run of the mill” teas.
To begin, we must define what qualifies as a “unique tea”. For simplicity’s sake, we take a very liberal definition of what is considered “unique”. Similarly, we’ll take a fairly broad definition of “tea”. A particular tea may be somewhat commonplace in a specific area or community, yet completely foreign in another. It’s rather subjective when you get down to it.
As for our definition of tea itself…Well, let’s just leave it as “any naturally occurring plant being steeped in water for the purpose of consumption”. See our previous post for information regarding infusions, tisanes, and the definition of true “tea”
With our definition of unique tea out of the way, it’s time to get to the good stuff. Truly unique and exotic tea.
1. Blue Tea
Our first look into the world of unique teas brings us to the eye-catching butterfly pea flower tea. Commonly referred to as “blue tea”.
Blue tea is not a true “tea” in the traditional sense of the word. Rather, it is a caffeine free herbal infusion made from the flower petals of the Clitoria ternatea plant.
The unique blue of the petals colors the mixture when the the butterfly pea flowers are steeped in warm water. Sometimes it is used as a food coloring agent, and even a dye, when not used as tea.
Native to Southeast Asia, indigenous people have brewed the butterfly pea flower for several centuries. In part due to the spectacular color of the infusion, the alluring “blue” tea has begun to see a rise in popularity on the international market.
Blue tea tastes “woody” and “earthy”. It has a taste closely resembling the more common green tea.
Traditionally, you mix blue tea with honey and lemon. It is best enjoyed as a light post-dinner/afternoon beverage. Interestingly enough, the color of blue tea can vary to a significant degree depending on the pH-balance of the brew. Should you choose to add a splash of acidic lime or lemon juice, your once blue tea will turn a truly unique shade of deep purple due to the pH change.
If you’re looking for a mild tea that will bring up an interesting conversation upon serving, blue tea may be your ticket.
Our next subject in the world of unique teas comes in the form of a traditional laborers’ herbal tea known as kratom. It also grows throughout southeast Asia.
Kratom leaves come from the Mitragyna speciosa tree, native to southeast Asian countries like Thailand, Malaysia, and Myanmar. Dating back centuries, Asian farmers and blue-collar workers alike enjoy the all-natural herbal brew of their homeland. It serves as a pick-me-up in order to help combat the weariness and physical toll of their respective jobs.
Coffee drinkers out there, listen up. Despite kratom’s well documented history of use as an uplifting source of energy for these laborers, kratom doesn’t contain caffeine. An excellent substitution for those looking to cut down a bit on their daily caffeine intake, while still reaping many of the same desirable benefits.
Kratom is certainly a unique tea, both in its origins and potential uses. In accordance, kratom has just recently seen its popularity spread to the West in the last two decades. Due to kratom’s reported energizing properties, it is popular among the health and wellness community as an all-natural pre-workout. Even better, it won’t make every hair on your body stand at attention.
Unique Teas Have Unique Brewing Instructions
Kratom can be consumed as a capsule, in raw powder form, or via our favorite method; a traditional kratom tea. In order to brew a traditional kratom herbal tea, you’ll need just a few simple things:
- Kratom tea bags
- Lemon juice (or another food safe acid, like lime juice, apple cider vinegar, etc.)
- A thermos
- Hot water
To start, take your kratom tea bag(s) and add them to your thermos with a splash of lemon juice. Then, proceed to add your hot water to the infusion, and cap your thermos. Let the ingredients steep in the hot water for 20 minutes to ensure an effective brew. That’s it! You’ve now made yourself a traditional herbal kratom tea. Not too difficult, was it? Check out our updated 2022 kratom brewing guide for complete instructions
Enjoy your kratom tea alone while studying to help clarify your thoughts. Or, drink it with friends who may also appreciate this unique ancient brew. Like coffee, kratom isn’t only drunk for work, but also for casual socializing. Kratom “bars” are popular places to socialize, and are spreading across the States. Muslim youths throughout Southeast Asia also turn to kratom tea as a halal alternative to alcohol.
3. Yerba Mate
Heads up, this exotic sounding tea may not be so “unique” if you are from South America. That being said, yerba mate is still uncommon in the United States.
Yerba mate is native to present day Paraguay. It was originally consumed exclusively by the indigenous Guarani and Tupi people long before European colonization of the Americas. It was only after Jesuit colonization of the area that yerba mate was commercialized. Quickly, yerba mate began to explode on the South American market and into surrounding areas.
Eventually, yerba mate would overtake tobacco to become Paraguay’s hottest commodity. After years of commercialization and modernization of international trade, Paraguay now ranks just third behind Brazil and Argentina in terms of production of the once exclusive plant.
Yerba mate (or just mate), is technically an herbal infusion as well. The brew has a grassy, vegetable-like taste. In that regard, it is similar to several common types of green tea.
Traditionally, mate is consumed in a communal setting, with friends or family members via a hollowed out gourd. You drink it with a communal wooden or metal straw known as a “bombilla”. Each recipient drinks their allotted amount from a full gord. The gord is returned to the brewer to be replenished when emptied. The brewer will refill the gord and continue passing it through the circle.
In Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay, yerba mate is as a social drink. It is similar to coffee in America. Friends may meet up on cool days to enjoy a steaming cup. On warm days, they may opt to replace the steaming water with lemonade.
Yerba mate is certainly a unique tea that you do not hear much about here in the States. Pronouncing the name of the tea correctly should gain you a few brownie points with friends or acquaintances (cher-va mah-tay). Time to break out the communal gourd at your next gathering!
4. White Tea
White tea may be a strange addition to round out our list of unique teas for those with a bit of tea knowledge.
Yes, white tea does in fact come from the aforementioned common Camellia sinensis tea bush. It is in fact a true tea in every sense of the word. However, it is not your average Camellia sinensis brew.
White tea is harvested from the unopened buds of the Camellia sinensis tea bush. It is time to harvest when there are still fine white hairs covering the juvenile leaves, hence the name “white tea”.
White tea differs from other traditional teas made from the Camellia sinensis like green, oolong, black, and pu-erh. The difference is found in the relatively short amount of time it is allowed to oxidize. The juvenile “white tea” leaves and buds are harvested and immediately sun dried. The drying process takes place either naturally in the sun, or artificially within a similar, highly-controlled indoors environment.
All of these steps ensure that little to no oxidation occurs within the tea leaves. There is very little processing involved in the making of white tea. Couple that with the juvenile nature of the buds and leaves themselves, and you now have some of the freshest tea on the market.
White Tea vs. Black Tea
Another distinctive feature of white tea, in stark contrast to other teas made from the Camellia sinensis bush, is the taste. Due to this lack of oxidation, white tea has a much lighter flavor profile than that of a black or even green tea made from the same plant. The longer the leaves are allowed to oxidize, the richer the taste and the darker the brew.
After the unique process is completed and the leaves are steeped, the final product is a sunny liquid. A delicate golden tea that is fresh and fruity with floral notes in taste.
5. Panda Dung Tea
To finish up our list, we travel to the Sichuan Province of Southwestern China in search of a tea that certainly can be classified as “unique”. An Yanshi, an entrepreneur native to the Sichuan Province, created panda dung tea to show that waste in all forms can be turned into something useful.
Panda dung tea itself is actually a form of green tea. The fertilization process used to grow the tea plant sets it apart.
Yanshi, a Sichuan University professor and wildlife specialist, is able to obtain copious amounts of panda excrement from nearby breeding centers in the region. The panda poop is mixed with soil and nutrients and used to fertilize the tea plant. Yanshi argues that the excrement makes an excellent fertilizer due to the poor digestive system of the giant panda.
Yanshi claims that due to their digestive system, pandas only absorb about 30% of the nutrients in everything they eat. This leaves nutrients from the panda’s diet (mainly bamboo) remaining in the excrement.
Panda dung tea has a “woody or nutty” taste, with a distinctive aroma when brewed. Much like Kopi Luwak coffee made from beans ingested by the Indonesian civet, panda dung tea has a hefty price tag.
Expect to pay as much as $200 USD a cup for the pleasure of experiencing this unique brew.
Which Unique Teas Will you Try Next?
The world of unique tea is as vast as it is interesting.
While adding an exotic tea to your daily regimen can help shake things up, we understand there are (literally) a world of options out there. We hope that our list has at least sparked your interest, and may have even given you the inspiration to branch out and try one of these recommended unique teas from around the globe.
Whether it be an eye-catching herbal tea, an earthy herbal infusion, or even tea fertilized in the dung of your favorite childhood mammal; we say go for it!