It may sound like a euphemism for a prolific weed dealer, but the “Tea Wizard” turns out to be a legit tool for finding real tea – specifically, the right tea blend to suit you.
Launched recently by specialty tea purveyor Art of Tea, it’s like a personality test for prospective tea drinkers. Just visit the Art of Tea's website, then answer the questions to find out which types of tea match your own individual profile.
As someone who likes tea well enough, but hasn’t really embraced it with quite the same passion I have for coffee, wine and spirits, I took the Tea Wizard for a spin, hoping to get matched to a tea or two that could ignite that yet-elusive spark.
It all starts with a quiz. Most of the questions have to do with your level of experience with tea and what flavors you like. You also get asked about your interests, ranging from crafts to the environment. Using this information, results are compiled. The teas recommended to me numbered in the forties but it’s just a fraction of the 200 or so blends offered at Art of Tea. If your tea drinking is limited to stale sachets, the Tea Wizard is sure to bring you to a more serious level of steeping.
“A lot of people want to learn more about tea,” says Art of Tea founder Steve Schwartz, who started out blending teas and botanicals in his living room, making custom brews for chefs like Wolfgang Puck. “Even though it’s the second most consumed beverage in the world, there’s so much to learn about it that it’s tricky to know where to start. [The Tea Wizard] is a way to have a personal shopper experience, where we can identify with you, what your interests are and hopefully narrow it down from hundreds of options so it becomes less daunting.”
The results produced by my quiz included green teas, oolongs, blacks and herbal teas, from several very traditional single-origin brews to a range of Schwartz’s signature blends. The 99-percent Oxidized Purple Oolong, for one, is a hearty tea with a malty character. (All tea types – white, green, oolong and black – come from an evergreen shrub called Camellia sinensis. Oolongs must be between one and 99-percent oxidized.)
Based on the purple oolong match, Schwartz suggested that I must also like heartier breads and beers. (He’s right: I do.) Rich and musky with notes of pine, it’s baked several times with a heavy, sappy wood. When you steep it, which can be done four to six times, the leaves unfurl like tentacles.
Other matches: Iron Goddess of Mercy, a Ti Kuan Yin, is the quintessential foodie tea, says Schwartz. Considered part of the oolong family because it’s semi-fermented, it shows floral notes with a nutty finish. Foodies, he says, gravitate toward the umami character of oolong. Brewed Awakening, meanwhile, is the tea for coffee drinkers, a black tea blended with freshly roasted coffee beans for an earthy brew with a slightly sharp edge. And, Japanese Cherry is an organic green tea blended with rose petals and cherry essence, so it’s grassy with a hint of tart fruit. It tends to appeal to people who love to travel, says Schwartz.
“It’s part of our secret sauce, part of our algorithm, that we try to figure out what people’s interests are,” Schwartz explains, adding that you can tell a lot about a person by what they like to drink and vice versa. “Tea is a full sensory experience. It’s smell, it’s taste—there’s even a visual appeal to it.”
In addition to the caffeinated teas recommended by the Tea Wizard, I also got a decaf Pacific Coast Mint in my results. While true tea should come from Asia, botanical teas can incorporate crops from anywhere, including our own backyard. Art of Tea works with two farmers, one in Oregon and another in northern California, that grow two different types of mint. The proprietary blend makes for a great digestif.
According to Schwartz, the tea industry has grown into a $15 billion business in the U.S. alone–a figure which suggests that American tea culture is finally starting to catch up to the rest of the world. What makes the U.S. market so interesting is the innovation we’re known for, says Schwartz. Just as we’ve turned gin on its head – or coffee or pizza, for that matter – we’re very creative with our tea blends. As a master blender, Schwartz keeps a pad of paper on the nightstand next to the bed in case he wakes up in the middle of the night with an idea for a new tea. The possibilities are virtually endless, from all the different types of tea to other botanicals like chocolate, mint, peach or marigold.
“What we’re doing in our teas is really driving the flavor profile first,” Schwartz says of American tea vendors. “Followed by: it just so happens to be good for you, too."
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