GQ - Coffee-ization of Tea

M DRINK

GQ, December 2016

Your Next Coffee Should Actually Be a Tea

Now that cult coffee has gone mass-market (cold brew at Dunkin'?!), tea is next in line to become every caffeine fiend’s new fix. As matcha replaces the macchiato, a saggy old bag just won’t do.

IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCE

Bellocq, a Brooklyn "tea atelier" equally fixated on loose-leaf and design, crafted this strainer from silver plated brass. $29 www.bellocq.com

About a decade ago, when cafés and coffee roasters became obsessed with bean origin, ideal milk temperature, and mouthfeel, ordering coffee began to seem like a lifestyle choice—a development tolerable only because the coffee itself got way, way better. Now, we're seeing the same thing happen to tea, with an explosion of flavors and styles at a quality level that could give Sleepytime night terrors. Sensing the sea change, new-school coffee powerhouses like La Colombe and Intelligentsia (1) have rolled out their own lines of tea. That means it's time to get into the tea world—but in a way that won't make you feel like someone who brags about his PBS-tote-bag collection.

The tea that won't stop trending is matcha (2), the powdered favorite with a heavy dose of antioxidants and a concentrated grassy flavor that can hold its own in a latte. Oolong (3) is on the rise thanks to its wine-like complexity and health halo. For some profound funk, there's fermented puerh (4), aged cakes of which can cost hundreds of dollars. You can make it all yourself, of course—with handsome cups, pots, bowls, whisks, and strainers as your paraphernalia—but you may find that, like your cortado habit, it's worth leaving the house for.

Wherever you live, head to the gentrifying part of town (past the coffee bar) to sip Darjeeling surrounded by people updating their Scandinavian-kitchen Pinterest boards. The slickest house is Samovar, in San Francisco's Mission District, which has futuristic brewing stations and too-pretty-to-open $19 bags of green Ryokucha. Still, it's not above offering a seasonal pumpkin-spiced chai for those of us not totally sure how to pronounce Ryokucha.

Text by Christine Muhlke

Photograph by Travis Rathbone