Harvard Square Tea Tasting: A Spiritual Journey

By Farheen J Mukarram

As the temperature finally drops and midterm season comes back, the need for warmth and caffeine becomes more and more urgent. While many, including myself, swear by coffee, there exists a portion of students who are swayed more by tea. This less popular and often less caffeinated drink seems to be overshadowed by the power that the java has, especially during days when you need to finish a paper at 4 am. While coffeehouses are too numerous to count, locations to experience something other than the HUDS-provided English Breakfast or Green Tea are limited. To find these places and fully experience the joy of drinking unique teas, I gave up coffee for a weekend and embarked on a tasting of some of the teas Harvard Square provides.

TeaLuxe: Kashmiri Chai

I began my (almost spiritual) journey at one of the few places known specifically for its tea. Surrounded by signs boasting 7 kinds of chai brewed fresh and 90 kinds of loose tea, I felt pleasantly overwhelmed by all of the options unlike when I was choosing courses for the semester.

After some thought, I decided on ordering a cup of Kashmiri Chai, Indian black tea flavored with cardamom, cinnamon, peppermint, and nutmeg. As the server grabbed a numbered black box off a tiered shelf of several others, I was reminded of the Harry Potter scene in which Mr. Ollivander retrieves a wand for the young wizard.

The tea was as magical as the experience. Very delicately spiced, the full flavored black tea was robust but not bitter. The drink was comforting and unique, something anyone, tea-lover or not, would enjoy.

Crema: Almond Earl Grey

The always bustling (but quite expensive) student favorite, Crema was my next stop. The coffee there is always phenomenal, but I sought to answer the question of whether the tea was as exceptional.

While scoping out the tea options, my eye was immediately caught by the Almond Earl Grey option. An avid fan of Earl Grey, I was initially wary about the seemingly trendy twist, but my curiosity was won out. All of my worries about the tea (and also my worries about the piles of readings I still haven’t done for my Gen Ed class), were somehow diminished after the first sip. The flavor was multi-layered; the sweetness of the almond syrup was seamlessly undercut by the tea itself. It was a warming, balanced tea experience.

L. A. Burdicks: Maracuja Orange

Better known for its heavenly and very expensive liquid chocolate, this famously decadent location also has a decent, though not expansive, selection of tea. As tempted as I was to abandon my consumption of only tea (and add on those last pounds to finally gain my freshman fifteen), I persevered. In fact, I opted for what could serve as the exact opposite of creamy chocolate: a fruity, herbal tea.

Though I was expecting a lighter flavor, I was surprised by how much citrus came through even after very minimal steeping. It was by no means an unpleasant surprise, but the powerful orange element could have been complemented by something a bit more sweet.

Peet’s: Spiced Hot Tea Cider

For my last taste of tea, I decided to try a fall-themed option at Peet’s, which also specializes in coffee. Special holiday drinks, advertised by coffee shops on chalkboards in Santa-hat topped handwriting underneath cheerfully sketched branches of mistletoe, often tend to be hit or miss. The Spiced Hot Tea Cider there was an instant and resounding miss.

Each individual element was so promising. Cider? Yum. Hot Tea? Perfect for a crisp day. Spices? I’m all about that extra kick. Spiced cider is good; so is spiced tea. Putting the two together, however, served to create an aggressively weird clash of flavor like pumpkin spiced chicken. Initially, my tongue was assaulted by an overly-saturated cinnamon sweetness, only to be given a finishing blow by an unusual, uncomplimentary bitterness. I had to throw it away right afterwards.

Conclusion

After exploring some of the tea options in Harvard Square, I realized just how accessible it really is. Though, you might not plan to rely on tea for that last-minute boost on late-night assignments, you should try it once in awhile. It could be great for more leisurely occasions, like cuddling up in your dorm room after a long class in Sever or while strolling in the Yard, blanketed by brown leaves. There are so many new teas to try, and hopefully, I’ll get a taste of most of them.

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