I've done what I must - become a tea-nut (given that all the fun drinks are largely off limits and that part of my health-regimen is firmly centred on being hydrated at all times).
Don't worry - there are some seriously enjoyable tisanes out there: teas to encourage calmness (that have nothing to do with chamomile aka nature's grossest taste), teas to bring energy (that have nothing to do with peppermint aka nature's other grossest taste), teas to encourage or to reduce all the things you want to encourage and/or reduce. Teas that simply taste delicious for no reason. I'm focused on the ones with minimal caffeine - I really don't need anymore buzz than my daily coffee provides. Not only that, but I like to drink tea in the evenings. While I'm not particularly caffeine-sensitive, it sometimes keeps me awake if I drink it after 4 pm.
The world of leaves is rather rich, more so than ever. So if you're looking for a way to introduce novelty into 2015, consider my current faves:
Toasty Almond: I believe this might be the most ripped-off blend on the planet. But don't go for the imitations. From what I understand, this is the blend that made Tealish (a Toronto local). It's entirely herbal so you can drink it till you're blue in the face but it is full of almond slivers, so if you have an allergy, walk away. It's slightly tart, perfectly balanced as apple and beet pieces offset the caramel subnotes of the nuts. It's naturally sweet, perfectly so. For those who eschew cinnamon (as do I), no worries. It's not a dominant taste. Little story: This was sold-out EVERYWHERE in TO before Xmas - including online. Only the Queen Street store carried it and they were running out! I bought an absurd amount, as if the tea-markets were crashing and, somehow, 2 weeks later, it's almost done!
Stress Buster: Everyone I know hates this - but they're stupid! OK, no one's stupid, they just don't get the glow of calm from this tea as much as they get a taste that doesn't work for them. Tulsi is polarizing but it's also very relaxing. Kind of the inverse of the way in which coffee fills you with its inspiration as the drug kicks in. I drink this one medicinally.
From David's Tea
A Currant Affair: Egad! I just tried to link to this from the David's site but it's not there! Is it gone? OK, this smells like gin to lots of people. It's vaguely (and I mean extremely vaguely) amplified with extra flavouring - in the best possible way. It's rather strong - well, if you use the amount of leaves and steeping time that I do. I do not like wussy tea. It's not sweet, but it is rich and tart. I really hope it comes back...
Also recommended is Pu'erh Ginger, a blend with caffeine but loaded with ginger to warm yourself in the winter months. I find this a bit grassy, in truth, but it has a place in my faves because you can feel it working. This one is medicinal. Disclaimer: I generally loathe "green" tastes.
Youthberry Tea: OK, call me a lemming, but I'm into this tea. It smells FANTASTIC - like peaches. It also tastes a bit peachy to me, and very astringent. It's in a white tea base which is code for "super high in caffeine" so I don't recommend you drink it like a herbal tea, but it's a great mid-morning blend. Note: Don't steep for longer than 3 minutes and don't make the water too hot. White tea gets bitter under those circumstances. There is some artificial flavouring in this blend but it doesn't bother me; it's very subtle and designed to slightly amplify the natural flavour.
Opus Rouge Rooibos: I bought this on a lark and I really like it! It's as much like wine as tea is ever going to be. Very dry, red-fruit undertones, made with dried grapes. It goes a gorgeous ruby colour and, if you steep it long, it is almost like a juice (there are stevia leaves within it to produce just a subtle sweetness). This tastes luxe and it goes really well with chocolate. Note: It does smell a bit like grape gum, which bothers a lot of people. But I don't find it upsetting, weirdly enough. The astringency of the blend works for me, artificial smell and flavourings notwithstanding.
I've just recently discovered Teavana - I believe it's new to Toronto. Let me say a few things about it: the blends are very artful and exuberant. They tend towards strong - this tea has a really American quality to it; it's big. Some of the teas come pre-sweetened with rock sugar (WTF?!) or stevia, so pay attention. It's also super fucking expensive. Seriously. So buy online, on sale (like now) or be prepared to spend.
The nice thing about this brand is that it's of high-quality, well-priced and available in health food stores.
Licorice and Cinnamon: Don't panic! This tastes neither like licorice nor cinnamon. It's bizarre. It actually owes its flavour most to a cocoa pod and chicory basenote. (It also tastes nothing like chocolate - mercifully, as I've decided that chocolate in tea is just wrong.) This blend is beautifully balanced and it works very well if you're looking for a way to satisfy the need for sweet. It does have a herbal tea-thing going on, so if you're not into earthy, it might not be your first choice.
I do recommend that you get one of these, to make the most of things. There's something about looking at your tea leaves steeping that enriches the experience. Also, some of my recommendations come in teabag format as well as loose. So check out the sites for more info.
Now it's your turn. Please enlighten me about the best teas you've tried. I need to maximize my collection on all accounts!