Rishi’s China Breakfast tea is made from ancient tea trees in the Mannong Manmai reserve in Yunnan Province in China. And, yeah, they’re trees, which is what would happen to all tea bushes if tea estates didn’t prune them regularly to make them easier to harvest. These trees are also used to make Rishi’s Golden Yunnan and Rishi’s Golden Needles.

So what’s the difference between the three — aside from the price? Rishi’s China Breakfast tea is composed entirely of mature leaves. Golden Yunnan is composed of leaves and buds (leaf buds that have yet to unfurl). And Golden Needles is nothing but buds.

Rishi’s China Breakfast is rich and malty, just like the label says. What it’s missing, however, is the sweetness that you’d find in Golden Yunnan. Buds typically are sweet since the plant tends to pump sugar to the buds to nourish them and get them to open up. No buds generally means less sweetness. Rishi’s China Breakfast is a good tea, but it doesn’t give you the full spectrum of flavors that Rishi’s Golden Yunnan provides. My wife says the tea tastes like it has no bottom. I liken it to playing your stereo through one channel — it’s like you’re missing half the music.

So here’s my recommendation. If you take your tea with milk (or rice or soy milk) and sweetener, Rishi’s China Breakfast tea is great. It’s rich, malty and can really hold up to milk. If you take your tea straight, I’d recommend spending the extra dollar and get Rishi’s Golden Yunnan. You’ll appreciate the extra sweetness that buds can provide to the mix. And if you’re feeling really flush financially, really splurge and get Rishi’s Golden Needles and experience the joy of an all-bud tea.

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East Side Rob is chief marketing officer for a philanthropy, where he spends a lot of time working late, contemplating a saner life, and drinking lots of — you guessed it — tea.


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