Help! I’m Obsessed With Making Buckwheat Soba Tea

Over the past 15 years, I’ve tried very hard to get into tea, but have never been able to sustain it as a habit, even when I’ve found one I enjoy. I’ve gone through periods where I’d try to drink green or black tea daily, or check out weird, flavored teas that I thought could rewire me into thinking that tea actually tasted good. I also went through a morning matcha phase a couple years ago, but, ultimately, coffee won that battle. Ultimately, I thought that maybe I just don’t like tea very much.

The closest I ever got to loving tea was after seeing Phantom Thread; more specifically, the arrestingly sensual scene where the emotionally-distant-but-brilliant designer Reynolds Woodcock (played by Daniel Day-Lewis) places a patently insane breakfast order. Today, the scene is iconic; but after that first viewing, I just left the movie theater thinking, OK, this very cool man ordered lapsang souchong and then hooked up with a beautiful woman. What is this beverage and how can I get some? I went home and Googled “lapsang souchong,” and learned that it was a very smoky tea that most people don’t enjoy. As someone whose favorite spirit is Scotch, those were the magic words for me, so I went to the closest tea room the next afternoon and got myself a pot of the stuff. I found it delicious, so I drank the whole pot, forgetting that it had caffeine, and, as a result, was awake until 6 a.m. the following morning. That was the last time I had that kind of tea.

Recently, I’ve been recalibrating my relationship to beverages in general. I’ve cut back on alcohol, and have tried out more N/A wines and cocktails; I recently completed a very challenging Goop detox that required me to give up caffeine and alcohol entirely, and also not eat food after 6 p.m. In light of my limited options, I turned my gaze back to tea, wondering if it was something I could actually get into, this time simply to fill the void that was my growling stomach. Incidentally, one of my friends—another tea hater—told me he’d been drinking soba tea in the evenings and that he was loving it. He said it was very healthy and supposedly good for anxiety, inflammation, immunity, and protection against a mess of other afflictions. There doesn’t seem to be much scientific research about soba tea, but we can’t just go around basing all our major life decisions on science. That said, tea is generally known to be healthy, and that’s good enough for me.

Soba tea is slightly unlike other teas in that it’s not made from tea leaves, but, rather, from roasted buckwheat. I was intrigued, since that fact promised that its flavor might be a hit with my palate. I decided to source my soba from respected tea company Harney & Sons, which offers a delicious soba in 4 ounce, 10-ounce, and 1-pound containers. I scored a full pound on Amazon, which came in an elegant, resealable bag. I also bought a pretty inexpensive, super simple, highly rated tea infuser that’s insanely easy to clean. All in all, I was set with quite a lot of tea and a great infuser for under $40.

Brewing the tea is very easy: You just boil water, ideally to 212 degrees Fahrenheit, which is easy if you have an awesome electric kettle. (I have the excellent Cosori, and it’s never let me down.) You fill the infuser with soba tea—I usually do about 1 to 1.5 tablespoons, depending on the size of the mug. You let it steep for 5 minutes, and then remove the infuser.

I instantly became a huge fan of soba tea. It has a toasty, grainy smell that I find wonderful; it’s something that lovers of earthy-savory foods like sourdough bread and hearty, whole wheat pasta dishes should connect with. It almost tastes like hot chocolate, without the sugar or chocolate (I know that sounds weird, but that’s what it tastes like to me). Since it’s caffeine-free, you can drink it all night long. I have one or two cups of it every evening, and don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Tea haters will understand: I always held out hope that I could find a tea that I loved, but also came to believe it would probably never happen. Alas, like with Steely Dan and ginger shots, I persisted long enough, and began to enjoy tea regularly. Whether you already love tea and want to try a new one that you might enjoy or just believe you hate tea and want to challenge your own convictions, soba could be the wild card you’ve been looking for. If early-twenties me could see myself right now, listening to Gaucho and drinking tea, he would be flabbergasted. Luckily, I found soba at the exact right moment, and my life is better for it.

Find Harney & Sons buckwheat soba tea on Amazon.

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