Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? how did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea. I can drink any quantity when I have not tasted wine; otherwise I am haunted by blue-devils by day, and dragons by night. ~Sydney Smith
I have a love affair with tea, a long and adventuresome love affair that has given me wonderful memories and delighted my senses. It’s one of my true loves in life; as a comfort in a cup or a burst of long lasting energy on my slowest mornings. Sweet tea in a pitcher in the fridge was a staple of my Southern childhood. Sweet, ice cold, and always available, tea was more common in my house than soda. (Soda was actually a treat for me as a child.) More than one fight or grumble in my house was started from desiring the refreshing sweetness of tea only to find that whoever emptied the pitcher last had not made anymore, and heaven forbid a person only leave half a glass left in the pitcher. However unlike some of my childhood friends, my household never made the notorious “sun tea“. That brewing took too long for our liking, and I can’t say it made it taste any better either. My family also never really made the typical overly sweet southern tea, the type that was like sugary syrup, and since then my tastes have always run to less sweet varieties. As for hot tea, I have many fond memories of warming up a mug of sweet tea in the microwave on a cold dreary day and eating some gingersnap cookies while sitting with my mother, talking about random things. It was never really a tea party, but just a time to hang out with my mom and chat for a bit while watching the rain fall.
Later in my teenage years I was introduced to green tea, but I didn’t like it. The bottled stuff that was mass marketed tasted terrible to me (it still does). When I tried to brew it at home it was always bitter and lacking any identifiable flavor, despite how the labels on the box said it should be blueberry or lemon or even jasmine. It was horrible and I decided it was not for me.
Then one day a friend of mine brought me into a tea house, a certified “we brew tea only, why do you want coffee, and what is a latte” tea house, namely Tea ReX. I met the proprietor, Wayne Powers, and my world changed forever. I told him of my distaste for green tea and he said I wasn’t brewing it right. “What? Warm some water, throw a tea bag in it, drink when ready; how could I not be brewing it correctly?” I thought to myself. He brewed me a cup of jasmine green tea and after waiting the appropriate 3 minutes brew time, he let me have a sip. Suddenly my taste buds opened to a new world, a world of liquid Spring. I tasted the blooming flowers, the green leaves, the brightness of sunshine. I couldn’t believe it and started asking him questions. That was when I learned the proper way of brewing green tea and pretty much the brewing basics for all of the 4 main groups of tea. It was also the doorway for me to truly fall head over heels in love with tea.
Since that fateful day, my palate has gotten a bit more sophisticated, although it doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a tall glass of Southern sweet tea on occasion. My preference has turned more to loose leaf tea that I pick up at tea shops or specialty shops. I love getting the chance to smell it before purchase, to revel in the aromas and flavors, crafting my selection based on my moods or my activities. I have found teas of so many different flavors, teas with the tastes of fruits, spices, flowers, baked goods, and even different wines. I tend to stick more towards the latter three of those flavors because I find them more adventuresome and interesting, although a good cinnamon tea isn’t bad on a cold winter day. I also normally stick to green or black teas, and only recently started to really enjoy white tea. I leave herbal teas (tisanes or infusions) for times when I’m sick, and they mostly include some peppermint or chamomile. I’m not a big fan of Rooibos tea (red tea) unless I’m mixing it in with a smoothie or maybe as a Kool-Aid substitute in the summer.
Overall, I get really picky about what tea I’m buying, how I brew it, and how I drink it. I will readily admit I’m a bit of a snob when it comes down to it. Unless pressed, I won’t buy pre-bagged tea and will stay away from most big tea companies that are found in super markets for the simple reason of flavor. I do have a few exceptions to this, but I’ll post about that another time. I’m a stickler for proper brew time and my biggest pet peeve with other tea drinkers is the leaving of a tea bag in a mug for longer than proper, which causes the tea to become bitter and burned. At home I finally treated myself with an electric kettle that I can set the temperature for each tea. Other than iced tea, I really don’t drink my tea with sugar in it either for I do not appreciate how sugar can cover certain flavors.
Some would call this excessive, I call it a perfect cup of happiness. It’s my love affair, I’ll drink it as I please.