Thursday, February 14, 2008

Open Yourself To Broad Tea Experiences

I never stray too far from Earl Grey. As I write this, I have the cup in front of me and the mixed smell of black tea and bergamot oil is unmistakable and inviting. To be sure there are a multitude of different Teas, blends, adjuncts and other infusions, but it is that gift to Lord Charles Grey nearly two hundred years ago that I always return to and think of first when I think of "Tea."

It is both hard work and immensely more pleasurable to avoid becoming a Tea snob. When the love of something becomes very strong I think it only human nature to want that object in its purest state and at its highest quality. Thus, wine snobs hold disdain for blends and seek the very best varietals. So it can be with Tea. But snobbery lays a trap that serves to deprive the enthusiast of vast enjoyments. Limiting one's Tea experiences to varietals, and eschewing adjuncts, severely limits the Tea lover's sensory experiences. Indeed, even Earl Grey would not be available to a varietal-limited drinker, since the adjunct that gives it distinction - oil of bergamot - would offend.

Similarly, limiting your drink to only the finest Teas will cause many great experiences to be missed while waiting for the pinnacle. That is not to say that I do not strive for the highest quality Tea available -- I do. As an example, though, I strongly favor infused loose Tea to a dunked bag due both to the infusion method and quality of the Tea (more thoughts on this in future posts). But I do not reject the opportunity for a calming Tea while passing through an airport even if it is bundled in a stapled bag and steeped in a paper cup by a chain beverage retailer. The experience easily bests going without my beverage altogether.

There are few times in one's life that are not bettered by a cup of Tea. Though my favorite has always been and remains during the last couple of hours before retiring to bed. I am one of the fortunate whose sleep is sound and goes uninterrupted by the invigorating effects of caffeine. For those less fortunate herbal alternatives become a necessary compromise. A fine pot of Earl Grey, or my ad hoc blend of Teas from the cupboard, with a few biscuits (never underestimate the contribution of the biscuit), can soothe the day's worst malady, unburden my mind and loosen the tightness that has creeped down my neck and across my shoulders. Tea provides a placid background for more philosophical contemplations without the noise of routine daily events.

Some may feel that I have extolled the virtues of Tea too strongly. Those are the readers that have found these pages in error. The true enthusiast will recognize the qualities that I have described and the enjoyment that Tea brings to them. To those I say "Welcome, I am glad we have found each other. I look forward to our conversations to come about Tea (and biscuits).


Ryan said...

I think you have summed up the soothing and calming effects of tea. I looked forward to more blog posts from you.


joco said...

Hiya James,

Tea is fattening!

Ever since I saw a TV commercial for Rich Tea biscuits: "Tea is too dry without them", I haven't been able to drink the stuff without something to eat.

(Zap this comment with my blessing. I am new here and checking out similar interests. It was the BG that I followed.)

BTW, a close relative of your sinensis on my fledgeling site. Much prettier.

Matt said...

If one cannot enjoy the cheap simple teas then surly one cannot enjoy the cheap simple things in life.

Please check out my new blog on life and tea at


joco said...

Enjoying a cheap simple giggle at my own post and at the one above, ( definitely without being surly :-), I have to admit to a typo: I meant 'too wet' and not 'too dry'.

It would be great if your tea posts could stop my caffeine addiction and make me switch.

Take care