For the Love of Tea2/20/2017
by Eliot Jordan
I fell in love with tea at an early age, growing up in Berkeley. My mom’s from Boston and at 4 p.m. everyday she would brew a pot of tea to drink with milk and cookies. What kid doesn’t love a reason to eat cookies? She served the tea in red and white patterned tea cups and saucers and brewed tea bags in an ordinary teapot. She would pour my tea and I would add the milk. The milk created a blooming cloud in the cup that moves beautifully through the tea and I always added a sound effect at this point. I loved this daily ritual with my mom. Some parents get nervous about giving their kids caffeine, but when served in a small six ounce cup, it’s not a big deal. These tea parties with my mother were priceless and helped me become a lifelong tea drinker—I have two older brothers and typically my mom would feed the kids and then later eat separately with my dad. Our teatime wasn’t at all formal, but it provided sustenance in the afternoon and time with my mom. After I entered middle school and even through college, I didn’t drink tea at all until I discovered it in a new way at a new job.
I fell in love with tea again when I first joined Peet’s Coffee and Teas. Prior to this my experience with tea had been brewed supermarket tea bags or tea at Chinese restaurants. Peet’s offered teas with names I’d never heard before. My first tea to take to was Black Currant and it’s funny to think about it now, because I don’t really gravitate toward flavored teas. The variety and discovery of tea seemed endless. It’s like drinking wine where every bottle has potential to say something a little differently. I worked my way through the teas during the training at Peet’s and found that I preferred some of the teas to other ones. Some teas I learned to like over time. It was like a love affair—constantly being surprised and discovering tastes I never knew existed. Now, many years later, I find every tea potentially interesting—I never get bored tasting teas. Every day is a new opportunity to get to know teas a bit more deeply. My first few months and year at Peet’s was a bit like finding a book and skimming through it, rifling through the chapters quickly and finding I wanted to dive into the book and read each chapter thoroughly.
If you’ve recently discovered a love of tea, congratulations. You’re part of the club. Enjoy a torrid newfound love affair with your new favorite tea flavor. Tea won’t let you down. But don’t stop with the flavor you’ve just discovered. Let’s say you’ve found Organic Spring Jasmine for the first time and can’t imagine not drinking it every day. Maybe your discovery of it is because you had only known two or three types of tea and didn’t find them interesting. There are 3000 teas that exist and several quality levels within them. I feel like I could line up 3000 teas that would be discernibly different to the tea drinker. Because of companies like Mighty Leaf, there’s such a plethora of choice. The mantra of every tea drinker should be, “Okay, I’ll try it.” Try each tea that comes your way once or maybe twice. A favorite tea exists for each person, but sometimes people limit themselves to what they think they will like and they might just miss their next favorite tea! If some teas seem too expensive, good tea costs more, but if you enjoy it 20 times more than you’d think, suddenly, it becomes cheap. Keep going in your tea tastings. Keep experimenting. If you found one tea you love, chances are high you will discover another tea to love. Almost every tea that’s produced is someone’s favorite. There’s never been a better time to fall in love with tea.