September 16, 2005

Tea...It's the New Wine

Ever noticed the striking similarities between the the world of tea and the world of wine?

"No, please elaborate!" you say....

Take the seemingly simple sentence, "I like wine". What you think that might mean ranges from:

"Yes, I've heard of the stuff and can even drink it without making faces"

"I occassionally have a glass or two at a fancy dinner or party, and am fond of Merlot"
"This bottle is comes from a unique varietal and the grapes are a blend of Cabernet, Syrah, and Sauvingnon. Note the subtle smoky quality, but with a nice dry finish and I find that if you let it breathe 30 minutes it will reveal a magnificent bouquet replete with a stunning complexity of vanilla, oak and blackberry undertones"

So it is the same with tea. I had no idea when I first started drinking tea that there was so much to know. And like wine, one can get very specific about the tea, where it's from, the age of the hand picked leaf, the processing and oxidation of the leaves, the preparation...not to mention and virtual panoply of words can be used to describe each tea or tea blend. For comparison's sake, let's follow interpretations of "I like tea.":

"I've had Lipton. Tea in good sometimes, but I'm more of a coffee drinker on average."
"I like tea and I am a big fan of Earl Grey."
"Depending on the time of year, I prefer 3rd flush Hou Shan Spring when it is at its most robust. Boil the water to 180 degrees and steep for only 3 minutes or else you stand the chance of bruising the delicate nutty taste."

Once I learned how much there was to know about tea, I realized just how much I have yet to learn. Each cup can offer an expereince; a lesson in every pot. I would love to apprentice for a true Tea Master Blender (to those who may be reading, feel free to email me!).

I find that I have an affinity for both tea and wine. I register around example #2 on both, but am eagerly learning, slowly but surely, about the many varieties of both.

What I love is that neither really have a finished product. Once bought the taste can be altered by time and environmental conditions. Listen to any guru or sommelier about food pairings or types of glassware and they take on yet another dimension. Both are gaining popularity in America despite the fact the products place in history and popularity around the world.

I like the way wine is marketed and I feel that tea has a long way to go in the way it is presented to the American palette. There is so much more that can be done to share the information that not all tea is created equal.

One of my favorite things to do is to introduce people to tea who at first say they don't really like the stuff....and by the end of the pot they are ready for another.

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