Thursday, July 27, 2023
One of my most comforting memories is waking up to the smell of brewing coffee. Maybe my parents were making it. Maybe my grandparents. Maybe an aunt or uncle, depending on where I was. But something about that smell coming at me from the kitchen while I lay snuggled safely in bed was warm and happy. I didn’t want to drink it. I just wanted to know someone was in the kitchen making it.
To this day I find it soothing to smell coffee brewing.
So I really wanted to like coffee. I’ve tried it a hundred times in a hundred ways. Milk no milk sugar no sugar medium body full body Espresso French press.
Let’s just say I will stick to smelling it.
What I do love is tea. It doesn’t trigger that same olfactory impression but it has a ritual and a culture and a sensory experience all its own.
I don’t know when I started drinking tea. I don’t think there was a “start” per se, I only remember my grandmother always had a box of Lipton tea in the house and since I never liked coffee and coffee ended every meal, I drank tea instead.
I don’t remember when I became a tea snob either, but the one tea I will absolutely not drink now? Lipton.
It really just tastes like shredded cardboard. Maybe it was better back in the day. Lots of things were. Or maybe I’m just a tea snob.
It’s only within the past decade that I started drinking loose leaf tea and making tea more of an event than a beverage. That happened thanks to Simpson & Vail.
Before that it was Stash. Before, during and after that it was Celestial Seasonings Nutcracker Sweet.
Remember how I talked about how whenever my father learned I liked something, he got it ALL for me? He was the one who introduced me to Stash tea. He gave me a bunch of fun flavors and once we established that they were good, I was stocked and supplied with crates of it that lasted from college through about five years ago, when during The Great Moth Infestation I had to dump most of a pantry full of tea and spices and rice and cereal.
But by then I had met Simpson & Vail so he stocked me with bags and bags of loose tea.
In addition to a constant supply of loose tea, I get a crate of a dozen boxes of Nutcracker Sweet every Christmas, which works out to about just enough to last me until the following Christmas.
I enjoy blending tea. It’s sort of like making a cocktail but with different ingredients. You want to hear something really wild? Sometimes I want tea more than I want a cocktail.
Sometimes I will get up from the couch to make myself a cocktail, then see the jars of tea and suddenly want some, then feel torn and have to debate drinking gin or ginger. Sometimes I drink my tea then make the cocktail. Sometimes the other way around.
Now that I think about it, I’ve seen some cocktails with Earl Gray so why choose between them?
I was about to say the only tea I didn’t like was David’s but I wasn’t completely sure if I had the name right so I looked it up. Apparently they lost a ton of money during Covid and closed most of their locations. The closest shop to me? Ontario. I feel bad for them but since I didn’t like their tea anyway it’s no great loss to me.
One year I bought myself an Advent calendar of tea from them and was super excited about it. I’d never seen anything like it before. The teas came in tiny tins inside a cute box and they were all fun-sounding blends. Sadly, most of them were not merely meh but undrinkable.
Do you want to know what doesn’t count as tea? Bubble tea. Just because it has the word tea in the name and quite possibly some form of tea as an ingredient doesn’t make it tea. Putting carrots in your cake doesn’t make it a vegetable.
I didn’t even know what Bubble tea really was until just now. I see it everywhere and it looks fairly disgusting. And I was right. It’s tea plus sweeteners plus flavors plus possibly milk plus chewy tapioca balls. Ew?
I don’t want to chew my tea, sorry.
Tea is seriously maligned and woefully underrepresented. The tea selection in most places is pretty dismal. If you’re lucky they have an old box of a few random flavors that almost always include English breakfast, apple cinnamon, and chamomile but nothing else. If you’re not lucky they have Lipton.
Do people really not drink tea?
There is no tea culture to speak of in this country. But everything about it is more fun than coffee. Little finger sandwiches. Scones and lemon curd. Special services and adorable cups. I mean, the varieties of honey alone should put tea above coffee.
Then you get to add in flowers and fruits and spices, and you get to use cute little teaballs or fun infusers or cool strainers. Teapots are way more interesting than coffee pots.
Anything coffee can do, tea can do better.
Tea goes with breakfast. It goes with afternoons. Tea is excellent with books. Each month my book club gets a selection of tea to enjoy as we read. It would look pretty dumb if there was a coffee pod attached, don’t you think?
The process of making it is the perfect ritual for a stressful day. You can’t hurry tea. The selection process, quite possibly the blending process, timing it to the exact right number of minutes, then pouring it from your adorbs kettle into your doubly adorbs cup and choosing the right honey match…
Then you’ve got blooming tea, leaves and petals wrapped into a poofball of goodness that unfurls into beautiful flowers right in your pot. Can coffee do that?
The right combination of kettle, mug, strainer and beverage additions can entirely turn your day around.
What does a pod machine have on that?
Even a Chemex only works one way.
I formally submit my complaint that there aren’t two tea houses for every coffee shop.
Everyone has an autocorrect story, where something you meant to say was warped into something truly absurd by the Technology Powers That Be. The one that is perhaps the biggest thorn in my side is that every time I type the word tea, my phone or computer changes it to yes.
Because clearly, what I want is a cup of yes.
But now that I’ve gotten to the end of this post, I’m wondering if maybe technology was onto something. Tea? Yes!
Photo: some flowers and a little SV tea from my father one Valentine’s Day.