by Patt Castro
Tea drinkers can be as bad as wine drinkers when it comes to snobbery, but Patt dispels the idea that you need expensive teas and expensive tastes to enjoy this centuries-old pleasure. Approach your tea with simplicity and off-the-shelf grocery store brands can bring you just as much joy as the most expensive hand-plucked leaves from Asia.
I am a tea drinker. I don’t drink coffee at all because I don’t care for the taste. I remember drinking iced tea in the summer when I was a child. We had a pitcher in the refrigerator and would drink it all day and with lunch and dinner. It was plain old Lipton tea sweetened with sugar. I never cared much for soft drinks so as a teen I would order either iced tea or ice water when I would dine out.
As an adult, I drank tea occasionally, I just didn’t think about it much. I suspect I stopped drinking it regularly because of the diuretic qualities. About five years ago, I started drinking black tea again, not daily, but several times a week. I had been drinking herbal teas and green tea, so it seemed natural to gradually add in black tea. Now I drink black tea daily, I start my day with a mug of Irish Breakfast tea.
I am not a tea purist. I don’t have a china tea set nor do I do a “classic” tea ritual. I don’t prepare and drink tea “mindfully” but when I thought about writing this post, I realized that I do have my own sort of ritual with tea.
I have a favorite tea pot. It is a ForLife 14-16 ounce pot. It came with an infuser for loose tea, which I use only occasionally. It is my favorite color, red, and gives me joy to use it. I looked at the ForLife website and this model is no longer available. It is very similar to the Q model on their website, the spout is shaped a little differently and the lid is separate.
I also have a Simple Yet Perfect (SYP) teapot designed by the Scottish Earl of Dundonald in 1905. I saw an article about them in the autumn 2011 issue of Tea a Magazine – I fell in love. Wedgewood produced them from 1905 to around 1930. They were made of stoneware, creamware and porcelain. I found one made of porcelain on eBay. On the rare occasion I make loose tea, I like to use this teapot.
I don’t preheat the pot. I use tea bags/sachets and hot water from a Keurig brewer. I will sometimes have a K-cup tea, but I prefer the flavor of Trader Joe’s Irish Breakfast, which I have found only in tea bag form.
I also have a favorite mug. It is a bone china mug from Starbucks. My husband bought it several years ago and I appropriated it. I have looked, but haven’t seen the same style since then.
I drink my tea in the morning and it is part of my quiet time. I use the time to think, write in my journal or read. I savor the tea and I start the day feeling centered.
I usually have a container of black tea in the refrigerator; I freely admit that I use inexpensive black tea, usually a store brand or sometimes Lipton.
I am curious about the flavors of other teas, so I decided to try some of the easily available teas. Earl Grey seems to be very popular, so I tried it first. Bleah! I didn’t realize it has bergamot and I have always considered that a fragrance, not something to consume (said the woman who used to make candied rose petals), so I crossed it off my list. Next was Twig tea. I tried it because it helps with afternoon carb cravings, I like it. It has a sort of nutty, earthy flavor. Then I tried Oolong. It is similar in flavor to Twig tea, so that is a keeper. I want to try Lapsang Souchong tea; it is on my list to try next. One of my sisters told me about Dragon Pearl Jasmine and dragon tea from UmiTeaSet.com, she says it is very good, they offer free samples, so I may try that as well.
I really, really like The Republic of Tea vanilla black almond black tea. I consider it a splurge tea. I have found an affordable alternate, but it is a seasonal item, available for a very short time in December. It is Trader Joe’s Vanilla and Cinnamon black tea – it is so delicious! My 3 sisters blessed me with boxes of it at the holidays, so I will have it for several months into this year.
My absolute favorite herbal tea is Celestial Seasons Cinnamon Apple Spice tea. For me, that is the ultimate cold weather tea, I always have a stash on hand.
I know that the tea I drink is simple commercially available tea. I have some loose tea I bought at a local tea shop, where I bought my red teapot. I admit brewing loose tea requires time and patience; I don’t always take the time to do it. I look at online tea stores, they are interesting but I don’t want to pay that much for tea, plus, I have plant allergies and I would hate to buy a tea at a premium price only to learn that I am allergic to it. My tastes in tea are pretty lowbrow, but I know what I like and I’m happy with what I drink.