Monday, February 27, 2012

Readings from the Past: A Nice Cup of Tea by: George Orwell

If you look up 'tea' in the first cookery book that comes to hand you will probably find that it is unmentioned; or at most you will find a few lines of sketchy instructions which give no ruling on several of the most important points.
This is curious, not only because tea is one of the main stays of civilization in this country, as well as in Eire, Australia and New Zealand, but because the best manner of making it is the subject of violent disputes.

When I look through my own recipe for the perfect cup of tea, I find no fewer than eleven outstanding points. On perhaps two of them there would be pretty general agreement, but at least four others are acutely controversial. Here are my own eleven rules, every one of which I regard as golden:

First of all, one should use Indian or Ceylonese tea. China tea has virtues which are not to be despised nowadays — it is economical, and one can drink it without milk — but there is not much stimulation in it. One does not feel wiser, braver or more optimistic after drinking it. Anyone who has used that comforting phrase 'a nice cup of tea' invariably means Indian tea.

Secondly, tea should be made in small quantities — that is, in a teapot. Tea out of an urn is always tasteless, while army tea, made in a cauldron, tastes of grease and whitewash. The teapot should be made of china or earthenware. Silver or Britanniaware teapots produce inferior tea and enamel pots are worse; though curiously enough a pewter teapot (a rarity nowadays) is not so bad.

Thirdly, the pot should be warmed beforehand. This is better done by placing it on the hob than by the usual method of swilling it out with hot water.

Fourthly, the tea should be strong. For a pot holding a quart, if you are going to fill it nearly to the brim, six heaped teaspoons would be about right. In a time of rationing, this is not an idea that can be realized on every day of the week, but I maintain that one strong cup of tea is better than twenty weak ones. All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes — a fact which is recognized in the extra ration issued to old-age pensioners.

Fifthly, the tea should be put straight into the pot. No strainers, muslin bags or other devices to imprison the tea. In some countries teapots are fitted with little dangling baskets under the spout to catch the stray leaves, which are supposed to be harmful. Actually one can swallow tea-leaves in considerable quantities without ill effect, and if the tea is not loose in the pot it never infuses properly.

Sixthly, one should take the teapot to the kettle and not the other way about. The water should be actually boiling at the moment of impact, which means that one should keep it on the flame while one pours. Some people add that one should only use water that has been freshly brought to the boil, but I have never noticed that it makes any difference.

Seventhly, after making the tea, one should stir it, or better, give the pot a good shake, afterwards allowing the leaves to settle.

Eighthly, one should drink out of a good breakfast cup — that is, the cylindrical type of cup, not the flat, shallow type. The breakfast cup holds more, and with the other kind one's tea is always half cold before one has well started on it.

Ninthly, one should pour the cream off the milk before using it for tea. Milk that is too creamy always gives tea a sickly taste.

Tenthly, one should pour tea into the cup first. This is one of the most controversial points of all; indeed in every family in Britain there are probably two schools of thought on the subject. The milk-first school can bring forward some fairly strong arguments, but I maintain that my own argument is unanswerable. This is that, by putting the tea in first and stirring as one pours, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk whereas one is liable to put in too much milk if one does it the other way round.

 Lastly, tea — unless one is drinking it in the Russian style — should be drunk without sugar. I know very well that I am in a minority here. But still, how can you call yourself a true tealover if you destroy the flavour of your tea by putting sugar in it? It would be equally reasonable to put in pepper or salt. Tea is meant to be bitter, just as beer is meant to be bitter. If you sweeten it, you are no longer tasting the tea, you are merely tasting the sugar; you could make a very similar drink by dissolving sugar in plain hot water.

Some people would answer that they don't like tea in itself, that they only drink it in order to be warmed and stimulated, and they need sugar to take the taste away. To those misguided people I would say: Try drinking tea without sugar for, say, a fortnight and it is very unlikely that you will ever want to ruin your tea by sweetening it again.
These are not the only controversial points to arise in connexion with tea drinking, but they are sufficient to show how subtilized the whole business has become. There is also the mysterious social etiquette surrounding the teapot (why is it considered vulgar to drink out of your saucer, for instance?) and much might be written about the subsidiary uses of tealeaves, such as telling fortunes, predicting the arrival of visitors, feeding rabbits, healing burns and sweeping the carpet. It is worth paying attention to such details as warming the pot and using water that is really boiling, so as to make quite sure of wringing out of one's ration the twenty good, strong cups of that two ounces, properly handled, ought to represent.


Waking up to a Yunnan morning!


       On this morning, I felt as if I needed a kick to bring me out a morning stupor but not pay later for it! So I took a look at my cabinet and wondered; "what it would be this time"? I  can certainly have a gourd of "yerba", but feel its usual in the mornings. Its much like forcing the body to wake up, and I end up in zombie like state walking aimlessly to which I crash late in the day. My collection of green teas can be a tempting treat! Its balanced in caffeine, pretty healthy in nutrients, and has lighter rich taste yet drinking greens in the morning may not be enough to keep me going but have me relaxed enough back to sleep! The standard black tea may fit the bill, moderate in caffeine, bold flavors and a variety of possibilities and the ever unforgetable "Darj" but I wasn't in the mood for  either one. I glanced over to my white tea, I looked at it and it looked back...I thought; "could be a nice cup in the wee hours"? I was going to reach over to it, but I stopped and pause in thought it might be a bit weak, not enough break a morning stupor and raise spirits, but most importantly I have two ounces worth in gold! Its not worth in money gulping it down to break my morning lethargy and sure as hell I would be paying for later.

    Decisions, Decisions....choices abound but only would suffice for this unusual morning of mine ! I knew its
my Yunnan that I neglected to consider. My particular Yunnan  gold tips has a moderately bold, sharp yet easy going smoothness on a morning palate and quite balanced in caffeine. I eagerly got some water to boil up in 3 minutes as the water was already hot, and stuck my thermometer till it reached 212 degrees which is at boiling but not a full boil. A lesson learned to which using really hot water will kill off most the flavors of this tea leaving it tannic and bitter.
                        [ Nearing two hundred degrees plus at this stage. Burning hands and a near
                          melting plastic is all worth the trouble than "eye balling" the right temperature!]                                          

      At the 212 degree mark, I took  it out of the heat and poured it tn my 'Perfectea" maker from Teavana. Its reliable and can hold up much to heat and regular abuse, and certainly convienient than a tea ball and mug! I bought at 15 something dollars which is understandably priced, though now its somewhere in the 20 dollar range. It keeps the leaves out, some dust and fannings, and not ruin the flavors of any tea brewed in this maker...I would gladly fork over 20 dollars if it can make a good brew !
     The tea however is usually far better than the brewer of course! It gives off a tanned color while in the process of brewing, and the smell of hay  with faintly woody notes to add. It just like brewing Pu-Erh...since its actually the very same leaves that goes into making Pu-Erh! I suspect much, its earthy, but the smell somewhat points out to be a mixture of an earthy,woody and something else that I can't really discern. All I know its so gonna be damn good after six minutes of brewing, and just by the very anticipation I was actually awaiting for the whole day! Six miuntes has passed and time came to open the lid and smell the glory of Yunnan! The extra steam on the face was all worth it!

       Its just one of those moments where simple awe and admiration that can just brighten any ones morning! Just look at the liquor! Beautiful and grand, and golden as the the leaves from which it brewed from, now whenever has anyone actually gotten a color of tea to match the leaves brewed from? Not a whole lot except for some teas like White Teas, and especially this Yunnan Gold Tips to which in my book rivals "Darj" and happy to savor this far more ! The taste is especially grand as its color, a peppery note is very noticeable at the first draw on the tip of the palate, with a smell of hay that simultaneously follows in. A very important feature of Yunnan Teas that is common throughout in teas like Pu-Erh , and since the leaves came from some trees that have been around for "god knows how long", the tree itself has been said its roots encompasses every plant growing around it! Taking it with flavors that are so varied that it complexes the flavors much like Pu-Erh. Like honest words, the tea is exactly like that! I can't quite discern exact flavors specifically, but the main body is hay-ish slightly leathery that can be easily ignored, an earthy flavor that is not bold like Pu-Erh but toned to a level not deep as Pu-Erh. I enjoy particularly the cocoa like texture which is bittersweet and adds a bit tartness at the end of a palate.
         The end result of many centuries of timeless elegance and craftsmanship all for a bush and its leaves....makes anyone think how can anyone actually not think about the grandness of it all! The tea in the end gave as much a mother could for a child!  An excellent brew with all the complexity of Pu-Erh and as much the youth from 500 year old trees! Talk about youth, these leaves are actually the buds and young shoots of Yunnan tea trees, and are actually graded much like Pu-Erh . The leaves were previously withered and curled but when brewed after as shown here, it straightens out to a needle. The integrity of the leaves to keep its form while still resilient to a human touch without it as so much falling a part!A true tests to quality, and have to say even if its not graded, this tea from a Teavana shows their knowledge in the the best teas with quality in mind! The brewed leaves however has a tannic smell to it that translate to a second brew with the same leaves  albeit mute in all flavors. Overall, a tea with as much traditions and history, taste and quality its hard to imagine it sold for 10.50 per 2 ounces! Getting it over to 2.5 ounces that usually happens when shopping in a Teavana is well worth the extra costs not to rue it!

          Versatility: 68; the tea can however conflict with certain strong flavors that can give the desired tea a personality disorder that will beckon you to give up on figuring what it tastes like or throw it away. The tea can be forced into "cuppa" style or sugary-milk tea  and actually take in Chai spices but again earthy bold flavors don't really get along with medicinal spices being a jumbled mess that ends up in the drain rather in the stomach. The ability of this tea to be iced is worthwhile, but...its really designed to be served hot and when served cold it loses allot of its character which needs a sweetener to fill the huge holes.

          Taste: 88; unforgettable and deeply nurturing! For any Pu-Erh lovers or lovers of deeply rich teas on earthy quality, and some aspects of traditional black tea, Yunnan Gold Tips are definitely on the wish list! Peppery on the first note, a bit sharp , bold and moderately bodied with aspects of hay, soil , a pinch of leather, with cocoa on the last note being bittersweet. A taste that would even convert a strict traditionalist in Black Teas would find themselves having a cup and craving for Pu-Erh!

          Palate: Plain out moderate but bold and smooth on the edges with some kick thanks to its peppery quality. Simple but elegant and lovingly rich in Pu-Erh qualities that will be an experience to figure out a flavor profile of different types much like what Pu-Erh tends to have though Yunnan Golds don't steep well on the third time over. Smooth and bold with a moderate personality on the first brew, knocked out but still alive with cocoa and some earthy flavors of hay and soil,and  tannic qualities are present. Third and final brew is just plainly ghost like without much of an echo apart from tannins.

          Drinker Friendliness: 8; A really friendly drink that is perfect to introduce people into the world of Pu-Erh or an alternative to the usual English blends or black teas for a "cuppa". The earthy qualities are not at all off putting to most people who I shared the tea with, but there are those who's sensitive to deep, and rich flavors that may find the earthy qualities sickening (akin Chai  phobia).  The only problems with the tea is the amount to experiment with it but tastes and quality, and a sense of traditionalism being a tea for porcelain cups  will gain acclaim to any connoisseurs!
                                                                 Final Word
           I say its an excellent tea worthy of awards and recognition the world over, and being a product of Yunnan, which is the birthplace of Pu-Erh and tea itself gives it all the more respect that it deserves! Few drawbacks, few frills and bells, but elegant, rich, earthy, nurturing and layered tastes are what symbolizes the bests teas on record if not the world over! A tea which itself based on purity, hardly enjoyed with other elements but best enjoyed for its own unique quality that other teas can't seem to replicate without additives, and a tea that is hardly enjoyed cold is a tea bred for the purists in mind and those who love its character. A must have tea such the likes of this!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Sultan's Ambrosia: Caykur Turkish Tea

          Everyone by now has heard of teas coming from India, Japan , China and even in Mars! But who knew of Turkish tea? Hard to believe enough, but turkey has been producing tea since the early twentieth century. Now  nearly a century later, this tea has still not gained a preeminence in grand world market today! A pity indeed..much to the dismay of enthusiastic Turkish friends and myself who believe their teas are nothing the world has seen! They may be right after all, its grown without pesticides, it has a large varieties  including organically grown tea, Earl Grey blends, etc, and best of all its homegrown in Turkey! Specifically in the Rize region of Turkey along the Black Sea coast.

                                                 Pristine and rich tea estates in Rize, Turkey

      I personally got a 500 gram bag from a store in Los Angeles called "India Sweets and Spices" for a drop dead price of 5.75 dollars! Its has an overwhelming generous portions than other brands that sell by the bag or tiny canisters that can costs up to 7 dollars max, and once bought, it gives a person a sense of challenge  to finish all the tea and demonstrates the extreme devotion of tea in Turkey. Not surprisingly, its the world's largest consumer of tea despite its size!

       The tea itself was not all the bad nor it was nothing special but CTC (or Curl Tear Cut) tea leaves that dominate in the tea market today. It has very distinct smell to it close to mint or piney scent in the leaves, but more in the smell of fresh cut leaves. The textures of tea is pretty much ordinary by standards, tiny particles of cut up leaves, each containing flavors and unique character that has yet to tease my palate. Fanning and dust is a slight problem but not too abundant to my surprise.

                                                          Leaves before the brew....

                                                                   .....and after.

          Its a gem to be honest despite some mixed opinions that say its average or otherwise a bad brew...guess they have not brewed it properly? Brewing the tea gives of a dark amber color with very little dust or particulates, brewed in the longest of duration would yield a mysterious dark brown murky color in each cup. I admit though it was quite hard to brew it in the traditional sense with boiling water and a kettle, the flavors at first were mute and dull. But given 15 minutes time as suggested by instructions on the bag, it will reward a patience drinker with a flavor to awaken a hibernating bear, the ruggedness of mountains, but smooth as silk! A strong brew of the tea which is basically straight off the pot, brewed at more than 15 mintues time yields a sharp and strong flavor that tends to stick at the end of the palate. An after taste of leafy but faintly chemically taste lingered for bit, it may throw off some drinkers at first leading some to say that the tea is quite awful! Its just a strong version hardly diluted by hot water, and uses very little to no sugar to moderate a strong taste. The second method involves dilution and having a third of tea in a cup with lots of sugar. If its in the best interests of nay sayers of the tea, their best bet in drinking Turkish tea in this fashion! I can contend, its taste are all a bit balanced, does not go off to be strong, its only astringent when swallowed, and sharp tastes are tamed  to a manageable level making this brew perfect for late in afternoon or early evening consumption.

            Versatility: 75; Its probably the best all round black tea that can be blended with other teas that has a softer taste to complement its sharp taste. The tea is great when served hot and makes good iced tea that adds a good kick to it, have a sprig of mint or tarragon and its just pure pleasure to sip in a hot day. The only problem with the tea is its limited to moderate bodied teas  to blended with as it can quickly overcome lighter and mellower teas with sharp tasting and strong body. It can be brewed western style, (tea kettle) though the Turkish method or samovar will do fine as long its brewed 15 to 20 minutes for maximum flavor.
            Taste: 70; overall a pretty average tea with some flair being a bit exotic to most brands that sell this type of tea. If it were to be compared to Lipton black tea, Caykur's Turkish teas can easily overtake the competetions bitter, highly astringent, and tannic teas! The tea has a strong body and sharp taste, when its in a lighter brew it can be very welcoming and pleasing to anyone so long as they have ample water and sugar to dilute or used to strong teas. Though its not a connoiseur's tea in many respects being CTC tea and the fact that it comes out too strong, its uniqueness among teas and the accompanying culture would outweigh any of its limitations.

            Palate: Strong bodied tea when brewed to the maximum time of 20 minutes, undiluted, and rarely sweetened.  A much sharper taste, leafy, chemically, maybe minty taste is more pronaunced to the content of strong tea drinkers. Can be a  medium bodied  tea brewed at 15 minutes, diluted, heavily or moderately sweetened. It has a mellower sharp taste, with much more minty flavor to be greatly discernable but a bit mute. The teas leave an aftertaste at the end of the palate that is much more chemically with like a leafy essence lingering on .

             Drinker friendly: 6-7; the can be can be of getting use to when one decided to drink it strong bodied. But, drinking it diluted, with a fair amount of sugar can be a great intro experience into Turkish tea
and enjoy the uniques flavors and customs involving its preparation. This tea can be brewed in many ways, of course the samovar method remains the best, but if anyone out there that wants something new for a all round tea, that delivers quantity, quality, and fair prices, by all means consider Caykur teas if they are around .
                                                                  Final Word
        I have to say I'm quite pleased into buying Turkish tea for the first time and  it was not a disappointment
but a promising tea that offers a whole lot of potential! Imagine having loose leaf Turkish tea, varieties of tea types not only add the amount of profits but helps the Turkish tea industry to improve its worth to the world over. Its safe to say, a samovar, stacked kettles, and giled tulip glasses along with fine Turkish tea will be "coming soon to a market near you", but not for a while. In the mean time, Caykur has been announcing at some point in the foreseeable future that production will have peaked and importation in profitable market quantities to various  customers on a consistent sustained basis. What is Turkey waiting for? There are plenty of thirsty folks in the world wanting to drink some of that fine Rize tea! Who in hell would not?!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Final Word Before the Storm

   I started writing this blog without a proper introduction and have gone without looking back for anyone who stumbles on to this blog to wonder who, what, and why I have started about this blog in the first place. Well, I'll start now by saying I'm quite a practical man, love every simple things in life, love tea as much as family, and try to experience, share, and soak up a lot of travel and culture as I journey through life. However, this does not mean I'm quite restrained or blunt but honest and hell even frank when it comes to the subject of tea, and/or society itself. Whatever I find my fancy in or really have to bag about the worst cuppa or sorts I ran into, I will type out with all my hearts content and forgive me for any readers out there who finds the blog to unsavory to their liking. I just think its quite right to speak out honestly to give the best possible feedback to whoever needs a personal opinion and general overview in the world of tea and society. I may have the tendency to go off in a tangent, expressing concerns or an "encyclopedic like" knowledge" in matters of tea and society but do keep in mind I'm no expert but someone experienced and may get things wrong. Remember the old adage "Knowledge is not written on stone, it changes like the seasons", so don't take my word for advice too seriously.
         Now to get straight to the gist, I like any kinds teas of tea but prefer plain tea and I tend to taste each one by sipping in the liquid aggressively (almost like slurping). This method
helps swirl the liquid in touching every corner or the tongue unlike sipping which only the tips are touched by liquid and quickly follows through every taste buds, making distinctions of flavors hard but to the most discernible of tastes. Breathing in while sipping brings in aromas that can quickly be picked up in the nose, being the nose a sensitive organ that can detect a particular smell if one's memory and experience can serve well. Then there are the usual methods of sight, smell, touch and feel of the tea before brewing that can add more dept than by sipping and breathing smells alone. Tea is a work of art, all four of five senses should work in concert and even beckons the attention of a said drinker to admire the beauty of furled and withered leaves, the colors and smells of the tea, all the way to the feel and taste of the tea to admire the art of it. After all, eating food without any thought what it looks like, smells, feels like is much like eating dirt or slops  than you would be eating something decent and made with efforts for the maximum of indulgence and content.
         As a fact already read by some readers, I also try to discuss social issues normaly concerned with tea, but not limited to it. If there is something that puzzles me, needs questioning or critique, and praise or general rants, it will posted as such with lots of honesty and need be, references to back up certain topics that are controversial or sensitive like; tea culture and socio-economical topics that needs a strong point in order to consider a decent article. I hate to give out pure biases (all though a bit tough), and inflammatory posts that will certainly lead a flame war that won't do a good service to anyone, everyone is entitled to beliefs and the posts in this blog won't be an absolute directive but an exchange of experiences and some suggestions. Tea and society are always together, it encompasses our daily lives and state of living which is why at least to a degree I talk about it in this blog without so much bias.

         Now comes to the dread rating system and commentary provided by me! I tend to be fair and equal in terms of rating a tea, but when there is something to be said once again that needs a tongue lashing or worship I jump to posts with zeal! I have in mind a system that rates by versatility points between 1-10, that simply stresses that general factors of a reuse, ability to be blended, and other factors. Taste factors ranging from 20-100 allows the greatest amount of accuracy to gauge a taste profile that can encompass a varied sensations without being underestimating or overestimating a tea. The factor of coasts per every ounce of tea is vital to the ever thirsty individual , so naturally price is determined by actual  price ranges as seen in stores or in the net.  A tea's power rests importantly on being palatable and user friendliness, so ratings are described in detail for a tea's palate and the user friendliness of a tea is given a range between 1-10 being; 1 considered to be a connoisseur's affair, 5 being enjoyed by all drinker types, and 10 being economical to all drinkers. It may seem snobbish at first to rate palatibility of tea among drinkers, but there is a fine line between when a tea really tastes like muck, a tea that is hard to discern by acquired personal tastes, or exceeding expectations, its simply sensible to at least to determine a general drinkers resolve. To get a better picture a proper example as follows:

                                                                Tea X
  "A wonderful team and a wonderful stroll in a market, what is more to ask? I found this little jewel amongst the giants of tea, between Lipton and Twinnings, Tea X and its shiny little box and a simple logo defy the fancy cartons and plastic wrappings of other teas. To the assuming eye with a mind quick to judgement, Tea X may seem unattractive and displeasing that offers short of any quality in tea today. But the sheer allure of mystery, generous prices and quantity, and quality not just in advertising (a tactic in tea giants nowadays) but solely in the tea leaves itself unlike other companies....
Versitility: 80; a tea that promises the world can surely promise any possibilities so long as an imagination and adventure in taste exist among drinkers.

Taste: 80; A tea is tea when its own leaves impart flavors and richness than artificial flavors alone! Tea X is the epitome of natural flavors and will not disappoint the most discerning of drinkers!

Palate: Its leafy green vegetables, steam spinach with a side of nuts and fish! A healthy choice and a rich flavor that nobody will for go in passing up a nurturing flavor.

Drinker Friendly: 7; Connoisuers and tea newbies will agree that Tea X is a tea for almost everyone who loves a tea that is vegetal and rich! No other teas apply!


  Final Word: A tea for everyone and even the rich if cought drinking this tea won't feel ashamed! Egalitarian,
rich and nurturing is all what sums up to be a tea of quality and devotion. Tea X is not just any tea, or beverage, or made by some company but those who love tea itself and people!"

     This rating system is quite subjective excluding pricing and palatibility that seems to between subjection and objectivity, however like all rating systems based on some subjectivity its up to drinkers to decide upon themselves on how tea can measure in their palates and look for consistencies to draw accurate conclusions. This is just an account of the experiences of I had drinking types of tea and in no way a directive, a picture If you'll say to better understand a tea in dept. Now, to start with reviews, the mayhem and the storm! Bon voyage dear tea drinkers and hop to see you all in the flip side!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012



          Any one heard of oolong tea before? Rings a bell at times? A tea been thrown around by some health nut obsessing over a healthy alternative in tea ,been compared to the ever ubitious green tea, or served by smiling old grand dads in a shop in Chinatown? I admit its not quite too mainstream of a tea among the masses of consumers clamoring for the tastiest and healthiest drinks...well not yet at least! Its been under the radar since the health food movement, alternative, organic, or pseudo-organic-designer food sold by market chains nowadays began, its all left in its wonderful and pure splendor unchanged by time both literally and figuratively.
     Much for the better. There is so much the frontiers of tea left, oolong teas and aged teas alike have retained so much purity, every leaf has a story to tell with tastes of countless varieties, textures and colors worthy of a Picasso and Van Gogh, and age to bring out a combination of flavors...what more is there to be expected non other than oolong?! Black in comparison have kick, flavors in leaf and added to, not to mention artistry but oolong doubles that with age to create a "layered" flavor effect. Its like first brewing a day's tea, then leaving the leaves in for more than a few hours, what the is expected to taste for instance like chocolate has a more concentrated flavor, but turns into a deep earthy flavor that transcended the primary flavor altogether. No frills, and whistles needs apply for this tea! Time itself by being first produced and aged can produce multiple flavors depending what it takes in during storage, and the best part brewing for an extended time allows anyone with an adventurous mind to experiment flavors not found in a standard infusion.
       There is nothing more to be asked from oolong tea and the mastery of tea by the Chinese, over 4000 years of experience teas like oolong always showcase the artistry, the quality, dedication and age old traditions of China and tea itself. Its comes all down that oolong tea may very well be the wine and champagne of tea! Aged and the craft timeless in elegance that even Darjeeling tea cannot even compare to!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Thoughts on Herbal Tisanes

                                                              Herbal Tisanes 


    A drink made of hedge clippings, roses stolen from the Jones's, weeds and even hemlock! Virtually anything can be made in to a long as its tasty and not poisonous! Seriously! Why not drink the essence of rose, or the relaxing nature of chamomile? Herbal Tisanes are quite the misunderstood drinks being the "whimp" of any drinks (besides juices), anyone seeing drinking Tisanes would means they're crashing for the day or  questionable sexuality in their fondness for things with roses and herbs. But hey! I like agua frescas, they are typically herbal tisanes in a way, nothing but a cold "jamaica", "tamarindo", or "horchata" in a hot summer's day! Herbal tisanes are all about relaxing, lounging around and getting in touch with nature's "awfull" pansy but literally healthy and refreshing! Need I say more?


       Well, I'll start flat out with chamomile, its a "sunflower" you can literally eat...well drink! It grows in moderately temperature to semi-arid places, and has a starchy, a macho aroma of pollen or woodiness but still really floral. Its mainly used in for realxing teas that often people associate with sleeping or napping after downing a cup or two, but its hardly more than a sleep aide. Its what I call dear readers; a flower for hardiness! In the wonderful world of Tisanes, chamomile is actually quite a strong flower thats able to provide an amount of rough taste like an Assam tea but nurturing with good amounts of vitamin A, some potassium for the heart, and flouride to streghten teeth enamel. Healthy and even mildly anti-inflamatory, it goes beyond as sleep aide and makes a pretty damn good cold tea for summer!

       Secondly, a herb that does deserves as much of a reputation for health benefits and its acceptance by all. Rooibos. This herb is generally found in South Africa under the local name "African honeybush" or red bush tea. It has been for a while sold in numerous places as the all around, all day and night tisane to be drunk by itself or with milk and sugar, and it makes a fine "cuppa" alternative. It usually has a earthy, starchy, tangy and somewhat of a  faint floral flavor  of chichory without its kick. It has all the necessary vitamins such as potassium, and antioxidants to supplemnet and sustain the daily needs of the body. Its even considered an anit-spasmodic tea that decreases the affects of  upset stomach and attributed symptoms. Rooibos has a tannins owing a much mild and less bitter taste but astringency is quite high being a bit tangy when steeped, it might not be able to be reusable as it loses its flavor being lighter after repeated steeping. A tea with few problems more bang and nutritional goodies, its a drink worth drinking time after time and never gets dull!


        A tea that will never get dull nor disappoint is mint tea ! Have it in the morning, in the afternoon, evening or night, any time and day it'll give not only a fresher breath but revitalizes you figuratively and literally! Mint has essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin A, and folate to calcium and potassium for any days needs which leaves any drinker waking up a day later even more refreshed and revitalized from inside and out. Even the taste of mint, gives a sense of vigor, activity, liveliness, and energy has garnered this simple herb admiration for a strong but pleasant taste that goes well with any food, and drinks. Homemade remedies and holistic remedies to combat diseases and ailments utilizes mint to cure stomach ills, to colds all the way to guarding against pox! Is there anything mint or herbs CAN'T do!? Apparently, it can do all and more while taste great to any one eating its leaves or drinking the essence of mint. Who would not drink min tea and pass by its notorious goodies? I sure won't and neither a sweetened iced mint tea won't satisfy a hot day than anything else!                            

          Hibiscus is another grand ole favorite drink enjoyed hot or cold! In the Middle East and Europe, its known or its medicinal properties, its floral and pleasant taste, and compatability with any blends or addivitives to best enjoy this wonderful flower. In South America  its enjoyed cold and slightly sweetened  often called "jamaica" its served together along with other beverages in meals and as a standalone drink to enjoy in the humid and hot days in leisure for the most part a personally favorite of mine! It has all the nutritional goodies like potassium (by now a very common nutrient) and antioxidants that prevents an onset of dies eases and a digestive aide, but all the goodies are not not just worth drinking for but its flavor! A mild less starchy, and pack full of floral flavors, rose and sweet nectar of hibiscus is all what everybody needs! Just add sugar, some ice cubes, sit by the pool relax and enjoy this herb like all herbs. It may not bring caffeine, may not have the associated stereotypes, any bells and whistles but pureness of nature and her mothering gift. Tisanes whether shunned or loved has a heart and openess in everyone to let down their guard and relax, what it teaches the most is to have more of it for a vacation that will never seemingly end!



Sunday, February 12, 2012

Tea: A Reasonable obsession?



     Watch any t.v. shows today  and you'll find some  obessive compulsives collecting "blu-ray" compact disks, collecting clothes, pets and even trash! But when a somebody sees a person collecting tea or coffee with 20 types or more its often mistaken to OCD/ hoarding  disorder, even the display of tea pots and a ritual like gathering of people around a kettle seems a bit odd! Its interesting enough how certain people may find a certain affinity weird while others not. I have friends who are a bit quite young who may find brewing tea for 15 minutes unbearable than rushing to the starbucks and downing a 40oz! Certain family members, one a cousin in law of mine who has a knack of for wines finds it puzzling that I have dizzying array of teas! Jealously perhaps? A trip to a Teavana, a package of tea over the net, or a pricey investment on tea may raise a eye brow or two! While all the while, most money spent by some people would go to buying an entire set of dvd for a dead show, buying expensive headphones and the like.
        Its  "whatever floats their boat" that drives most interests, certainly like others I have an obsession for tea. My tea obsession began with an obsession of the world and the many cultures I  have experience in a life time. Born in Kotor, Croatia but raised in New York and Los Angeles , culture was all around and everybody just down a block has an interesting stories coming to America. I awoke to to tea and scones in the morning, at tamales and gyros in the midday, sipped on an exppresso late in the afternoon, and ate shish kebabs and sushi for dinner! As a Croat with some Turkish customs, tea is firmly rooted in culture and consumed everyday at home, tea gardens, at a friends house or at work. I grew up with it but have not garnered an interests not until 15 is when I knew its my love interests (besides my dad's porn stash:)! My very first tea I grew up with is Earl Grey and Breakfast blends that got me hooked, while "traditional" tea made from Turkish tea leaves brewed in a double decker kettle kept me firmly wanting more! Its far from the caffeine high and the sugar you normally add to tea that got me to love it, it was something sentimental, very ancient and yet very natural and artistic!
          Among all the drinks I've seen like soda pops, coffee, even some teas and juices, it was not at all exotic to me but mundane. Anyone can wake up to Lipton or Starbucks, down a gallon of Florida's best oranges, and drink a litre of Mountain Dew,its all good stuff but it lacked character, sorta all un-natural and hollow. By any means, its at some these drinks and foods were organic( raw form) but it transformed into something so common, yet damn good but nothing special at all. It all has allot of colors mind you, allot of marketing and some endorsers but lacks something that I want. It all struck me late in my teens  that these products are indeed pretty nasty and unhealthy in large amounts, some has preservatives(all), dyes, and artificial flavors. It was all made by companies who provided foods yet nothing to do with foods, who are jack of all trades sorts that has bought out companies making foods.  Then came the health food movement, and alternative food scene that brought back to light what food really is. Natural and raw!
           To me it conjured up images of my cousins back in the mother country growing muscats in their vineyards, my brothers and sisters helping with garden bringing in fresh carrots, pomegranates, leeks, cabbage, and fresh fish cought of the coast. It wholesome, in the raw, and unadulterated foods to be eaten how they are, using the least fake stuff, and making damn fine food. Its already obvious to me, that the stuff I was whining about like "Lipton being unnatural" which it is! How many times has anyone broken a tea bag before and find cut up leaves? Almost everyone! But it does not excuse the fact the stuff looks all the same, and sometimes takes up other titles under! It was in just one instance a visit to Hong Kong, a  vender selling what looked to be strings in large sacks!. Turns out the stuff heat was selling were a variety of green teas, Chinese black tea from Anhui and Yunnan, and aged teas, with as much color you'll see with LSD, a variety of smells wafting in the air, and textures to bugle the mind. It was like an adventure of the senses, and surely not everyday you will see such medley of great things you find in food like artistic finesse and craftsmanship painstakingly growing bushes to perfection with just the right amount of sunlight, water and temperature! The teas he sold were made to high quality, each leaves meticulous rolled into needles, formed into bricks, or simple withered into a work of art! Even from the soil the tea was grown, what was the tea around, down to plucking the leaves and timing each season with each harvests. A fine devotion worthy to obsess about!
             I finally knew what I have been missing for so long, it was devotion! Devotion to food, devotion to provide something to look at and gander about, with sight full colors, smells, textures and equally devotion to produce these works of art! Tea all about art, to which I really come to appreciate the beauty it has from seeds to leaves in a god's own gift to the world! It also had allot of humanity with as much work, efforts, toil, pains, sorrows, happiness, and anger etc to bring simple leaves to enjoy for myself and others.
The mere fact that tea was made by human hands, picked by the bushels, lugging a bucket full atop hillsides, sorting out each leaves to be rolled, steamed or what not to a final product! To think a machine can do all those things which it can, tea embodies humanity altogether much anything out there but its painstakingly done through the efforts of hundreds of people, many impoverished. It comes also as a consumer who loves tea not just for its elegance or what not but the difference it can make! I found out as much when visiting my cousins vineyards, where they employ seasonal laborers to toil in the cold or sun picking grapes, or even a visit to Happy Valley in Darjeeling and Yunnan where hundred of pluckers earn as little as 4 dollars working 13 hours a day, and living in the plantation itself. Its something to give back to at least for their hard earned efforts and definietly make it worth their while for workers and the producers!After all, money affects everyone, but some purchases with the help of Fair-Trade, Sustainability, and Organic food movements will go along way to provide quality products and a dying art form of making anything by hand.
              My obsession for tea goes a long way from any where and sometimes nowhere being just a favorite drink. The thing that will keep me loving this simple drink is the amount of devotion, the amount of loyalty, love, and virtues of humanity which keeps me loving this stuff and more. I really hope it all comes alright and maybe have these art forms saved in the future, but inevitably it will all be somewhat artificial. As long any one who cares enough, loves the stuff, and have patience will stick out like a sore thumb and revive of what we modern people lost. A Human touch!

Green Tea: The Health Nut of Teas


    We grew all grew up with some kind of tea right? Mommy's Iced sweet tea in summer or grandma's cosy and comfy cuppa to Grandpa's strong and bitter tasting tea that knock the very life outta you! While all that was going on, a type of tea went generally unknown and only savored by folks on the other side of the globe. Even the ever fabled connosiuers were to busying themselves with black tea and its trance that we forgot that there were varieties. Imagine Darjeeling being outclassing the best Dragonwell or Gyokuro! A shame best put by George Orwell that " China tea has virtues which are not to be despised nowadays — it is economical, and one can drink it without milk — but there is not much stimulation in it. One does not feel wiser, braver or more optimistic after drinking it. Anyone who has used that comforting phrase 'a nice cup of tea' invariably means Indian tea." A perception mostly attributed to all types of Chinese tea, but being exempt consumed "cuppa style" meant surely green tea which compromises most of Chinese tea consumption followed by Pu-Erh, black tea, and rarely white and yellow teas. 
         Its an obsession in all things creamy, sugary and energetic which are the trinity of ancient human tendencies for food and previously blinded us before and on the age of obesity, coffee, and things highly stimulating. Green tea only gained its height by intrepid explorers of tastes who are not confined to conventional attitudes often seen as defiant to tradition and customs and seen unusual. But conventional thought has not stop green tea from achieving heights know now, and definitely spearheaded the world's fascination into tea! A combination of tea lovers with a taste for the exotic, health nuts  involve with the health food movement, and the adventurers of customs and culture has brought green tea in the west in the likes never before! It is now longer the thought in the likes of Orwell that comes to enjoying green tea, its a taste of health! 
          Green tea comes in many varieties but tends to taste vegetal like, sometimes even fishy and rich in tastes of "umami";a term best describing heartiness and savoriness that touches the heart and calms the mind. Today, far fast from assumption of feeling, we now know its L-Theanine that calms minds down when tea is consumed. Once thought to be cheap and economical  is as healthy as vegetables; with as much vitamins, antioxidants , a mineral called EGCG that fosters resistant to diseases, and omega-3 fatty acids that promotes brain development. Once thought that it can't stand a variety of flavors than salty, for which it can't take sugar and milk is pure bollocks! Green tea has as much healthy flavors and heartiness of nutritious foods, but even pass on flavors of it growths and nutrients of the soil! For instance, Gyokuro or "shade tea"carries more chlorophyll due being shaded two weeks prior harvesting brings the deepest of grassy flavors and even spicy, sweet and starchy notes. Green tea has proven without a shadow of doubt that its a tea of many characters!
            It is also important to note that regions producing teas affect the way tea is produced and ultimately beloved. It is for the most part Chinese teas are the most respected, having varieties from Dragonwell to Long-Jing , most of all having a deep starchy and earthy vegetal flavors of spinach or straw. This is all due a process in firing where fresh leaves after withering are fried to impart a roasted taste and give off hidden flavors only released through cooking. Then end result ends with a tea tasting of cooked starches and vegetables , and grown in a climate normally inland in mountains or valleys where a subtropical climate is present helps tea grow in aboundance and gives less strain and brings more flavors out due to an aboundance of nutrients. The mixture of sea air coming in from the east and cold air coming from the north makes areas such as Yunnam, Anhui, Hubei, etc optimal places topalnt tea where weather, an aboundance of resources and a passion for crafts best serves tea! 
          Japan has also a good share of green tea making and craftsmenship! Its green teas well known in ceremony and everyday use and for its tastes in "umami" flavors and healthy stigma known world over! Grown in near tropical climate and low lands in southern Japan, green tea grown in Japan is know for deep tasting grassy, nutty, and vegetal flavor similar to seafood. Some tea bushes are even covered in shade for two weeks before harvest, promoting chlorophyll and producing beautiful deep green leaves and high in nutrients beneficial to bodily health like Chinese tea. 
           Green Tea. The first tea ever made and certainly not the last will be made after! After all, all good things never end and this tea embodies to its user to stay healthy and keep playing! Cheers!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Mr.Tea: Business Giant and Entrepreneur

     What lengths would go for a cuppa? Eight hours worth of plucking leaves by some leaves? Sweating in the midday sun, walking till the feet gets numb and plucking leaves till the hands fall off ?!  After a day's worth, and years of work all for 2 pence worth!? Believe it or not dear drinkers! That work by such lot of burden needs no ignorance of their efforts for tea, but all the appreciation of diamonds! Its for tea itself are diamonds and these poor blokes who have yet to taste of their hard earned efforts may at least live up to the day when can afford such luxuries! But what is preventing them? Why are such labours  done for so many years yet these workers earn short of their efforts, which turns out to be follies worth nil but more to the consumer?There is of course the lack of tastes for tea, of which such an era that has ever been so ignorant of an elixer as this!
        Instead, the world seemingly turns for the worst best thing: Coffee! A drink drunk bitter and lively with saugar and milk to tame, has health benefits a few ,with flavors of none with the boldness of a lion! such sins not only affect the user, but the poor (literally) tea farmers who come to rely upon loyal customers are found abandoned for another fix! So why no plant other crops? Surely a producer who has in centuries by distant customers can switch to another crop? Its more work for fine lads in straw hats, picking leaves  and beans ! There is so much demands for tea and coffee that the hills, sun, cold and rains, are simply an obstacle worth the exercise for workers of the hundreds of thousands working the fields!
        Now if the products seems to expensive by many hands in the field taking a shares of profit, machines will fill the role! More leaves and beans,  the more  shares of pay to keep the efforts of growing  tea or coffee and fulfill the insatiable demands of the world! Its worth  mentioning those still working with tea or coffee will find there efforts more manageable, a life less hard, hours less time working and more time relaxing! Need I mention more whom moved on? Is it not, the dream of the fruits of efforts worth every costs!? No more crowding with a room up to the brim, sharing a field for every leaves worth a basket! Now, one man can earn the whole shares thats once divided amongst but an hourly pay can moderate a disparity!  A win for all that customers that enjoys products at good costs, while earnest loyal workers gets a cut for their efforts! Now, when famine strikes, drought, bad climate(brought about by whatever) , failing crops, poor land, etc just switch from one producing country to another or switch crops!
        What of the complaints from workers or producers?Well, to answer the markets call for ample supplies, cries of plight goes no further. Workers who are luckiest to earn a wage picking leaves or beans should very well appreciate the best what can be made from their efforts(e.g. machines and fertilizers, seeds, etc)! what most of they have left will ease their plight , boost profits for more customers, and everyone gets a good cut!
The debts to land, crops, supplies are all to be paid in full all, thus maximizing production and minimizing the costs of production by means to curve anything that brings more debts to pay extra efforts! If it were given over to this concept, every crop would be doused in pesticide  from losses to insects both on the surface and underground. If the crop needs water, then divert rivers to feed every crops, eke out every cubic feet of  ground water  to satisfy the needs to grow more and sustain a yield without it dying off. If the water happens to be tainted, then make the crop resistant! Make it even pest resistant , weather resistance,  pack it full with flavors and have pluck out its own leaves! The skies the limit!
          Bottom line: use the most when it comes to what is provided and move on! If there is a slim chance that there is to be salvaged with farming goes wrong for tea, coffee or what not, then do save it and have it resist and sustain itself! Products must be produced in the highest amount to lowest of efforts in order to keep a demand, keep up with demand, and importantly have more of it at drop dead prices! What is better than producing the best brew is the generosity from loyal customers? They pay what they get and more, to us its what we love to provide. Tea and Coffee! Whats more, we can cater to what ever they demand to go along with tea or coffee..but that is another story!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

An Imperial Perspective on Black Tea


       Black teas are almost the lifeblood of most peoples in my opinion. Ever so  powerful and yet so tamable of drinks despite the origins from once it came from.  Good  cold, really comfy when hot and the most versatile and potentially the most  useful all teas! Have it iced, have it hot, have it warm, with milk or sugar, flavored, unflavored, blended, clonal, so and so on! So welcoming it is that it may very well be considered the "melting pot" of teas! Having been steeped in history of empires, thirsty souls, and many cultures who fell in love with the tea almost a century ago! Varieties number in the hundreds being the popular Assam and Ceylon teas used for  breakfast and afternoon and to most exclusive teas: Turkish, and Georgian black tea known for their unique qualities while Darjeeling known as the "champagne of teas" is renowned the world over for its taste! Black teas symbolizes the world over and possible almost every obsessions on their affinity for this shrub than no other tea! Health benefits abound with as much potassium of bananas, fair strength compared to coffee, and antioxidants to rival any super foods bought in the market! The one true ability for black teas popularity and the sole reason why tea came in the spot light is that it can have a variety of flavors!
        Much like coffee, it can be bitter, astringent, and sometimes tannic, but its flavor profile can encompass flavors from starchy, earthy, malty(kinda like malt candy sweetness) all the way to chocolaty, floral, fruity and spicy flavors...the potential are endless! If one were to venture outside a specific drinks they only favor, they may find their fancy and take of which black tea gives and more! Although all of these benefits are now overshadowed by its reputation to be strong, high in caffeine, and lacks more essential minerals unlike green tea, and has a bad reputation thanks to certain stigmas brought on by companies! Frailties pervades everything in life as much as tea! Yes, sure green tea has EGCG, omega 3, potassium than what black tea offers caffeine,  some potassium  and of course flavors but drinking tea is  not about drinking it for its health benefits! Than its otherwise if everything were to be consumed soley for health benefits, tea itself may be lacking in many essential nutrients to provide much support for the body. Tea is not a crutch! Its a drink meant for the said drinker to enjoy its many tastes, health benefits are just a bonus and may or may not promise treatment, prevention or cure of any ills! After all, the good things in life are not all that good...but tea! Admittedly, black tea has its drawbacks but its preeminence and popularity in the world will never weaver and will inspire more interests deep into tea! I say drink on and live strong! Black tea is all about that!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Nice Cup of Tea: My Affair of White Tea

                                                                 WHITE TEA

     If a heaven were to exist responsible for our beautiful little blue pearl  hanging on the fringes of a celestial arm, divinity's after creation would  be a drink to equal its masterworks and frailness! White tea. Its surprisingly young being having divinity introduced it at the turn of the nineteenth century for the light and delicateness of the heavens. Produced with only the finest silvery tips  from the bests of shrubs, dried, withered and finally curled to be enjoyed in the purest of form without any junk added to it. The tea when brewed can't stand the heat of a hand nor a mouth of an un-initiate.  Heathen tongues and the un-worthy no need apply but for the most discerning of souls finds no other quite simply elegant as white tea. White tea being the god's gifts  allows almost no living souls to afford such luxuries nor brew its quality out every leaf without leaving a ghost of itself! A faint memory! A reminder only those closest to gods could have ever done so perfectly to enjoy rightfully! Even the gods themselves who;s quality  is  beyond any mere mortal could have not tame their own creation and would rather do away itself than be awed! Its rewords only those higher than the gods, and even with a bother of an effort  gives almost nothing in return!
       Niceties aside, Is there much to say about this damsel who often come easily to their drinker and leaves straight after? Purist and connoisseurs swear by its simplicity of the purest of flavors. Much of the world have no knowledge of white teas which are produced in small by honest farmers in China, and have been revered over as the teas of emperors and nobleman! I definitely agree, despite what some chaps who knows nothing but a sugary and milky cuppa or those fruity teas that hardly give off the flavors of the leaf, white tea is a treat of the art of nature and truest of taste! Its an acquired taste that ask for more essence from a crop that was exactly grown for, its like expecting the best grapes of burgundy to make a fine French wine.
        A tea with few frills and little whistles, white tea is expensive but deservedly so artfully crafted from the best growers in China! The versatility however is few which maybe of concern to some tea drinkers and paying for tea that can steep multiple times, gives off a few flavors than what black tea can give. That is the concern basically! Versatility, the ability to be cheap, the ability to please many palettes, can be reusable, hold and take many flavors. If a tea has few or not all its not worth buying despite what obsessives might say otherwise, but like many fine foods its not at all pleasing if you build up a taste for a niche. Definitely esoteric, not for everybody and deserves recognition among the few...but to all it maybe just another over glorified leaf!

Teavana Rant: The People's Tea or is it?

     We all heard by now that a new sheriff has arrived in town bringining with him teas from all parts of the globe! He has already brought down the giant SpecialTeas and already on its way to a town near yours! He will bring justice to people's plight with Unilever, Twinnings, and Harrogates  and bring them the goods of quality leaves while having the big boys a run for their money! Not quite and sadly not even close to achieving their objectives to promote a culture of tea, lifestyle and fondness for the crop! I always see the miserable Teavana stores brimming with color opposites to the sterile and cookie cutter stores around them. Not a soul in sight in the stores happily buying tea...a bad day indeed! But like an emerging company with an eye for the money, their intentions are just to profit over the new movements of organic, fair trade certified, and sustainable quality products. Its like commercializing the "free love and peace" movement or "individualism" sure it provides the goods but in all with high prices for a Breakfast blend at 5 dollars per 2 ounces or 20 dollars for 2 ounces for a "jeeling" is far too much for the average joe! Funny how easily a person would buy a sack a fifteen dollar bag of coffee or buy a 20 dollar bottle of liquor! 
       Then Teavana sets up shop in an already stingy but up-worldly mobile middle class world rather familiarize the masses with tea. Why not sell tea 1$ an once and for the best 10$ per two ounces so that the masses will descend upon the stores thristy for tea of various kinds. Then once the tea is quite familiarized in the whole masses, then why not make strawberry swirly temple tea or lemon lime green tea blend or what not! Hell, even their online shops not under the sway of high rents and lack of customers find they have prices the same as in their stores! How could any respectable chap be able to have a cuppa the ole fashion way in the afternoon? They wouldn't need to raise the prices if the demands were high enough if made available to everyone, after all they represent tea culture for everyone! Then comes the issues of the company staying afloat, the farmers getting less for their crops, teas ending selling over to sugary and greedy tastes of the modern day?! 
       Well, everyone seems to have no concern so long they can get their fix on the stuff and drown in it! If Teavana is all too concerned in staying afloat and making a buck while at it , then it should consider its prices advertise as much, and make their products available in stores, food outlets, and even some celebrity endorsements! Just imagine Mr.Slim, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, hell Justin Bieber promoting tea and tea culture! Everyone will flock to the stores buy their endorsed teas and make a fortune all the while providing the best damn tea! Still the stubborn mule that is Teavana, they want to represent themselves as the underdogs, the little guys selling off a lifestyle and products  like a big giant corporation! "Oh! I can be the savior of the farmers and teas by purchasing tea worth five dollars or twenty"!? The irony in this is that when the farmers do receive payments its hardly enough to pay stacking debts and stay sustainable without much customers! Day by day the allure of big company contracts of big profits over shadows the disappearing devotion to crafts. 
      Then the rising costs of oil and the affects of large production to the Earth is to be considered! Just when Teavana is  unable to cater the people, provide a culture, provide tea availability, it fails to even see there role as a provider of teas and sustainability is shoddy if best pathetic!When they rise prices they not only add to the plight if the workers earning no pay when their teas are not brought but allows other indiscriminate companies to pollute the world if not help send the message that sustainability, fair-trade, and organic agriculture is not at all efficient! Even the practice of organic agriculture requires more land which needs money! More land to till needs more hands which needs more money! To grow the crops, tend the crops, process the crops, transport the crops all of which translates to more money! Then they sell them online or in stores of high rent and of course they are not able to sell a good amount of tea to give back to the growers! Well, nobody wants to work for free! Nobody wants to continue a hard pressed labour that equally damages the environment and buy more capital! There has to be a way to get around this catch-22 dilemma that seemingly every route taken always hurts everyone! 
      Teavana: a failure to the people, a culture, the farmers, the world over? Its the fault of almost everyone and including me! I mean there is so much companies that far outpace Teavana and are quite mega and encompassing our lives. Teavana is just a company caught in the web of a system built for pure profit and nothing but and slowly change it. Like it or not which I know that eventually an indie of companies may inevitable submit to the trends of giants that is unfortunate and tragic! We try to at least buy not for tea but for the farmers but end up somehow facing the facts that low prices, shoddy crafts, and unfair products are too good to pass by. If there is a compromise of prices, the availability of the major of Teavana teas to outlets, and the localized advertising to increase sale if not promote tea. Importantly bigger companies should take notice of the organic movement and help foster a better future. I think the hope is all in us consumers!

Monday, February 6, 2012

American Tea Culture? Is there any?


       When people speak of tea they think of Japan with their tea ceremony, Britain for their famous "cuppa" and scones, China as the master and birthplace of tea, and India for producing excellent black teas know for robustness and strength and the "champagne of teas" Darjeeling. But wait a minute, what of America? Is there anything this country know for in tea? Apparently since we have choose to close ties  with Britain, our only supply of tea and wares it came with took a dip in Boston harbor never to return. Its not only a symbolic closure of ties by culture but the taxes so heavily imposed on the few leaves we've got. Fast forward a bit two hundred years later, at the dawn of globalization, the peak of markets and capitalism, and fusion never seen a century ago we Americans still have not developed a culture of tea! Now why is that? We have Teavana stores all over malls, online tea suppliers,  and ethnic markets providing teas but why do we still lack a culture of tea?
      Answers abound and not easy to explain, but one of the key factors is that tea itself is an alien of a beverage as much as alien as a lifestyle ! Since when did us Americans have our parents, grand parents preform these intricate ceremonies or gathering around a kettle and cups? None since the 1700s, not including the ethnic groups who took their traditions with them to the new world who probably their children (though not all) will abandon their traditions for 7-ups, Pepsi, "TarBucks"  and  "Feebeans" and the sort popular nowadays. Its natural since we abandoned coffee, we turned to coffee for a fix and not looked back and whatever that was sweet and energetic we obsessed over. This reflects much in our current mentality, we want a fizzy drink over a cuppa with milk and sugar, we want a drum sized mug of coffee and sugar than bother with tea, we want fruity sugary drinks that bother with tea.
       If tea was ever in the minds of the modern American, one thinks of Arizona soda teas, super sweet more water than tea, or those tea bags that tastes awfully bad which is the reason why we abandoned tea in the first place. Tea is also such a niche market and so esoteric to any layperson out there to know about "jeeling" or" Dragonwell", even the thought of actually having tea outside of a bag is more disgusting than brewing a Lipton! Not surprisingly, tea and its industry has no such luck  with promoting in the mass scale as we have now been so removed from actual tea, so fond of sugary drinks, and to move around lugging drums of it than sit down and converse! To the tea industry,  its a waste of money and time to persuade a people already having their minds made up or closed to tea and its fineness 
      The root of the problem is what we have become as a culture to be as  greedy consumers that buys something for cheap at low prices, eat it up and think nothing about aftterwords! Now, what does that say about a proper sit down culture on us Americans? We would rather buy less expensive foods, eat and shut up together or alone. and go off in our own business. To us, when we gather, its about either in a formal occaisions like seminars, or semi-formals like parties, and casual like groups gatherings. Now, it does not mean we do not talk over our food or tea but we give little attention to it as its just another fuel to move around and talk somewhere else. There is no matter if the food tastes that damn good in the planet, or the fact it has been cooked Emeril Laggasse or Feran Adria!To us its nothing special as long we got a lot of it, for a cheap price and stuff our faces while we stick our faces on the telly while our medical costs rises! Think about why we used to have the "super-size" portions in Micky-D's, where everything has an extra scale: extra-large coffee, extra-large fries, extra-large pants and briefs, and extra-large everything!

              Example: Comparative to the standard MickyDs super large portions that shoots over the standard         2000 diet, the main entree in a Shakey's in the Philippines is considered a large tray than compared to U.S. portions. The plate was actually considered a combo plate but looks more to be a sampler plate that costed 200 pesos that is  4.67 dollars USD. That very same price can buy a combo nearly as large in any fast food establishments! Needless to say, that 10% service charge to the order demanded will not and shall not be paid! Just terrible!
                                                    This is another example that size does matter?
                                         Can you readers say this is a large cup of soda? Its not
                                          but in Philippines it is! At 45 php at 1 dollar stateside.

      The spell of over consumerism has definitely taken hold of our minds, that a tea pot that holds no more than 8 ounces to 32 ounces is not enough and therefore not enough for a person! Its not sugary, tastes weird like grass or leafy, not as energetic, sometimes expensive and the usual fifty other problems. Moreover, tea has been seen as the pleasures of rich, a threat to masculinity, and a hindrance to our mobile way of life. Its to expensive and time consuming to brew leaves in a pot waiting five or 20 minutes, having to put up with an ency group , and maybe a sign of femininity for the supposed drinker nowadays. In their minds they could have been spending time walking all over the places, buying something while keeping all the drama of their backs from their comrades while they downed gallons of  drinks before the 20 minutes are up for the tea!
        The deepest of all problems that is the changing traditions and norms of the more younger generation who have  never grown up in such practices of deep social gatherings and appreciation in the simplest of things. Such are the results of being born into the computer age where one appreciable item of fad can instantaneously be obsolete in the matter of days or months! One day it was Myspace and Christina Aguilera now its Facebook, Lady Gaga, and Uggs.  The vast flows of information and awareness can be raised in the individual in matter of hours and days where it could have taken months or years in the previous era devoid of a unifying exchange of information like the internet! Its of no surprise that slow faced traditions like the dinner table gathering is a dying concept  far from newer and newer traditions and conventions to keep alive.
  Why stay so dated?
         Even the inspirations of these youngsters who they listen to in music, watch on the telly or gander about in the internet does not emphasize a laid back culture.They would rather party, drink, play and if they do choose to sit back they would stuff their faces up while busying themselves texting, sleeping or watch the telly. This is of course the era of privacy, the era of the forums and facebook, the era of choices, add, deletion of friends as much as their ever changing culture. The new generation would rather be at home or be with a specific group who are liked minded  that love the same  foods, music, and beliefs without dealing with different people or "exotic" cultures they may find unappealing than face the  rigors of a highly social occasions like tea gardens or the dinner table that poses an insurmountable challenge to cope, adapt, and respond. If faced such a situation  of their disgust , they would often be cold, reserved, and often detached from other groups or persons in a social surrounding, and would be in a more awkward position if a curious and highly social individuals and groups approaches them. It seems that sensory overload of expressions, faces, feelings, mood is too much for a group so closed off that its not surprising many of them have a sort social ill and we as Americans are embracing that!
         I guess its not the problem of internet or their idols as they too have grown in a culture so far removed from uniqueness, suspicious of anything foreign than anything were used to, and quite the traditionalists in the sense of being stubborn. Whatever we Americans now follow throughout the eras, we have not made a shift in directions unless approved by an authority of society or idols!Its the opposite of what we Americans stand for: Freedom and truly our own sets of values but we tend to forget our values are foreign in itself. We have grown to be quite the followers of conformity that we have created so many groups of which people that want to belong or strive to belong that we don't ever stray from the defined groups and create ones from scratch. It we were to revive this tea culture and importantly to slow down , take our time, take a sip of tea...I think we  would never be stressed and so pressured to keep up with societies demands. Just all you dear readers take example of the great culinary cultures of Europe, Asia , Africa, and the Mid East and South America, do they rush like we do? Bloat themselves silly? Be stopped by social constrictions, and go through life like its a race or one large party to tend to every one? Yes and No! But surely there lives might not as be" perfect" as ours in a sense but as long they have been a country longer than America has ever been, they all went the down the same road we are now on but unlike us Americans  are just taking their time and appreciating what life really is. Beauty and all things simple!