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!

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