I’ve been writing out my yearly blog posts and as I’ve gotten near the end I’ve realized that I haven’t written anything about tea this year. It seems almost inconceivable that a year could pass by without my shilling for the tea industry at large. In thinking about that, I started to think about why I like tea so much, which led me to the idea for this blog post.
I’ve been drinking tea regularly for around ten years. I can’t remember when I first started drinking it nearly daily, but I’d estimate that it’s been at least five years. I love tea and feel like it, along with its surrounding culture, is a very special thing that is often overlooked.
One thing that is unique about tea is that it is the only social consumption based activity I can think of that is actually good for you.
Coffee isn’t all that social, as it’s quick. People go get coffee together, but that tends to be a more superficial meeting. Meals are often indulgent, though sometimes healthy. Drinking and smoking are obviously bad for you.
Tea, on the other hand, is really good for you. The small amount of caffeine can bring a little bit of energy to the meeting, but the theanine and whatever else is in there creates a calm atmosphere. Tea can be quick or it can last for hours, which allows the conversation and interaction to determine the length of the meeting, not the other way around.
Many of the best conversations I’ve had with friends have been over tea, and I think it’s because sitting in a little tea room with no distractions other than some hot leafy water leaves a lot of room for good conversation.
Tea people also just tend to be warm and intelligent people. Maybe it’s because we’re all underdogs so we feel like we have to be nice to each other. It’s so incredibly common to go to a tea shop and to end up chatting and making friends with the owner and often to not be allowed to pay for your tea. I’ve never had that happen with anything else. The other people who go to tea places often engage in interesting conversation too.
Tea by yourself is pretty good too. The slow nature of it, the evolution of the tea as you go through multiple steepings, and the caffeine all seem to combine to put one in a meditative state. If I have a big idea or decision to unravel, my favorite way to do it is in silence with a pot of tea.
The best way to get into tea is to go to a great tea shop like Zhao Zhou, Samovar, Te Company, or Higashi-ya and just talk to the people and ask them to help you choose a tea. Even the most snobby of tea snobs enjoy helping beginners get into tea. No question will seem dumb.
If you aren’t a tea drinker and don’t understand the hype, try going to one of the tea shops I mentioned. If you like it you may become part of the amazing world of tea, and if you don’t like it at one of those places you can be sure you probably never will.
Photo is a cup of tea in front of my computer. Maybe I didn’t really need to explain that one.