I am a snob. There I said it. It’s true. Anyone that knows me knows that I am, unrepentantly, a snob. Specifically, I am a tea snob. There are some things in this life that I will not skimp on. And one of those things is a leafy beverage that I enjoy, usually in the morning. No regrets, no apologies.
I once made a joke to a friend that coffee was the drink of the masses, tea was the drink of the elite. It was said in jest. But is it?
As says the all-knowing (sic) Wikipedia:
According to Chinese legend, the history of tea began in 2737 B.C.E. when the Emperor Shen Nong, a skilled ruler and scientist, accidentally discovered tea. While boiling water in the garden, a leaf from an overhanging wild tea tree drifted into his pot.
I have no idea if this is actually true or not but it is a nice story. And since there is no actual documentation of said incident, it comes down through legend. And we do know that many legends have a basis in truth… China is credited with the invention of tea. It is now worldwide and is grown in many countries. There are almost as many flavours of tea as there are hairs on your head. If you do indeed have hair. There are also a great many customs about the best way to drink said beverage. It is confusing world.
I grew up drinking tea after dinner. It was a family thing. My mother made a pot of tea with Red Rose tea bags. My cup was always heavily fortified with milk and sugar. When I was in school a group of us used to meet for coffee. Usually the boys would go and get the beverages and I always asked for tea with milk and sugar. My Styrofoam cup would appear with a teabag floating in a milky liquid. I started to drink my tea clear, without the milk and sugar. I still can’t get that image out of my head! Over the years I evolved as did my taste buds. Some 30 years ago my sister introduced me to loose-tea and I never looked back. It became an obsession. I investigated the correct way to steep tea, to store it, which pots to use for which tea, etc, etc, etc.
Now I use simpler means. I have a dedicated infuser for my black teas, I drink out of glass mugs so I can gauge the steeping by the colour of the tea not the timer. I also only use loose tea. A few years ago, I saw a documentary on tea and the process the leaves go through to be mass produced into those teeny tiny bags. And then I understood the comment about the masses and the elite. If the documentary is true, then those teabags are filled with the dregs after the proper leaves have been removed. Did I feel sanctimonious? You betcha! I am quite sure it’s not as bad as this. I do however believe the flavour of loose tea is richer than the bags. Is it convenient? No. But I can handle a little inconvenience for a perfect cup of tea.