I received an interesting email from a T Ching member. He brought up a few very interesting points which I’d like to put out there to readers of this blog. He was actually asking for some recommendations for selections of tea bags, which he would like to offer to his guests. He did mention how he recently began a foray into whole leaf teas, but that he still uses tea bags. I think he used a reasonable, but flawed example.
His question went like this about his typical after meal routine: “I brew a pot of coffee and offer tea as an alternative, which means I bring a selection of teabags to the table to offer a choice.” Let’s stop right there. Why is it that there’s no mention of brewing many different pots of coffee? In most cases, the host selects their favorite coffee blend and just brews up a pot for their guests… (some might have a second selection of decaf perhaps but let’s not miss the point here). The host offers ONE delicious blend of coffee for their guests. Why do we as tea lovers and drinkers feel the need to offer our guests multiple selections? If we can get in the habit of sharing our current favorite, won’t that provide a wonderful opportunity for any guest or tea novice? I personally consider the guest. If they’re a staunch coffee drinker, I’ll serve a tea with a bold flavor. My current favorite is Matcha Genmaicha, which I find new comers to tea seem to enjoy the aroma and taste. Before that, I often chose a favorite jasmine tea. I’m adamant about one thing however……NO sweeteners of any sort. NO milk…just “straight up” or “neat” as the saying goes.
I believe that offering many types of tea is a reflection of our own insecurity about serving tea. Perhaps it began as a custom that higher-end restaurants have adopted and we fell right into it. I must admit that 7 years ago, I did exactly the same thing. I had a beautiful chest that I whipped out with individually wrapped teas, ready for my guests to select their preferences. And yes, I had sugar, honey, lemon and milk on the table. As the wife of an herbalist, we did not provide artificial sweeteners, so I’m grateful that I avoided that trap. My suspicion is that the more we become steeped in tea culture, the less variety we offer our guests after dinner. Of course I’m just talking about the typical dinner party and not talking about a tea tasting where many different varieties of tea are provided.
Check back for a more interesting question that I will answer next time: Is there a place for supermarket packaged teas?