Here at T Ching, we often debate the issue of orthodox, single estate teas, versus the ubiquitous tea blends on the supermarket shelves. My concern is that people aren’t learning to enjoy the flavor of TEA. They’re certainly increasing their consumption of specialty teas but essentially getting a hot beverage with a serious fruit profile. Yes, they’re also getting those all important pholyphenols which promote the health benefits that we’re all familiar with. But what about the tea? It feels like it’s getting lost in the shuffle. James Norwood Pratt was recently quoted in World Tea News with this interesting observation:
“I suspect that the decade of the 2010s will see America’s taste in tea return to where it was in the early 1930’s … when green tea and oolong constituted something between one-third and one-half of all U.S. tea sales.”
I’d forgotten that aspect of our tea history. I tend to only remember the damage done to the industry by the low quality tea that became popular with the early tea bags. How did the early green and oolong teas lose their audience? I’m wondering if someone out there might know something about this.
As I have journeyed on my tea path, I progressed from tea bag tea to whole leaf teas. It was as if a whole new world was opening up to me. I resisted the flavored blends and began to discern the subtleties of each type of tea. The flavor nuances became increasingly present to me – much like the evolution of the wine aficionado, I imagine. But there in lies my concern. As long as most people are consuming the robust fruity blends, they will not be developing the appreciation for the subtle flavors of single estate wines – or teas. How can we hope to evolve the consumer if they’re not developing a taste for true TEA? I’m eager to hear what others think. Perhaps there’s another way to look at this. I’m open to hearing it.