For the first time in my work experience, I spent more days traveling on business this January than I did at home. Of course, there are always a few sacrifices one makes when traveling – particularly on business – but a dearth of good tea turned out to be less of a problem than I anticipated.
For my travel days, I brought my own stash, because good tea and airline travel just never go together in the same sentence. Even with my own tea, brewing a decent cup in the air is next to impossible. In fact, during one flight when I was feeling particularly adventuresome, I decided to opt for airline tea. That was a mistake. Rather than receiving a Styrofoam cup of lukewarm water and a Lipton tea bag, I received a cup – still Styrofoam – with already-brewed tea. My initial surprise, and even hope, quickly disappeared with the first sip. The beverage appeared to be a coffee-tea hybrid, likely made in a pot that had mostly seen coffee with a very low-quality CTC tea. My first sip was my last and I had learned my lesson.
Right about now, you are probably wondering what I meant by “a dearth of good tea turned out to be less of a problem than I anticipated.” That was a conclusion I reached at the end of my business travels. My first destination was Naples, Florida, a resort town on Florida’s west coast. Although I was in Naples to train, the training was just part of an offsite for salespeople at La Playa Beach and Golf Resort. Thankfully, La Playa had not ignored tea in its top-of-the-line offerings. Everywhere we went – in the training rooms, in their restaurant, and out on the patio overlooking the beach – a nice assortment of Mighty Leaf teas was available.
Once I had left the elegant comfort of La Playa for the working-class quarters at the Holiday Inn in Fort Myers, I downgraded my expectations concerning both food and drink. But I didn’t need to. The hotel restaurant was unimpressive – a cross between a sports bar and a diner – but delivered unexpectedly good food – the pasta dish I ordered was delicious! Hesitantly, I decided to push my luck and asked for some hot tea. When the response was a recitation of about half a dozen teas, including Darjeeling, I was dumbstruck. I probably even took a second glance around the room to be sure I hadn’t been transported without my knowledge to another restaurant. I hadn’t. And the Darjeeling wasn’t half bad!
My final stop after Fort Myers was Farmington, Connecticut. Now that I was bound for cold country, hot tea sounded especially appealing. I imagined myself looking out at snowy fields with a steamy cup in my hands. As it turned out, Farmington was enjoying a very mild winter, so snow was not to be found and the sun visited nearly every day during my week-long stay. At the Marriott that I called home while in Farmington, the teas were Twinings. My second night there, I ordered a Twinings English breakfast tea with dinner and sat lost in thought, clutching the tea and letting the steam moisten my face. At that moment, a young man who had just started working at the Marriott stopped by to share that he often enjoyed a similar pose with a cup of hot tea. “Tea helps you think things through,” he said. Indeed.