My Dad came from a large Norwegian farm family in Minnesota. These Vikings worked like horses and ate like them too.
Their beverage of choice was coffee and, like everything else they did, they consumed it with enthusiasm. In fact, I rarely picture my Dad without picturing him with a cup of coffee. He never turned it down, drank it day and night, and it got to the point that he literally had to have it or he would get headaches and feel shaky. His dad preferred to put a spoonful of sugar in his mouth, then swallow a gulp of scalding hot, strong black coffee to wash it down. Ouch! How did Grandpa do that?
Being raised around people whose lifestyle included multiple cups of coffee a day, somehow it bypassed me genetically.
Oh yes, I did try it as ‘the adult thing to do’ with some cream and sugar. I enjoyed it, but just never felt like making it a part of my daily lifestyle. I preferred iced tea which, back when I was a teenager, meant from a glass jar of instant tea powder with some water stirred in and ice added, and glass after glass after glass in the heat of the Southern California inland after we had moved to from the Midwest. Lemon squeezed in of course, and lots of it, because otherwise it was pretty awful.
I never drank hot bagged tea. That was really just not to my liking and seemed bland and tasteless. So, when I heard someone say one day back in ’03, “Why doesn’t someone do for tea what (fill in the blank) did for coffee’. . .my first thought was, ‘why and how could they?’ I don’t even remember how I first heard about loose leaf tea, but when I did, I pursued it as a potential business opportunity – being a total entrepreneur from birth – and liked what I learned. And what I tasted.
The first thing that was amazing was the form it came in: large leaves, or tightly wound balls or, in the case of herbals, a multiplicity of forms, including the tiny needles of Rooibos. And oh, the fragrances, the varieties! My initial reaction to really good loose leaf tea was probably very close to what we heard daily in our store years later: “I didn’t know tea tasted like this.” Well, there’s tea and then there’s tea. I’m sure those who were used to drinking instant coffee from a jar were just as amazed when they had their first shot of espresso- or their first freshly roasted coffee beans – freshly ground and French pressed.
But I found that tea, for me, was part of a lifestyle every bit as much as Dad’s family made coffee the center of their social life and meals. The difference was that there were choices that were best at breakfast; others for the afternoon and evening. Coffee was always the same for them. For my husband and I, part of the joy of the ‘loose leaf lifestyle’ is choosing what we are going to have every day, all during the day and, although we have our preferences, we love being able to go outside the box (no pun intended) on a regular basis to switch things up and keep them interesting. You can never try all the options in the tea/herbal world!
We also love the balance theanine has on the caffeine effect, we love the ‘science’ of tea, we love the health aspects, we love the ‘zen/relaxing’ (and yet energizing) aspect, and we love the clean freshness in our mouths after drinking tea. Tea has improved our life, we have fewer colds (almost 0), and we just feel better in general. In fact, when we occasionally do have coffee – and I’m talking really high quality coffee – we just have to mention how we notice things now we never noticed before we got into tea, like the ‘heaviness’ of coffee, the aftertaste it leaves in your mouth, and . . . “Honey, don’t talk so close to my nose. That coffee breath is really, well, coffee breath.” Ever hear anyone talk about tea breath?
Bottom line, after living the loose leaf lifestyle for over a decade now, we understand why tea is second only to water as the most consumed beverage in the world. (At least, the evidence seems strongest for tea from what we’ve been able to find.)
I love your journey Diane and found some real similarities between my experiences and yours. You’ve managed to identify so many of the facets of tea that I value and embrace. You’ve captured the lifestye essence of tea and its vast varieties that beckon all of us who are captivated by this ancient brew. I think a book might be in your future:)
Diane, nowadays I also avoid teabag teas whenever and wherever I can. I can’t always tell loose leaf tea’s superiority in aroma and flavor, but it’s my preferred choice.
My family are Saskatchewan Swedes, they’ve got a similar attitude to coffee – strong and continuous cups. For me, coffee is a way to get a quick shot of caffeine, so quality is never too important. I’m a tea snob but a coffee slob!
Disclaimer is– that isn’t my family in the photo but nice choice!! :) Just reading these comments, it strikes me that tea goes beyond a caffeine hit/beverage. For many/most loose tea lovers, it truly is a journey. I’m also thinking about how coffee drinkers often respond to trying ‘real tea’ by saying “Oh no, I’m a coffee person”, without giving it a chance . Maybe there is something in the personality that makes us lean in either direction, certainly in the taste buds. Michelle, my husband and I have had such a life-impacting tea journey, we may just write a book someday!! It would read more like an adventure novel…probably most couldn’t believe it. Kate, do Swedes also eat lefse?