Recently it has been my privilege to get to know a young woman raised in China. I mistakenly made the assumption that talking with her about Chinese teas would be a lengthy and fun part of our acquaintance. Naïve of me, it turns out. As naïve as her thinking I would know a lot about a major American food/beverage commodity.
In fact, while in the U.S., she has been in an area where Philz Coffee started and loves the deep, rich flavor with the brown sugar and cream additions and the many options like mint that Philz adds. She knows more about coffee than tea, and that’s because, she somewhat apologetically confessed, she really never enjoyed tea growing up.
She told me her father has tons of tea of all types but, to her, they always tasted the same when he brewed them, whether white, green, oolong or black. That’s when I decided to brew a couple of samples for her. Next time we were together, I brought a bold, smooth, Yunnan and a pu-erh with mint. And that’s when the surprise came, for her. She told me she had never known tea could taste like that, rich, flavorful. She tasted the distinct differences between the two, and she was definitely surprised and, maybe, just a little excited.
That’s when she told me about the family visit as a child to the Wuyi region on a tea tour and she says she would love in the future to visit the beautiful Yunnan region. Now she has tasted a great black tea from Yunnan. She thought I should visit China because of my love for all things tea. Sharing my love of tea with her by introducing her to teas from her own country, presented in a different way than in her home, did start a new area of conversation and interest between us.
Tea doesn’t have to compete with coffee for anyone’s affections. But it should be brewed well and prepared and presented with the same care specialty coffee is. It doesn’t have to be ‘protected’ from embellishments, flavors, milk or sweeteners. It can stand alone or it can be ‘dressed up’ for the party. The main thing is to start with really good tea and then to make sure the preparation matches in quality.
The boom in specialty tea is opening so many doors for creativity. What can beat for amazing taste a really perfectly balanced chai latte? What can be more pristine and pure than a well-brewed cup of high mountain Chinese green tea?
The big coffee companies are moving geographically into traditional ‘tea territory’. I believe tea is going to be breaking into ‘coffee country’ in a big way in the years ahead.