Growing up with tea, I was not a fan. The green tea would grow bitter in my paper cup at Coffee Hour at my church, requiring me to drown the bag and liquid in a deluge of sugar and milk. I could continue to sip anyway, though, in an effort to be “healthy” (though I must admit, I doubt there was much health left in that cup). I got my health in other places – all the vegetables that I would eat, the gallons of milk that my brother and I would finish within a few days of purchase, the fruit (especially grapes) that would magically disappear in a night – but something about green tea, despite the taste, always drew me in. If only I had read the package to see that I was supposed to take the tea bag out, I might have liked tea a little earlier.
Then I discovered new teas. Black teas and herbal teas caught my eye, in particular. Black teas because though they always had the same strong undertone, they were also so versatile with the fruits, flowers, and oils added in. Herbal teas because of their sweetness, like juice, but better for you. I would buy tea bags by the bulk whenever I went to the Asian Food Market. I would steal tea bags from the cafeteria from college. My friends knew about my tea addiction and would tease me about it.
When I got back from college, I remember sifting through the cabinets one day and finding a mason jar full of dried flowers. Curious, I took a sniff. Chrysanthemums. I later found out that my mom would drink it when she could not sleep. I thought I was the only tea-drinker in the family. For some reason, this simple thought made me feel at peace, a little closer than I was before. It might not seem like much, but to me, it meant the world.
Not finding a job right out of college definitely hit me hard, both self-esteem and wallet. I kept applying every day, working at my normal job, but never moving forward. I knew I had to do something. I would write articles for online news sources. I would call and apply everywhere. I took a job where I would only work three hours a week for minimum wage with a thirty-minute one-way commute in an effort to just get my name out there. Nothing felt like it was working. So, I decided to start a blog, and Tea Love was born. It has been moving steadily ever since.
I had boyfriends who would try and work with me on my tea habit. One would try and surprise me with teas he would be sure I had never had before and then present me with an apple cinnamon tea (but at least he tried!). My current boyfriend and I share our love of tea. He accompanies me to Tea Love talks, we often indulge ourselves by curling up with the television and drinking warm cuppas. His eyes light up like mine when we talk about tea. And he knows that when I am crying and cannot be consoled, that a warm cuppa will mean the world to me.
It has been a few years since Tea Love came about. It has been many years since I started drinking tea and enjoying it. I research, I read, I learn, and I grow. I hope to one day write a book about tea. In the meantime, I will be content curling up with my cuppa and watching the world go by, knowing that I will make it in the world with a warm cuppa in hand.
If you are reading this blog, I’m going to make the assumption that you like tea, or at least want to learn more about it. You possibly have a cup every morning, relaxing in the sunlight peaking through the window as you take gentle sips from your oolong, white, pu’erh, black, green tea. You might save it for when you are sick, reminiscent of the times when your mother would milk a little bit of honey and lemon in a cup for you in hopes that you will get better soon. You might use tea bags, dunking them in until you get your taste just right. Or, if you are like me, you prefer the more aromatic loose tea, which also allows you to control the amount and strength of your tea.
When I brew my tea for myself, I have to admit, I don’t indulge in as much pomp as I necessarily should. I might use a tea bag, or I might just pour some hot water over the tea leaves that are snug in the strainer of my tea mug. At work, I make sure to use my DavidsTEA mug constantly since it is so convenient, what with its stainless steel infuser and a lid that doubles as a saucer, how can a tea lover NOT love this product?
But truthfully, as I announce in all of my Tea Love talks, you really should have the most room for your tea leaves to open up and allow the most flavor to steep into your cup. A campaign started in the UK known as Save Our Cuppa advocates for the usage of the teapot for multitudes of reasons.
“Once the only way to make a proper cup of tea, the humble teapot which saw us through two World Wars, recession, sporting victories and disasters and countless broken romances has fallen from favour,” writes Ruki Sayid of the Mirror, a UK-based news source. Per Said, teapot sales have halved in the last five years as people are turning towards the more convenient teabag.
Social etiquette expert Liz Brew-er is now an advocate for the Campaign for Civilised Tea Drinking and said, “We must preserve the custom which for centuries has been the hallmark of polite society.”
So, what are some ways that you can help out with the Save Our Cuppa campaign? Social media, for one, is a good place to start. Tag yourself drinking tea that was brewed in a teapot rather than in the mug! After all, raising the awareness that brewing tea in a teapot is still a thing could prompt others to see the classy-ness and quaintness of having a teapot full of tea.
Serve tea to your friends using teapots. Sharing is caring, and the act of using a teapot might inspire that friend to share a pot of tea with you sometime.
Go to restaurants that use teapots rather than bags or cups. This one is a bit tricky state-side, as it’s hard to find places that do this. Don’t give up though!
And of course, the most obvious one? Use teapots instead of mugs! You get a better brew that way anyway, and you get more tea.
First, and most importantly, I want to give a huge shout-out to my mommy on her birthday! She has been putting up with my brother for almost 30 years and with me for almost 27 years. Definitely a saint :-) I hope she has a very happy birthday today!
Now, on to tea…
We all have at least heard of climate change. Polar bears being stuck on small ice sheets slowly melting into the ocean. The world having more drastic weather patterns. We need to start reversing the effects.
Whatever your thoughts on climate change, whether it is man-made or normal weather pattern shifts, or if it is even happening, Science magazine states that the climate is affecting our tea.
Selena Ahmed is an ethnobotanist (one who studies the relationship that exists between people and plants) at Montana State University in Bozeman. Right now, she is over in China’s Yunnan province to see how climate change is affecting the taste of their tea.
The reasoning behind all of this? The mix of phyochemicals responsible for the taste in tea may be more sensitive to the constant change of the climate than the yield of the actual crop. So, while the Yunnan province farmers might be having a huge crop each year, the crop might not taste as good. The rainfall is highly important to the tea process. More rain will mean that the tea grows faster, which may sound like a good thing, but that means that the quality of the tea goes down. Before the monsoon season in China, the tea can fetch $680 per kilogram. However, after the rainy season, the price drops to $405.
Due to climate change, the temperature in Yunnan’s capital has climbed 1.5 degrees Celsius over the past 50 years and monsoon season has been arriving later. In 2011, is arrived 22 days later than in 1980.
This change in the weather has also allowed some less-than-ideal pests, such as caterpillars and tea mosquitoes, to raid the tea plants and destroy the leaves that brew the tea in the first place. This raises the pesticide use to try and combat these pests, which in turn affects the consumer. Ten Ren, for example, was cited by the FDA for having pesticide-tainted tea. What is one to do if their crop is being eaten before it can even be picked?
To study this relationship, Ahmed traveled to Yunnan, which is known for its pu-erh tea (a personal favorite of mine. Earthy and almost like drinking a rich coffee). This four-year project, backed by the U.S. National Science Foundation, will examine the linkage among climate change, tea quality, and farmer livelihood.
Hopefully, the planet can be saved soon and the effects of global warming turned around even faster. After all, as far as I know, Earth is the only place to get a good cuppa. Let’s make sure we keep it preserved.
Guess what June is! In the United States, iced tea is kind of a big deal. People all over love to sit back on their back porches sipping on a tall glass, sometimes sweetened a bit (a la the South) and garnished with a mint sprig.
Ah, A Nice, Tall, Refreshing Glass of Iced Tea…
But what sparked this love of iced tea?
The first recorded incident of iced tea being serviced would be in Kentucky, where cold tea recipes were appearing prior to the Civil War in cook books. Makes sense that the hotter states would be the ones to have iced tea first, don’t you think? However, iced tea was still not a hit with the rest of the United States.
Later, in 1904, the St. Louis World’s Fair was underway. Richard Blechynden, who was the director of the East India pavilion, was sweltering in the hot sun, trying to get consumers to try samples of hot tea. Needless to say, this really got him nowhere.
After his fruitless attempts, he tried something new. Blechynden circulated and chilled the tea through some lead pipes (this is its own separate issue) immersed in ice. This sufficiently cooled the drink and became a hit with the fair-goers. Thus, iced tea became popular in the US.
It’s important to make a distinction between iced tea and ice tea, though. Tea with ice in it is consider and iced beverage. Green tea was used prior to World War II for this beverage but, after the war, iced tea was made with black tea from India. Now, most of the commercial iced tea mixes and tea bags are made from mechanically harvested black tea from Argentina.
Remember too, you can enjoy any tea iced! Simply let it cool and happy sipping :-) Again, happy Iced Tea Month!