Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Perils of Pickiness

Like most readers of tea blogs, I've spent a lifetime cultivating my palate.    I should be getting more discriminating but I'm purposely steering myself away from the inherent dangers of tea snobbery.   I want to know what prime stuff is but I don't want to have to need it.   Unlike chocolate where I won't consume any if quality bars are not around, I need tea daily.  In the last few years, I've been just forcing myself to quaff whatever is available even if it's the proverbial "slop of a drainage ditch".  But I'm pretty sure the "slop of a drainage ditch" in Lu Yu's time was definitely more disgusting than what counts as such now... although airplane teas can be downright demoralizing.

I hit a new low this month with Mothxx Parkxx's Tea on the flight to L.A.  I bleeped the name of this offending brand so none of their media representatives will find this obscure blog and blather on about how they create the highest quality tea from "field to cup".  Food service orange pekoe's are vile to begin with and the lukewarm airplane water highlights the worst features of such tea- flat, stale, and above all possessing a tired weak flavor that makes you feel sorry for the eternally lost potential of this tea.  To cheer myself up I made a full three course meal composed of  savory(salt and pepper)  and sweet chocolate bars and I just used the tea as a palate cleanser which worked well enough.  I actually had stowed many quality teas in my bag but doing a multi-rinse in the air while stuck in middle seat on a fifty minute flight is just a waste of good leaf to say nothing of frightening my poor seat companions.  (I have been told not in the kindest way that I own the most dangerous flying elbows endowed with perfect aim.  One time at a grocery store, I felt something soft and squishy.  I could not apologize and bow low enough to the poor woman and her left boob. )

There are many many situations in life where you can't drink your favored teas. And if all you have is easy access to terrible teas,  it's always best not to let it ruin your day.   A few years ago, I was enjoying dinner on a balmy night in Nubia with my lovely husband.  There were exactly two tea options on the menu-
  • tea 
  • tea with mint 
Because everyone dumps a quarter cup of sugar in their tea in Egypt, no one notices that almost all tea served is quite insipid with bags having been freely and recklessly exposed to air.  Tea time in Egypt as in the rest of the Middle East is not about the tea.  It's about sharing company and trying to contract type 2 diabetes.

The waiter brought me a steaming cup of black tea and showed me how I can just dip the entire mint sprigs in the teacup holding the bottom stems.  I really did wish at that moment that I had never tried fresh mint tea in my entire life so I could enjoy the novelty of the experience.  I've cultivated more than nine different kinds of mint over the years (orange mint, chocolate mint, apple mint, curly spear mint, tangerine mint, peppermint, pineapple mint, Egyptian mint plus others I vaguely remember) and have determined chocolate mint is my favorite for tea.  Furthermore, I've done numerous tastings against various honey to deem black button sage honey to be the optimal sweetener for mint tea.  I smiled at the waiter and gushed, "Wow! Fresh mint tea!"  I didn't want him to think that I thought there was anything wrong with his mint sprigs because in Egypt there is only exactly one kind of mint.    The tea that night was predictably insipid and the mint uninspiring but I still had a lovely evening with my husband contemplating the ancient ruins of Abu Simbel.   Life is always happier if you resolve to be satisfied with what you end up getting.  I would not be surprised that bloggers who concentrate on the positive aspects of any tea may be the most happiest among us.

(The two pics are of my overgrown mint patch that I rip out from time to time depending on the flowering season. Many gardeners may know this but mint varieties once hybridized becomes quite boring and so growing separate types of mint requires strict segregation. )


  1. :) I have a SERIOUS weakness for sugary mint tea, and have been known to whine about preparations that aren't sweet enough. Luckily, we now have a Moroccan restaurant locally run by two sisters who prepare it with the loose gunpowder tea and shaved sugar... it is heaven!

  2. I loved the post! Recently tried some 'unsweetened' Dunk** Donu** iced tea and it made me sad. I enjoyed it the best I could, down to the last drop!

    1. Dear M. Handler,

      It's a pleasure to find a like-minded spirit. Maybe American colonials who drank no shortage of stale bohea tea might have been astounded by the "freshness" of Dunk** Donu** tea.