People will often ask me what my favorite tea is, but usually don’t ask how I choose the tea I drink for the day. Here are a few of my esoteric thought processes that go into the daily question of “What tea shall I drink?” I hope this helps you take your mind off more weighty matters, and escape to the trivial for a bit.
I woke up this morning to a grey winter morning. I have not seen sunshine for seven days. There have been snowflakes blowing, falling, and lazily floating in the air, sporadically, the last three days. Winter is upon me, and it appears that it is not going anywhere anytime soon.
What do I feel like making for my first pot of tea? What tea flavor profile am I in the mood for this morning? I stand looking at the opened cabinet where I store my tea collection and my mind goes blank. Blank like the grey sky, blank like the whiteness of the snow covering the ground. Hhhhhmmmmm, what to prepare?
I am truly blessed by all the friends, family, coworkers, and acquaintances that gift me tea. The word is out that I enjoy a great cup of tea, and love to sample new teas. So……... back to the tea cabinet. I have a lot of tea (understatement of the year). I have my tea organized by category of tea. I have black, dark, and Pu’erh tea in one section of the cabinet, yellow and green tea in another section of the cabinet. I also have white tea, and herbal tea in their own section of the cabinet. I know this may be a little too organized for some, but I have a lot of tea, and it is easier for me to locate the exact tea I am wanting to locate.
The weather is horrible. As I stand at the tea cabinet, and look outside, I decide I want caffeine to help wake me up, and propel me through the yucky morning’s weather. I often will match my tea flavor profile with the season of the year I am living in. For example, today is a below freezing weather day, I am not in the mood for something light, delicate, floral, or fruity.
While there is nothing wrong with these tea flavor profiles, for me, I usually like to match my tea with the season or weather for the day. Chefs will implement this strategy in their menu prep. It is referred to as eating seasonally. Well, most of the time I like to drink tea seasonally.
As the weather has turned from cold to polar vortex freezing, and frozen pipes and snow drifts over a foot deep include, so has my daily choice of tea changed. Today calls for a strong caffeinated black tea, with no additional flavor. It can be a single origin tea (tea from one tea garden or tea region exclusively) or it can be a blend of various black teas from different origins. Classic breakfast blends are blends of black tea and possibly flavor, herbs, dried bits of fruit, fruit peel, and spiced added as well.
Throughout the last few days I have progressively changed from a light black tea, to a breakfast blend, and now, today, I am drinking an Assam black tea. The tea is grown in the Assam region located in the Northeast area of India. Assam tea is a very strong, full bodied black tea with a thick mouthfeel and dark reddish brown liquor color. It has a classic malty flavor profile with a mild puckery astringency and notes of caramelised sugar and raisins. I often suggest Assam tea to coffee drinkers who want to switch to tea for their morning cup. Assam tea has a similar mouthfeel and a dark liquor color as coffee and can stand up to cream and sugar.
My next decision I make when I am planning my tea repertoire for the day is, what do I want the temperature of tea to be. Ummmmm……..., I think with the freezing temperature this morning, I’ll have hot, steaming tea! To me, hot tea can be so comforting. Not only is it a warming presence physically, it can also be a warming element psychologically. On a freezing day, the warmth of hot tea warms my mind, transports me to a warmer place, and lifts my spirit.
I will drink iced tea if it is really hot outside and I need a refreshing pick me up. Oftentimes, after gardening for any length of time outside in warm or hot weather, an ice tea will cool me down. I will usually prepare a green tea with a fruity, or floral flavor profile when gardening is done, and pour it over ice. Today though, hot tea is the perfect cup of tea for me. I prefer my tea hot, caffeinated or non-caffeinated, any time of the day.
Activity Level (300 Miles Per Hour or 30 Miles Per Hour)
The weather today is keeping me unavoidably inside. I don’t need a large amount of caffeine, but I do want a pick me up. On the days I have work, and need to run a couple of errands after work, I will need a hot tea to take with me in the car, preferably with caffeine. I don’t drink coffee, no particular reason, I just don’t like the taste. I don’t drink soda because the carbonation is not agreeable for me. Deriving my caffeine intake from tea is perfectly fine with me. The caffeine amount in tea is approximately one half to one third the amount that of coffee. The temperature of the water, the amount of tea used, and the length of time the tea is steeped all directly affect the amount of caffeine pulled from the tea leaves.
So, if I need a caffeine pick me up in the afternoon, tea has enough caffeine to keep me awake through the afternoon and dinner time, but not awake during bedtime. If I have a still, non-rushed afternoon and don’t need the caffeine, I will fix an herbal tea.
I realize the decisions I make regarding what tea to fix daily, are neither here nor there. It is a prosaic process; a process that doesn't stop the world from spinning. But what it may do is break the monotony of another polar vortex snowed-in day, filled with more freezing temperatures and more snow. Sometimes the mundane can be a good diversion to think upon. It can be a mental vacation of sorts, an escape if you will, from other aspects of life that are not as pleasant to think upon as a cup of tea.