Monday, March 16, 2009

Tea in America

I wonder if it's because of the Boston tea party and a distant association with violence that tea is persecuted in America. Black tea--the kind that European adults and babies alike are accustomed to treating as their daily beverage, much like their daily bread--is, apparently, devil's spawn to puritan tastes.

Standing in a tea section of an American supermarket is like going through a wormhole to a parallel universe in which everything is wrong and you almost expect cows to fly.

There is green tea, maté, something that pretends to be like peppermint tea, chamomile with strange additives, something that screams iced tea all over the package, things that pretend they were produced by Twinings... and they're all DECAF.

Finding regular, unadulterated black tea is an epic process, because it is typically shoved under everything else, if you can get it at all.

I have no idea why a nation that drinks coffee basically religiously from dusk till dawn fears natural caffeine in tea as if it were death itself lurking inside the tea bag. The prejudice against black tea is quite incredible. Like the crazy overproduction of plastic coffee cups and coffee shops quitting using real cups it is one of those things that will bring apocalypse upon this land...


Kim said...

hmmm...when I get back to the states I need to hang out in the tea aisle now! My family shops at the commissary on the military base and they have a decent selection of teas from what I remember, but now need to look closer. Maybe this decaf tea thing is some health craze going on in the US?

Have you tried sweet tea? It's iced tea but made the southern way...some people refer to it as "glorified sugar water". But it's nice with a squeeze of lemon juice on a hot and humid summer/spring day in Georgia :) I don't think you can get it north of Tennessee and west of Mississippi.

Bowleserised said...

How strange! I have just discovered chai lattes and, one hit later, am irrevocably hooked. At least it'll save my from osteoarthritis.

Misiula said...

I do like chai, but drink it very seldom. I find the spices quite overwhelming after a while, not to mention the sweetness.

And I haven't tried sweet tea. The one time I was in the South (sort of -- it was Florida), as far as I can remember, I drank iced tea and açai smoothies.

With tea, I mostly go from one obsessive phase to another. That is, I drink one kind every day from dusk to dawn till I get bored and then switch to another.

My BA thesis (well, the hard copy at my parents' house) smells of earl grey. Then I had a white tea phase, then citrus green for several months, a peppermint summer. Last fall belonged to darjeeling and now I'm all about regular Lipton black tea -- sometimes with a spot of milk, sometimes honey and lemon, mostly pure.

Depending on the phase, I can be very hard to please.

fleuve-souterrain said...

please please ask me, a tea snob from Assam, India. Unadulterated black tea is the start and the end, and preferences like adding sugar, milk, lemon juice... are a peripheral issue in a black tea drinker's life there.

I'll get you something the next time. We can only ask you to choose from Assam/Darjeeling/Ceylone/Malabar...

WHy don't you try a Brook Bond Red Label from the 'Indian' aisles...? It is not par excellence, but will save you from the trauma of encountering the ghosts of other tea :)

Misiula said...

Dear Fleuve Souterrain,

I did know you were an expert, but I had no idea the tea situation would perplex me so much...

I'm always happy to learn new things about tea and taste new kinds. I'm looking forward to being surprised.

Note to self: look up the Brook Bond in the 'ethnic cuisine aisles.' So far, I only noticed Chinese green tea.

Many, many thanks for the advice!