What’s your hot beverage of choice? Well, that probably depends. In most cases it’s likely to be an accident of birth, for lack of a better term. If you live in the United States odds are good that you’re going to be a coffee drinker. If you hail from the United Kingdom and assorted and sundry other points around the globe, tea will be your poison. If you were born in many parts of South America, chances are good that you’ll be a yerba mate drinker.
Which is not to say that no one from the United States drinks tea and that no one in the United Kingdom will ever touch a drop of yerba mate and so on. It’s more of a general rule than anything else.
In my own case, growing up in middle class suburban America in the sixties and seventies, tea was almost a completely unknown quantity. Or to be more correct, let’s say that tea as many people know it – loose tea leaves or a tea bag steeped in hot water and consumed hot – was an unknown quantity.
What we knew as tea in those days, as was the case with so many Americans (and still is), was the iced stuff. By some accounts as much as 85 percent of the tea consumed in the United States is in the form of iced tea. In the southern United States this is what’s known as sweet tea, a heavily sugared black tea that’s still the drink of choice even now and don’t bother asking for it unsweetened, thank you very much.
When I was but a lad the only thing resembling tea to ever darken our threshold was iced tea. Though to call it tea, in any true sense of the word, was probably stretching the point. It was a powdery substance that came in a big jar and was mixed with water in a large pitcher and iced. I didn’t find this at all palatable but I’d be exaggerating a bit to say that it put me off tea for the next several decades.
In truth I’d say that the reason that I didn’t really discover tea until after my fortieth year was the same reason most Americans never did. Until relatively recently tea was simply not on our radar much and what tea there was in circulation was barely worthy of the name. Just as coffee used to be plain old coffee and forget the fancy terminology, tea was tea and it was black and lousy and it came in a teabag.
We’ve come a long way — fortunately.
Make sure to visit William’s blog, Tea Guy Speaks!