Choosing Your Path to Tea — Asian, European, or…

Pursuing the enjoyment and knowledge of tea is a real journey, and there are several paths you can follow. There is the European path, the Asian path, the Middle Eastern path, the American path,…

Have you ever been on a journey and come to a fork in the road? Actually, in the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and her new friends the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion were faced with about three options as they followed the yellow brick road. Which one led to the Wizard and his magic? (Psst! The secret is that they all led to Oz. Some were just a little rougher going than others.)

That’s sort of how life is — lots of paths leading to pretty much the same place. In this case, the destination is tea nirvana.

If you choose to pursue the European path, you’ll be steeping your tea in a Brown Betty or Fine China teapot or maybe in a French Press. Samovars are another possibility. Tea choices are most likely to be black tea blends like English Breakfast No. 2 and Scottish Breakfast either straight or with milk and sweetener, or Chinese greens like Gunpowder and Dragonwell (also called “Long Jing”), or maybe a flavored blend like Buckingham Palace Garden Party and that perennial favorite, Earl Grey. Your teatime treats would most likely consist of baked items, both sweet and plain such as scones and fruit tarts, or meat dishes if you’re having an old time high tea, or dainty tidbits like cucumber sandwiches.

For a more Asian path to tea nirvana, you would steep your teas in a gaiwan, kyusu, cast iron teapot, or yixing teapot. Whether you choose Jasmine green tea, Chinese Oolongs such as Tie Guan Yin, a cuppa Gen Mai Cha, a frothy Matcha, a milky glass of bubble tea, or an earthy pu-erh, you’ll feel transported to a teahouse in Tokyo, Shanghai, Beijing, or similar locales. Your teatime foods will enhance that feeling. Sushi, dim sum, and other Asian dishes will do the trick, speeding you along the path to your Asian tea nirvana.

You don’t need to ride a camel through the Sahara or board the Orient Express to follow the path to a Middle Eastern tea experience. Black tea with mint and sugar served with dates, lamb dishes, fragrant basmati rice with raisins and cinnamon, etc., will do the job. Steep the tea up strong and serve it in glass cups, steaming hot.

Of course, you could pursue a red-blooded American path to tea. Iced tea sweetened or hot black tea, with green teas coming in a not-too-distant second, with oolongs, white teas, and pu-erhs trailing like I usually did in high school doing the 600-yard-walk-run in the President’s Physical Fitness Tests (athletic I was definitely not). Dish up some American favorites: macaroni and cheese, hotdogs and hamburgers, fried chicken, cole slaw, potato salad, and much more. Don’t forget the sweets: apple pie, ice cream, chocolate cake, Twinkies, Oreos, etc.

Lots more possibilities exist, since tea is enjoyed in just about every country on the globe. You can blaze your own tea path to tea nirvana by selecting the teas, teawares, and treats that suit you best.

As Roy Rogers and Dale Evans would sing at the end of their show, “Happy trails to you!

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