I am by no means an expert in tea, but at this point I’m probably slightly more than an enthusiast. Somewhere between a lover and a connoisseur, maybe bordering on aficionado. Tea researcher is probably the best term I can come up with. I aspire to greater tea-related things.
It sometimes leaves me in an awkward position. The other day I was in one of those fantastic cafés that have started springing up as tea has begun to enjoy it’s well deserved resurgence in popularity. It was the kind of place I can’t help loving on sight, with an overflowing cake display and a wide array of handmade tea cosies, most of them animal themed. Apparently local grandmothers knit them in exchange for free tea. They even sold all of the loose leaf teas on their menu to take home, they obviously cared about their tea so I was ready to be impressed.
I was instead sadly disappointed. The tea was brought with no timer or indication for how long it had been brewing. What I had was certainly not the first flush darjeeling that I had ordered and, whatever it was, it was stale. There was no removable strainer so the tea only got more stewed until it was undrinkable and based on how quickly that happened there was was far too much tea leaves in the pot.
Despite this series of unforgiveable mistakes, I still can’t bring myself to be too harsh on the place. What I really experienced was a café that I would have absolutely loved two years ago, that I would have recommended and returned to again and again. Knowing basically nothing about tea except that I liked it I would have had no idea that I was drinking the wrong thing, and maybe when I got home I would have looked up what first flush darjeeling actually was. Most importantly I would have had fun with tea in an environment dedicated solely to it.
So I am grateful that this place exists for all the people who are in the position I was two years ago to enjoy. Maybe it will help spur them on to learn more about tea and how much better it can be. While I won’t be returning for a while, I certainly wish the place every success. Misguided as it may be it is clearly based around a love of tea and I am sure that, like me, it aspires to greater expertise. Maybe I’ll check back in a couple of years time and see how we’ve both come on.
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