The Road to Tea

All roads lead to Rome — it’s a phrase that used to mean exactly that. Some of the first great road builders, the Romans, were renowned for the network of high quality roads that fanned out throughout their empire. These days the phrase could be taken to mean that, regardless of what route you choose, you’re likely to end up at the same destination as someone who took a different path.

Not to stretch the analogy too far, but you could say that this is true with tea. We take a variety of routes to get there, but in the end we gather in some imaginary equivalent of Rome, sipping from our assorted cups of tea.

Japanese Loose Teas Sampler
Japanese Loose Teas Sampler

For some, the road to tea might be a long one, one that they’ve traveled since childhood. This is especially likely to be true in places like the United Kingdom or in Asian nations where tea has been an ingrained part of the culture for centuries.

For those of us from a more coffee-centric part of the world, tea may not be something we’re exposed to from the start. As someone who’s been following the tea world closely for many years, I’ve noticed that it’s not unusual to find people in the industry who have little or no experience with tea until later in life. For some of them, what they discovered when they first began getting into tea was sufficiently appealing to make them change their lives and take up a new calling as tea merchants of one sort or another.

In my own case, when I was growing up, tea was just not something that was done. With the exception of the brown stuff that came in a jar and resembled talcum powder and was what passed for iced tea around our home. While the stats show that about eighty percent of Americans take their tea in iced form, I found this stuff distinctly unpalatable and it may have had something to do with why I steered clear of tea until well into my adult years.

Which might go a long way toward explaining why more Americans don’t bother to drink tea at all. If the only tea you’ve ever tried isn’t much to write home about, is it surprising that you don’t choose to take one of the many roads that leads to tea? Probably not.

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