“Ponder ponder full of wonder” — my version of that chant over the boiling pot witches are often seen to be stirring in cheesy Hollywood movies. I’m chanting over the tea kettle while it sits on the stove burner and seems to be refusing to come to a boil. I’ve stood here many times, from the days when I thought a grocery-store-bought teabag was the epitome of tea to this moment when I was getting ready to prepare a tea from a particular tea garden harvested during a particular time of the year. How my knowledge has grown. Time to ponder that thing some call “the knowledge scale.”
We don’t always know that we don’t know. Sometimes I reread things I wrote about tea when delving into writing about and reviewing teas and literally cringe. Ouch! I’ve learned so much — mainly, how much there is to know about tea.
Some call this the spiral of knowledge, where you revisit things you did in the past armed with the knowledge you have acquired since you did them and now see how much you didn’t know then. I go more with the theory of a knowledge scale. You start out at zero and, as you learn, you slide toward a higher level of knowledge on the scale. There isn’t any top limit to the scale (unlike my bathroom scale which tops out at 250 pounds) since there is always something new to learn about any subject. This is certainly true of tea.
On the low end of the tea knowledge scale are the basics:
- tea is not coffee,
- tea is steeped in hot water,
- you can make it taste better by adding “stuff” to it,
- you can drink it hot or iced.
Further up the scale:
- tea is made from the tea bush (Camellia Sinensis),
- there are green teas and black teas,
- you pick one of those flavored teas as a personal fave (I used to like a particularly well-known tea with lots of cinnamon in it).
Up a few more notches on the scale, you find:
- there are also white teas and oolongs,
- teas are different depending on where they come from,
- not all bagged teas are created equal,
- neither are all flavored teas,
- that heavily flavored tea is just a way of masking poor quality,
- you find you really like a more subtle tea with its own wonderful flavors and aromas.
Up and up you go, learning and learning, until one day you find you just have to start pursuing tea as a career and so you take a course to become a certified tea sommelier or you intern at a tea company, and you start traveling to tea gardens in various countries. The sky is the limit, and with each new level comes more appreciation for the leaf and the wonderful beverage made from it.
That is the tea knowledge scale.
Of course, tea has been known to help with bathroom scales, too. But that is a story for another time.
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