The more you learn about tea, the more likely you are to develop a split personali-TEA! And, no, we’re not talking about a high-calorie dessert made with bananas, ice cream, strawberries, chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and maraschino cherries. But now that you mention it… uh, back to tea!
Tea has a pretty strong cultural element. In the UK, for example, black tea is as much a part of life as coffee is in the U.S., and the Brits most often drink that tea with some milk and sugar (or other sweetener) added. In southern parts of the U.S.folks chug chilled or iced tea with tons of sugar added (known as “sweet tea” or “sweet ice tea”). I grew up drinking iced tea with lots of sugar in it (when we weren’t chugging Kool-Aid, sodas, and lemonade, that is).
As a young adult, I learned a different approach to tea. At the university, the many exchange students from Britain, India, and other countries where tea drinking is taken more seriously introduced me to taking tea “English style” (black tea served hot with milk and sugar added to mellow it) and to that most wonderful concoction called “masala chai” (just “chai” here in the U.S.). That tea habit is still with me. However, a new direction in tea enjoyment is beginning to come into play here: a more Asian approach.
I blame this on the green teas, white teas, pu-erhs, and oolongs I have had the pleasure of trying lately. Plus, learning about such things as bubble tea and Yixing teapots brings that extra dimension to one’s tea thinking. They are all pulling me away from that “English style” approach to tea — for a cupful or even a potful — and causing that split personali-TEA!
No, I’m not turning into Sybil and likely to start speaking in another voice and using another name. Nor will my head start spinning around and pea soup start spewing forth as it did in The Exorcist. However, as in The Three Faces of Eve, I must someone resolve the differences in tea preparation and approach into one total teaness or find myself in a constant internal struggle.
That struggle consists of whether to take a Western or Eastern approach at tea time. I am finding that the tea being served solves the issue. Tea time with Assam, Ceylon black, or Kenyan to me calls for that “English style,” both in how the tea is prepared and served but also in the treats served with that tea. Things like scones, buttered toast, iced cakes, and fruit tarts come to mind most naturally. But, when I get a craving for dragon well, genmaicha, Formosa oolong, or just about any other non-black tea, my brain does a 180. I start thinking multi-steep, small pot or even steeping just a cupful at a time. And of course the menu accompanying the tea also changes. Eggrolls, steamed pork dumplings, maybe even some sushi or Thai red curry seem most appropriate here.
Truly a delicious dilemma. I will continue to work on sorting this all out. Time to steep some tea and have some goodies with it. Yum!
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