Tea and the Olympics: Gymnastics

Gymnastics is one of the most popular sports of the Summer Olympics. It is also one of the oldest, having been featured in the first modern Olympics in 1896, held in Athens. However in these games, and for many years after, only men competed; the first games in which women’s artistic gymnastics was featured was the 1928 Olympics, held in Amsterdam. Since then the women’s competition has become one of the most-watched events in the Summer Olympics. This year, the much-anticipated women’s individual all-round final will be held on the 2nd of August, beginning at 11:30am EST (4:30pm BST).

Peony White Needle (Photo source: The English Tea Store)
Peony White Needle (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

If you are a gymnastics devotee, this means you will want to put your kettle on the stove at approximately 11:20 so that by the time the coverage starts, you are able to sit down with well-brewed tea in hand. But which tea?

My tea pairing suggestion for this event is Peony White Needle tea. The individual all-round consists of four sections: the vault, the uneven bars, the balance beam, and the floor exercises. This structure allows for timely tea breaks, and so I have selected White Peony because it is a tea that re-steeps well. This tea is from the Chongqing Province in China, and is delicate enough that it comes with specific rules about when and how it can be picked. The Chinese origin of this tea is perhaps also notable in its pairing with gymnastics, since in the 2008 Beijing Olympics China won the most gold medals in gymnastics (11 out of 18), including for the women’s team all-round (the gold for the women’s individual all-round, however, went to an American gymnast).

2012 Olympics women's artistic gymnastics (Photo source: screen capture from site)
2012 Olympics women’s artistic gymnastics (Photo source: screen capture from site)

National affiliations aside, the re-stepping ability of White Peony is fitting for this event. The exact number of steeps you can get from a white tea depends partially on the specific tea, but more so on the individual preferences of the tea drinker. People who prefer a milder white tea will steep the leaves for a shorter amount of time and might find that they can get more steeps in total. For those who prefer longer steeps, you might only find that two or three infusions give you a brew you are satisfied with. You might also find that you need to increase the brewing time with each steep in order to get your desired strength.

So, with White Peony (or any other high quality white tea) there is no need to measure out more tea for a new cup, or pot, and risk missing the next routine; just heat some more water (not too hot, though—it is white tea!) and let your tea leaves release more of their goodness as the competitors continue to execute their impressive moves.

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