The best thing about a truly great tea is drinking it. That should almost go without saying, even though I just did. One of the worst things about a truly great tea is that it doesn’t last forever.
Since most of the tea I drink nowadays consists of samples provided by tea merchants I’ve pretty much gotten out of the habit of buying tea, especially by mail order, which is where one typically must go for the good stuff. So rather than rustle up another batch of a tea I really like I tend to take the lazy man’s way out and let it slide. I’ve also begun to practice the fine art of stretching my tea. Which is hardly an arcane or top-secret process, and I’m betting it’s one that some other tea drinkers engage in.
It’s a process that works on three different levels. First off, it makes a great tea – one that you don’t ever want to run out of – last longer. My practice in this case is to mix three parts to one or even two parts to two of a tea I really like with a tea that’s not great but not all that bad either.
Which leads to the next segment of the tea stretching equation. In my sampling adventures I often run across a tea that doesn’t quite make it into the great category but it could hardly be called a loser. I’ve run across a number of these lately and, while I don’t particularly care to drink them on their own, they’re good enough to be mixed in with better varieties to make a blend that’s quite worthwhile.
Last of all are those teas that might actually be rather good but are just not to my liking. I make no secret to my aversion to smoky tasting teas, but Keemun (a Chinese black tea) is generally one of these varieties in which the smokiness is toned down enough that I find it palatable – although not always. Not so long ago I came across a Keemun that was quite nice but just a bit too smoky for my tastes. Blending it with three parts of a black tea that has no such qualities toned it down to the point where it was just about right.
And we all lived happily ever after here in the land of the tea stretchers.
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