Tea lovers need not be told that tea is a wonderful thing, but we often find ourselves in the minority on this point when engaged in general conversation on the merits of hot drinks. Here, coffee tends to dominate. Not always, to be sure; I know plenty of tea lovers or coffee drinkers who also drink tea. However, the majority of these people tend to not branch out beyond the standard cup of black tea, English-style (or “normal tea” as it is usually called…which says it all, really).
However, it does seem that tea is experiencing increased visibility, awareness and acceptance in mainstream Western culture. Is tea drinking on an upswing? I have noticed that many more cafés now offer a range of teas, and although not usually loose leaf, they are often bagged brands that use quality whole leaf teas. But it seems that this inclusion is not limited to cafés. A recent article featured in The Independent discusses the rising number of trendy restaurants offering quality teas. The pairing of tea and food is nothing new, to be sure, but it seems that the idea that tea can complement food and bring out its flavours is catching on in high-profile restaurants, both in the UK and internationally (one example in the USA is Momofuku in New York City). Is tea the new wine?
What I think is important about these trends is that they do not just suggest an increase in tea drinking—after all, tea is one of the most popular beverages across the world (just not currently in the USA). Additionally, it suggests that there is increased interest in exploring what tea has to offer beyond a basic cuppa to start the day. I’m curious to see where these trends lead, and what affect they might have for those of us who drink a variety of teas on a regular basis. If it meant increased accessibility of high quality, loose leaf tea in standard supermarkets, I’d be all for that. But in the meantime, it’s nice to know that I can pop into a select number of cafés and ask if they have oolong tea. It is by no means guaranteed that they will have it, but at least it is becoming less likely that I will be looked at as if I just landed from another planet.
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