I spent my last semester* of college studying abroad in London. The first assignment the students in my (all-American) class were given was to write an essay on our initial impressions of the city. I distinctly remember having a conversation with the professor over this line I wrote:
Knowing that the formula for Coca-Cola varies by country, I expected the Coke to taste different, but I expected the difference to be subtle. This Coke connoisseur is very upset.
The professor liked the term “Coke connoisseur” and was curious what qualified me as such. I was of course just using some of my trademark wit to describe the fact that I liked Coca-Cola a lot. I still love the term and I still hate the swill that is British Coke.**
Sometime after college I became a tea drinker. (Yes, I realize the irony and really regret that I never had tea (or curry) while in London. I was young and stupid. Guess I’ll just have to go back.) I believe the progression from Coke connoisseur to tea maven began early. I grew up drinking powdered Nestea Iced Tea. This sugary substance probably bears as much resemblance to actual tea as does Coke, but I do feel the word “tea” on the package led me to try my first cup of real, hot tea.
However I am not here to talk about hot tea. Hot tea is okay on a cold morning, but I don’t find much about any hot beverage very thirst quenching. I have however spent lots of money developing a taste for iced tea. I can’t tell you how many different kinds of tea in various forms I have tried over the years, so I won’t. What I have arrived at through much trial and error is a love of Orange Pekoe cut teas (your typical iced tea blend), Jasmine greens and Oolongs. I have also developed an utter distaste for fruit flavored teas, which is another quasi-irony since it was Starbucks iced passion tea that set me on my journey in the first place.
I have also learned a lot about how to brew tea. For instance, I now know green teas are very delicate so you don’t want to use boiling hot water. Rather, wait a few minutes off the boil to start your brew. Otherwise you’ll end up with bitter tea. Also, have you ever seen the instructions on the back of a box of tea that say for iced tea, brew double strength? In this tea drinker’s opinion, that’s complete and total BS. You know what you get if you brew double strength tea? Bitter, overwhelming tea, that’s what.
While I’m on the subject of bitter tea, I have a bone to pick with baristas. Yes, I realize your specialty is coffee, but could you make a little effort to please the tea drinkers too? Whenever I order tea in a coffee shop, I am handed the tea with the teabag still inside, lid closed tight. Clearly I’m just supposed to leave it there. Ahem. What was that I was saying about bitter tea? Most boxes of tea say brew 3-5 minutes and this is too long. I’ll brew black tea at the most two and a half minutes, but green teas only need a minute or two. Also, why is it when I ask for iced tea in any shop that is not Starbucks, people look at me like I’m from Mars?
So the local coffee shop is not a part of my morning routine. Of course, the journey of learning how to brew the perfect pitcher of iced tea myself has been part of the fun. The combinations are endless and I am currently crushing hard on an Oolong/Jasmine blend I created (patent pending.) I drink so much iced tea that I bought a Mr. Coffee Iced Tea maker which I adore. It’s my favorite kitchen appliance, though I’m considering putting this deluxe model on my Christmas list.
So I know I’m in a minority here, at least compared to coffee drinkers, but I know I am not alone. My two-year-old daughter absolutely loves iced tea and drinks it every day. It is the only thing besides water she will drink. What’s your favorite beverage and how did you come upon it? If you’re a tea drinker, what’s your favorite kind and how do you brew it?
*My school was actually on the quarter system but I find that never looks right on the page.
** Clearly, this Coke connoisseur should have gone to Mexico.