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tea tasting at Cafe Cesura
tea tasting at Cafe Cesura

Becoming a Tea Geek

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You know that feeling when you do something fulfilling? That quiet (or not so quiet) rush you get by experiencing something that gives you a deeper appreciation for life?

I get that feeling from tea. Most people in the west look at me funny when I admit how much I love it, which is the equivalent of some of my fellow Seattle denizens’ passion for coffee.

All I knew about tea growing up was that chamomile was good to drink right before bed, mint tea soothes upset stomachs, and you buy tea at the grocery store on isle five.

Then I took a Japanese Tea Ceremony class. Two-thirds of our time was spent in a classroom on campus learning the history of tea in Japan, and the last third of the week was spent practicing and performing the ceremony.

I show up in this rustic, small Japanese hut with a bowl of “sewer water” placed in front of me. (My husband, obviously not a big fan, calls it this–it’s more about the appearance than the taste… I promise.) They want me to directly ingest this vividly green & murky water? The green tea leaves are mixed right in? I don’t even like the bags of green tea at home because they’re so bitter!

Oh boy, how wrong I was. So, so wrong. Matcha, that green water tea, when brewed right? Delicious. And we’re not talking about that matcha latte crap you get at Starbucks, either.

Since 2007 I’ve learned that tea is so much more than those little bits of herbs mass-packed into flat little bags found on isle five. The culture of tea is more than just sitting in a formal drawing room at 3:00 in the afternoon, sipping black tea out of a gold-trimmed and rose-painted porcelain cup while nibbling on a scone. (This seems to be the stereotype from a western point of view.)

My tea leaves are brewed loose. I drink from a double-walled glass tumbler so I can keep the tea warm and admire its colors. I prefer eastern tea found in Japan and China because green, oolong, and pu-er are among my favorites. And my favorite tea time is spent sitting on a pillow while looking out my back door to a pond behind my home.

Everyone has their own way of tea (or “chado”, in Japanese). I challenge you to go beyond the tea you find at the grocery store and start trying loose leaf at specialty shops.

There’s far more to tea than you’d ever expect. Drink lots of it: darjeeling, rooibos, genmaicha, earl grey, assam, ceylon. Notice the taste, how it feels on your tongue, the smell, the appearance of the leaves. Brew it at different temperatures and notice how the flavor changes. Find your favorite and learn about where it’s from, where it grows, other ways it’s prepared. Visit different tea shops and try it everywhere.

Here are some tea geek resources to get you started:

The Voice of Tea
Tea Geek on Google+
Tea Hacker
Tea Geek (dot org)
AmazonV Tea Taste Tracking

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Author: Stigerts

Lauren Hall-Stigerts is Marketing Gal by day and a... whole bunch of other stuff when she's not. She makes a habit out of playing the clarinet & saxophone, cosplay (that's making costumes and transforming herself into characters at events), reading, urban exploration, brewing the perfect cup of rare tea, and much more. She lives in the Seattle area with her husband.

5 Comments

  1. I particularly like the Tazo brand Jasmine pearls tea and their lovely vanilla rooiboos teas. Both so wonderful and yes, to be sipped and enjoyed. I also quite love Twinings brand of Earl Grey tea in the afternoon. A cup of that with some milk is a lovely enjoyable break in my afternoon. I’ll think of you the next time I’m enjoying some tea :)

  2. I’ve learned to love tea over the last year myself. I’ve moved to loose leaf and am just starting to experiment with making my own blends. We have a great tea vendor at a local farmer’s market that I love to buy loose tea from. They have a hibiscus honeybush blend that I’m addicted to right now. I also really like buying from Adagio.com because they have temperature and time instructions, and detailed reviews from novices and tea fanatics alike. Tea power! ;)

  3. Hello Lauren,

    I like your description of the Japanese tea ceremony. I am also a big fan of various teas. However, despite the fact that I have called Japan home for the last 14 years, I have not entered in to the world of tea ceremony.

    I just drink it.

    Another tea you may enjoy is the Chinese Oolong tea. It comes from the same leaves as Japanese green tea, but the brewing process is different. Therefore, the difference in color and taste.

    By the way, I noticed in your LinkedIn profile (that’s how I found this website) that you speak some Japanese. Have you been here to Japan?

    All the best,
    Mac Bull
    Japan

  4. Keep on spreading the word of green murky sewer water tea! Matcha is my favorite! Thanks for the shoutout, too. Cheers!

  5. Pingback: The Best Tea in Seattle

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