“In daily life, tea is less pretentious. Tea is practical, pragmatic, and frugal.” And opening a shipment of tea is fun if you order more than one kind at a time. And I did. And I’m glad. And it is a good thing I did because I almost had to – gasp – use a tea bag. And a reminder about frugality.
Seriously. I let my tea supply run so low because I thought I’d drive over to Sequim where I could visit my friends and their tea shop (Dandelion Botanical). OK. It’s an herbal apothecary, but they have tea! But, life got in the way so I had to order online. Alas.
Alas, but when the package arrived I got to unwrap a dozen presents that will I will get to play with and enjoy daily for months. (Mostly, but I’ll get to that.) Christmas presents rarely are that appreciated for that long.
This was not like shopping on Amazon. The box fit. It wasn’t packed so tightly that it would burst, and it wasn’t like a tea bag bumping around in a milk carton.
Pardon me for losing count, but I’d ordered so many different teas, herbs, and spices that I can’t remember all of them. You see, they do more than sell tea. Remember that ‘herbal apothecary” label? I ordered three teas that were just that, teas, two black teas and a pu-erh. Two massive pouches of mint, massive because mint is light enough to be a mini-pillow, and mint because it can be used in tea, more correctly an infusion, and other concoctions. Some minty vodka may be in my future. Two more spices for herbal tea, though I guess it should be spiced something. One of them sounds like the name of a Bond Girl (throwback alert), Honeybush. And then there were things for cooking: ginger, white peppercorns, cumin, and tarragon.
I said mostly because, being human, I ordered the wrong ginger (easily fixed with a grinder), and got distracted enough to forget to re-order turmeric. Aargh! I might just have to put in another order.
Next came the part that is unlike Christmas, the repackaging.
Everything arrived in zipped baggies, which is fine for transport, and is actually fine for storage in my case because I am not that picky; but glass jars are better for storage and for reaching in when I want to use some herb. But really, I do it because glass jars aren’t floppy. An herb drawer of baggies isn’t very organized, and looks like something hiding drugs. By the time I was done I was almost out of jars. Time for more canning jars, and I don’t do any canning.
Then comes the experiments that start now and take months. The blending begins. Some will methodically sift and sort and mix and combine. I dump a bunch of this, an equal amount of that, a little less of these two, and maybe some of another. Make a pot of tea. Drink it up. Adjust. None of this sipping to savor and fine tune the flavor. Drink a pot throughout the day. Maybe it is better in the morning, or after it has mellowed through the day. Drink. Adjust. It is hard to go very wrong, and if it does taste bad the total cost is less than a dollar.
Appreciating wine requires refinement and drinking responsibly – and money. The same is true of beer. Doing the same with liquor is self-limiting. Are there taste testings of chocolates and doughnuts? Cigars get the squinty eye treatment. There are probably experts on things like popcorn. Fine.
For those who missed it, almost every year I watch dozens of Super Bowl ads to see what companies are trying to get people to buy. Cars deliver exhilaration, but in reality drivers must stay within the legal limits. Perfume and cologne ads entice with fantasies that involve unrealistic dress codes, bodies, and attitudes. Junk food ads are for cheap food, but not when you consider how much exercise time is required to work off that sugar..
Real teas like Assam and Keemun aren’t brands. They’re regions, places, dead leaves treated well enough to store flavors that only require hot water to unpack in a cup or mug.
Does that sound like hype? Yes, but no. Tea is dead leaves in hot water. After a few minutes it becomes a drink that doesn’t come in a wrapper with a cute saying attached. I suspect the majority of tea is consumed without the flavor being noticed. It is a cup of tea sitting beside someone who is working or having a meal. Work and the meal is more important.
But consider how many other things we’re sold that are expensive and readily forgotten. How many trips to the store are for retail therapy, which makes spending money the goal regardless of what is bought?
Frugality can be the simple yet difficult act of appreciating something for what it is, appreciating resources for what they can really deliver. I’m sure most people don’t have my reaction to a shipment of dead plants parts. That’s fine. But for the next few months I get to enjoy something a little different that doesn’t cost much, that is a unique experience.
I gotta get me some more turmeric, though. Oh, maybe I can order up the powdered ginger, and take another look at my spice collection. And then there are the flavored teas, but that will be a different story about a different friend who also sells teas. So much to look forward to. Lets see, that web site is https://dandelionbotanical.com/. Surprisingly, I don’t have it bookmarked.
My book about tea is coming along. Stay tuned. I hope to finish it this year. Follow #TomTea on Twitter for random tea-related comments.