Back in the day (my day anyway), tea was something you drank when you were sick or at your grandmother’s or maybe because you were going to “tea”, which really meant small delicate cups of amber liquid, trays of finger sandwiches and pastries and being admonished not to spill or drop crumbs on the carpeted floor. Lipton and Salada Black &Orange Pekoe boxes shared the shelf in our pantry, sometimes one or the other depending on which was on sale, or whether it was summer or winter. Salada was milder and Lipton made the best iced tea. My family thought so anyway. Bags only, no instant. If you couldn’t take the time to watch a bag brew in the cup, too bad.
I’m not sure when things all changed, or perhaps there had always been unexplored types of teas just waiting for someone to start marketing them. I don’t remember when green tea became “better for your health” or when white tea suddenly had “the most anti-oxidants”. I just remember that there was an avalanche of choices, each one more exotic than the last. Rooibois from Africa, Sencha from Japan, blends of herbs with cinnamon, cardamom, mint, yerba mate, all for the trying. Blends of black tea with fruit, white tea with flowers, caff, decaf, hot, cold, each with instructions to steep at varying temperatures for varying minutes…too little time, too high a water temperature the brew is less than stellar. Who knew?
You could say my own education with this lovely leaf began with my daughter, although I did occasionally buy flavored teas from Celestial Seasonings or our local tea shop. She and her husband travel on business and for pleasure and she began bringing back teas from other cities, always intriguing and many delicious. They received a Breville tea brewer as a present and shortly after that gifted me with one for Christmas. She also gave me a small packet of Holy Healer Lapacho Chai, a brew from Steeped & Infused in Toronto. I discovered a new addiction and have since ordered from them several times…and not just the chai. I am a tea snob. Which brings me to Portland.
Among her many virtues, Portland is a tea lover’s paradise….I’m currently sitting in a Townshend’s teashop on Alberta Street, waiting for an iced Highland Chai. My daughter has opted for a black tea flavored with Pear and Pomegranate. Their selection (hot, iced, chai, bubble tea) emcompasses pages and pages of their menu, and they offer herbal tisanes and tonics as well. Loose leaf teas and kombucha bottles are yours for the buying. Who needs coffee when you can live in a world of tea?
PS. Portland makes damned fine coffee as well…fine enough for me to drink it here…and take it home. I’ll extol the bean another time, :o)