Feb 152012

I’m not a tea drinker. Perhaps I’ve never had a really good cup of tea. Following David Lee Hoffman, a pioneer importer of fine tea (Silk Road Tea Company) around China to find the finest teas available in this fascinating documentary increased my interest in this ancient food/medicine.

All of these food movies serve to make one more aware of what we eat, where the food comes from, how it’s grown and processed. Tea, of course, goes back perhaps into pre-history. Mr. Hoffman found areas that had tea bushes (trees) seven hundred years old. I’m not much of a connoisseur of anything but can admire someone who can stick their nose in a bag of freshly harvested tea and tell us that it’s been treated with pesticides or chemical fertilizers.

The young English speaking Chinese bureaucrat assigned to Hoffman is visibly pained and frustrated by Hoffman’s insistence on buying tea from the source, visiting the farm, meeting the farmer and wandering through the tea bushes. Persistently, Hoffman wears down the bureaucracy finally gaining the opportunity to buy what he wants and and export it to the USA. In doing so he created a boutique tea market in China that is growing (as is tea consumption in our coffee drinking culture).

I had no idea how labor intensive tea is, that the best tea is bud only, second best, bud with one leaf, third best bud with two leaves.

As we become more aware of the details of our food production we become more discriminating in what we will put in our bodies.

Coffee is another case in point. Most of us grew up drinking Folger’s from a can. As Mike McKenzie points out in his excellent coffee tastings Folger’s is a robusta coffee. In the seventies, enterprising importers and food explorers (mostly in Seattle) began to import and roast arabica coffee beans. I still remember stumbling into the flagship store of Seattle’s Best Coffee (which proceeded Starbuck’s) in the Pike Place market and enjoying my first really good cup of coffee ever. There was no turning back.

I believe this is true of any food product. Once we discover the best we will want to keep having it. Highly processed supermarket food is no longer attractive, save for low price, after one has eaten tasty, locally grown fruits and vegetables.


  3 Responses to “All In This Tea”

  1. If only every one could taste a truly fresh anything from a garden. I haven’t been able to eat a store bought potato since growing my own. Weight wise that is a side benefit. I eat less potatoes because I seldom have enough to last until the next harvest and it just isn’t worth the calories to eat a store bought one.

  2. Tea “Now, it seems that old habits, but the taste of tea culture is a new concept has gone beyond the inherent material properties of tea, into a spiritual realm, and become a cultivation, a taste, a state, evenbecome a force of personality. “the 2011-2012’s most popular online sales chinese tea tea culture around the world continues to heat up.

  3. So happy to see you extolling the deep, wide, and fascinating world of tea! We’ve been tasting and learning about teas for a couple of years now, and like you said about really good coffee, once you’ve tasted the real thing there’s no going back! Google Whatcom Tea Enthusiasts to find out about a small group of tea explorers who meet monthly in the Lynden Library. It’s a great way to begin to start experiencing teas of all kinds. Like everything we turn our whole-hearted interest in, one subject, like tea, connects to everything else…so you read about tea, and find out about history, about geography, about cultures and rituals, about exploitation, about markets, about empires, about cups and pots, climate and soil, and on and on. This interconnectedness over time and space is a lot of what we love about wine, too.

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