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.