Friday, November 05, 2004

Tea Conversion part I

My friend Erik has been bugging me lately for guidance. He is a coffee drinker and has decided it’s time to make the Switch to Tea. I used to drink a lot of coffee and at one point considered it a lifeline, so I know where he's coming from. I always liked the really strong, west coast style brews that make your eyeballs sweat but which also (for me) result in unpredictable performances in the fields of: digestion, nervous system disorders, VCR repair, and emotional stability. I once tried a whole year of decaf which produced even more interesting results, though I suspect sinister forces were also in play. Anyway, one morning at work about five years ago, just on a whim, I made a cup of tea. Pause for emphasis. I think I had what religious folks call a moment of clarity. However, the great thing about a conversion to tea, as opposed to other conversions, is that you don't have to give up any of the things you love like Satan, dancing or coveting. It's just a beverage. Tea drinkers can smoke cigarettes, go hunting, vote for any political party, even operate motor vehicles. In fact, I understand some newer models now come equipped with special cup holders.

But enough about me. My advice for Erik is as follows: go long. Head for the hard stuff. Take a walk down the street to Teaism in Washington, DC, and pick up a bag of their Yunnan Gold Tips Rare. Yunnan tea is great for coffee drinkers because it brews up dark & strong, has a full body, requires no milk (!), and is very forgiving if you use too much or let it brew too long. It's 100% straight-up, ass-kickin' tea. Any tea house worth its salt is going to have some Yunnan on the bill of fare and I've never met one I didn't like. I never see it in stores anymore but I thoroughly enjoyed the Yunnan from the Grace Rare Tea Company I tried a few years ago. Likewise, you just can't go wrong with Peet's Yunnan Fancy.

Don't forget you'll need some sort of tea-making apparatus. Tea balls are easy, and so are those little mesh strainers that you balance on the cup. They also make little U-roll-it tea bags which are kind of fun. It really doesn't matter what you buy - just start drinking tea. As your obsession develops you will have plenty of time to buy all sorts of gear.