So, I’m sitting here in a local coffee shop, and an interesting tea conversation came up with a random patron. I have interesting tea conversations all the time—interesting for the other party, anyway, as I find myself repeating the same sort of answers about what I do, what the tea company does, if I like tea, if I’ve heard of fill-in-the-blank tea blend, etcetera, with every new person that I meet. This was most definitely one of those introductory conversations, and it was an uninvited one at that—I had been busy at work, with headphones in, minding my own business. So in effort to quicken the interruption, everything came canned out of my mouth, I kept my answers short and to the point, and shot an occasional desperate look at my computer screen as if to tell this guy “I really should be doing something…” He didn’t get it. And so the conversation went on.
He brought up an interesting point, though. He explained to me that he was about to head up the street to a different coffee shop where he planned to order tea. “They have good tea here,” he said, looking up towards the bar, (I knew this to be true, of course, but I let him think that he was educating me) “but up the street they give it to you in a bag, and I like to add hot water to it and reuse the bag a few times. Here they do it in a press, and it tastes great, but that’s all you get. When your cup’s gone, it’s gone.”
What he was talking about was multiple infusions. I didn’t explain it to him—really, the guy was pressing my nerves and I was more than happy to let him go on his merry way without learning that you can, in fact, do the same with high quality loose leaf tea. He would only have had to ask for the tea in a pint glass with hot water poured over the top—if you’re using a large leaf tea (which they are, at this particular shop) the leaves will expand and sink to the bottom of the glass. Once you have sipped the liquid and the leaves are again exposed, add more hot water. Voila!—multiple infusions.
It is a rare occasion that I suppress my tea snobbery, and usually I would pat myself on the back for showing such restraint. But in doing so, I forgot to mention to the guy that the shop up the street also has really excellent tea. Of course they do—it is ours.
For you locals who are curious as to where you can find this great loose leaf tea: the shop up the street is Epic Café, proudly serving Maya Tea. The shop that I sit working at is Sky Bar, which serves our Maya Chai and a variety of loose leaf teas from Seven Cups. Check them out!
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The first time I tried chai was in the kitchen of my parent’s house, and served by my younger sister. “You have to taste this—” she insisted, pushing a mug across the countertop to me. She refused to elaborate on its contents. The flavors, she said, would speak for themselves.
The quality of water affects the taste of your tea; this is beyond dispute. The relative quantities of mineral salts, oxygen and trace elements determine the relative "liveliness" or "flatness" of a particular cup. To that simple substance we add the basic flavor of the leaf itself or an herbal substitute.