We have a new guy in the office. He is the fresh age of twenty-two; his eyes are bright and he walks with confidence. His back hasn’t yet bowed under years of disappointments and hard-learned lessons. Those of us who have been in the industry for awhile have been beaten and bruised by the trial and error of business, and we have been humbled. Occasionally we cast knowing glances in our new guy’s direction, silently telling ourselves “his day will come, oh—his day will come.”
There is a reason that I bring this up—we’ve all been that new guy. For those of you who don’t know or perhaps haven’t listened yet, we’ve been producing a weekly podcast called Steeping Around, and we now have over a year (more than fifty-two episodes!) of material. When we started out we had those bright, confident eyes of the new guy, and now—well, we’ve been broken in.
I have been drinking and researching tea for nearly ten years; my employer and the host of our show could easily triple that. We knew going into this podcast project that there was a handful of people out there that could have beaten us at tea-jeopardy any day of the week, but still we thought that our knowledge was vast enough to give the general public a good schooling. We were sure that we could teach tea on the air for at least a year or so before running out of stuff to talk about.
We were wrong. But oh, were we wrong in the right way!
First of all, we don’t know as much as we thought we knew. I mean, we knew a lot, a ton, and certainly more than the general public, but to be frank we had no idea how much there was to know. Again we are humbled. And with so much knowledge out there just waiting to be absorbed and then spit out again, we were desperately wrong in our estimation of show longevity: we could go on forever. Perhaps we will.
So, I have this to say of learning: it is continual. Everlasting. And thank god for that—who wants to be that hardened person who knows all, and has only to wait for everyone to catch up? We are learning more and more everyday, as is our eager new guy, and as can you. If you haven’t yet, check out Steeping Around—we’re passing all of our old and new knowledge on to you. Use it well.
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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.