Last weekend I threw a Halloween party. Halloween is my favorite holiday of the year—it is the one holiday that you don’t have to stress out about. You do not have to buy presents for anyone, there is no large meal to prepare for. Instead, you get to dress up in costume and carve pumpkins, and everyone still manages to get together and smile. There is something truly magic about it.
This year, however, I was a little stressed. I wanted this party to be exceptional, and spent nearly two full days preparing for it. When the first guests arrived I had yet to buy the beverages, my costume was only half-completed and I was still fastening a large spider web to the corner of my living room. I couldn’t even talk to anyone—not until the last chore was done. Fortunately I had the help of some good friends, and before I knew it the celebration was in full swing. The Nightmare Before Christmas was projected onto the wall of my house while a live band jammed at one edge of the yard. Ghouls, goblins, unicorns, and Marie Antoinette could be seen dancing around in the firelight. Two kegs of delicious microbrew fueled the thirsty crowd. Everything was settled—everything was perfect. Nothing had been forgotten.
Except one thing.
At nearly midnight, my zombie friend tapped my furry, blue shoulder and asked me what there was that his friend the Joker could drink. “Well, I said, the keg of Trippel is on the left, Newcastle is on the right…” I had been rehearsing this line all night and it hadn’t failed me yet. “No, no, he doesn’t drink alcohol. Do you have something else?”
Oh man. I froze for a moment, my jaw slacked open, stumped. I hadn’t thought about soda, juice, or water bottles. I felt terrible.
“What about that tea that I saw in the refrigerator?” asked the zombie. Oh, tea. I spring into action. Thank god I worked in the tea business.
“Tea! Yes! I have tea! What kind would you like?” And I grabbed the Joker by the coat sleeve and drug him to my kitchen. I opened my cupboard and pointed to my tea shelf. “I have green tea, I’ve got Puer, a whole bunch of herbal teas. In the fridge there—that’s a hibiscus-sugar solution, for kombucha. It’s probably too sweet to drink. But if you’d like some kombucha, we brew that here. It’s hibiscus-ginger flavored.”
“I don’t know,” said the Joker, his face stunned under his thick white makeup. “What’s kombucha?” He didn’t know what he was getting himself into. I launched into a spirited diatribe about the health benefits of the fermented tea, its unique flavor, and its careful preparation. I pulled a chilled bottle from my fridge, opened it, and insisted that he try a sip. He looked hesitant. “Really,” I said, “if you don’t like it we’ll make you something else. Just try a sip and see what you think.”
I think the Joker left the happiest of all—and it’s not because of that wide red grin on his face.
There is a lesson here, and I hope that you’ve all caught it: try to think of all your guests when you’re throwing a party. There should be an option for everyone. Might I suggest tea? A large pitcher of iced tea is inexpensive and easy to prepare, and it’s much better when it’s not an afterthought.
And, for those of you who are like my friend the Joker and have not heard of kombucha before, tune in this Thursday to Steeping Around—this week’s show is all about this delicious, fermented tea treat.
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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.