What is the best tea?

It doesn’t exist.

No, really. It doesn’t. There is no such thing as the “Best Quality” . There is only what you like, and what you don’t like. There is bitter tea and there is refreshing tea. There is strong tea and there is weak tea. There is sweet tea and creamy tea, and old, partially decomposed tea that tastes like mushrooms. None of them are the “best”.

I say this because I live in Nova Scotia. A place that has a robust Scottish heritage, a thoroughly Irish lineage, and a typically Canadian history. When it comes to tea, I never cease to be surprised.

Nova Scotians like their tea. There is a long history of the Halifax Harbour being a point of entry for the tea trade in Canada. One of the tea buildings still stands along the harbour, and Red Rose tea was once blended on this coast.

And I have had person after person inform me that the true way to make tea is to boil it down in a pot on the stove to make a thick, concentrated......concentrate, and then add hot water throughout the day to keep the supply of tea constant.

The first time I heard this, I was aghast. That is the surest way to make bitter, burnt tasting tea; no wonder people kept telling me they didn’t like it! But then the other side showed itself to me....friends who complain (no matter how many tea leaves I add) that their tea isn’t strong enough. Doesn’t have enough “kick”. Too watery.

The tenth time, I accepted defeat.

Then there’s the cream issue. People here add cream to their tea, all the time. This struck me as odd, until I tasted it. It is heavenly, especially with a robust chai or coarse black tea base.

And then someone asked for milk with their green tea. I goggled at them until I remembered that in China, way back in the beginnings of tea, they supposedly added things like onions. And in Tibet they still add aged yak butter.

I have since been informed that visitors from Tibet were offered very high quality pu’erh, which they rejected in favour of the very lowest grade available. They were accustomed to drinking it at home, and it was their favourite kind of tea.

You see my point? “Highest quality” is a myth. People like all grades of tea, taken all kinds of ways, for all kinds of reasons. There is no hierarchy of perfect tea...thank heaven. We can all enjoy our boiled syrup/creamed/milky/ green tea with onions if we so choose. I’m just waiting for someone to add a sprinkle of salt, and then call it perfect!

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