Air travel and tea

July 28, 2009

I made sure to bring some tea bags filled with Shui Xian along during my travels so that on the early morning flights I could at least have a decent cup, well as decent as you can expect from slightly hot water and a styrofoam cup. I had thought about bringing a green since I knew the water wouldn’t be very hot but I thought that since the taste buds change during flights it might be too subtle to enjoy. So I was totally surprised when even the Shui Xian seemed almost flavorless and very cardboard-like. I then even steeped it to a mid-high strength and it changed virtually nothing. I was completely surprised that flavor would be that heavily affected. I brewed up one of the spares once I got home just to make sure it wasn’t the unbleached teabag I had used or that the tea had gone stale, and with just hot water from a water cooler and a disposable cardboard cup at work it tasted perfectly normal. In the air, my mind knew what I should be tasting but it just was not there to the senses. It was like being taste-blind. A truly strange experience. Now I wonder what that airline food actually tastes like on the ground… I’m still guessing it doesn’t improve as much as the Shui Xian. :)

Tea and Mexico

July 27, 2009

I just returned from my most recent vacation to Isla Mujeres, Mexico. It’s a small island about 30 minutes by boat out from the Cancun area. Tea was actually not a big part of this journey since the weather was about the same as climbing into your oven on the plate warming setting. Caipirinhas were more my speed. Unexpectedly though I found two great tea-related drinks while I was there: Crystal Te and Nestea Limon.

Crystal was the prevalent bottled water on the island and was very good, along the lines of Aquafina in taste. They made a mineral water which was also very good and many of the small shops carried Crystal Te and Crystal Te Limon (lime).  It might have been the delirious heat and zero breeze but it tasted great! Not overly sweet and all natural. A great black tea base with just enough lime in a perfect balance, if only American iced teas could get this right.

Nestea Limon (lime) was the local favorite and came in black and green tea versions. I stuck to the pre-bottled versions but they also sell a can of the powdered mix. The flavor was much different than the similar non-lime flavored American counterpart, again less sweet and with a nice balance of flavor. The green tea version was good but not as good as the regular black tea.

The best find of all, though, had nothing to do with tea but was called “New Mix”. El Jimador Tequila and Squirt pre-mixed in a can! No insipid malt beverage mix like in the U.S. but the real deal tequila and the actual Squirt soda in perfect harmony. Without a doubt the highlight beverage find and I think a 6-pack cost about $4 if that.

Tea Snob Status

July 15, 2009

I thought it would never happen to me, but it has. I no longer can grin and bear a tepid cup of water with a Lipton or cut-rate tea bag plunked in. I politely decline, but my hosts know it is because I don’t deem their offering worthy. This troubles me because I’m normally one to make the sacrifice to not hurt others feelings, but I have just reached a point where I want a good cup of tea or none at all. If offered some new brand or variant I will generally give it a shot to say I have tried it, even if I know it is going to be bad, so I’m not totally taken by the dark side… yet.

It’s really a tough spot to be in at times and I’ve not yet figured out a way to handle it better. How do you handle this situation?

Finally emerging from my tea rut

July 7, 2009

It happens generally once a year for me, I get into a set of 3-4 teas and I drink them almost exclusively. On one hand it is a good thing because it allows me to fully explore each one and get to know it intimately, but on the other it doesn’t make for very exciting posts or occurrences. As much as I love teasphere my love for tea has to come first and if it means a dry spell or two it just has to be that way. My most recent (and one of my longest) ruts has included: Huo Shan Huang Ya (yellow tea), Bi Lo Chun (green tea), Shui Xian (oolong tea), and Song Zhong Dan Cong (oolong tea). There have been a couple others tossed in here and there like an occasional Ceylon or Tai Ping Hou Kui but they are very rare additions. Most of them have been teas with the exception of one BLC and one Shui Xian being from Hou De Asian Art.

I’m not sure if it is the warming weather or just burnout but I am finally starting to crave some new adventures. My plan is to explore one of my lesser traveled paths, black/red teas. I really want to learn and explore what is out there in this area and I think it will help round out my development. I’m open to suggestions or comments on your favorites from this cross-section of tea and I look forward to covering it all as it develops. Stay Tuned!