I love tea. And Coffee. But mostly tea. It’s so difficult to make a perfect cup of smooth, low acid, not bitter coffee that glides down without having to be doused in flavorings, syrups, cream etc. to be delicious. Although the hobby of pursuing coffee perfection is still alive and well in my life; tea is my constant, dependable, comfortable companion. A dear friend first introduced me to the tradition, art, and enjoyment of a fine cup of tea years ago while I was still in my teens. Her legacy of tea enjoyment has lived on in my life and is now something I enjoy on an almost-daily-basis with both TheMan and Doodles.
Tea pardons a multitude of brewing sins. Tea comes in such a vast array of flavors, packages, mixes, blends, there is truly something for everyone. I can’t help but feel a bit sorry for the poor souls who’s only experience with tea is limited to Lipton and perhaps the chance encounter once upon a time with their Great Aunt’s favorite Earl Gray.
Personally I love the adventure of flavors that comes with tea tasting/testing. Experimenting with loose vs. bagged. Pre-mixes vs. making my own. Pretty much the whole she-bang. I’ve bought teas by the lb. from such wonderful on-line businesses as http://www.morethanalive.com. I’ve tried every tea blend Traditional Medicinals makes, picked my favorites and keep them stocked in my cabinet. I am three brands away from having tried every single brand of pre-mixed Chai I’ve ever seen (barring the ones that say “artificial flavorings” cuz that just doesn’t count as real tea in my book).
With my ever increasing tea experience it was time for an excursion into the holy-land of Tea. That place you smell before you see. The one that gives out free samples of it’s wares right outside it’s door because nothing sells truly good tea better than the tea itself. What is this place you might ask? This place of wonderous free-samples-of-tea? The sign says Teavana. Set back at the very end of the store, past stone age relic-esque cast iron tea pots, and the more modern looking tea pots (all with price tags large enough to make your wallet shudder) is The Wall. The Wall is literally floor to ceiling shelves supporting large containers of…Yup, You guessed it. Tea. But not just any tea. Only the finest (so says the brochure). Supposedly composed of only the top 10% of teas from around the world those boxes house an olfactory journey that will take you into indescribable realms. High on the scent of vanilla with warm undertones of caramel, carried along on a happy day dream punctuated with peach, apricot and ginger the cleverly trained spell casters, er, store staff coax their unsuspecting victims, that is to say, customers into a dreamy haze in which the question of whether or not to purchase vanishes in light of the more pressing and urgent decisions of black vs. white, Oolong vs. Green, or Mate, Herbal or Roobois for the base of the heavenly blends they’ll create just for you. Right before your very eyes. Or, more importantly, noses. In this state, and in light of the (out-of-this-real world of inflation that we live in) marvelous prices I had more recently been paying for tea at the a fore mentioned website of http://www.morethanalive.com it is little wonder that my brain made the very reasonable assumption that the prices posted clear as day below the boxes were based upon pounds. Even at the assumed base of price per pound my frugal side winced a bit at some, cringed at others, shrugged and made peace on a handful of others before deciding upon which tea(s) to take home.
Having already decided to treat ourselves to some “Special tea” after entering the tea lair my friend and I put our not-so-clear by this point heads together and made our selections. Promising ourselves that we would just get a small bag of each to sample before coming back to get some in greater quantities. Positively giddy in anticipation we watched as they carefully measured out, weighed and mixed each of our custom tea’s. Clutching our little bags we waited in line to check out discussing which tea we would try first upon our arrival home. I don’t remember which one of us exactly first registered the total on the cash register. But I do clearly recall the mutual alarm in the looks we flashed each other. Our price assumptions were horribly, terribly wrong. Those were not price per POUNDS it was Prices per OUNCE. Oh yes, for certain types of the top ten percent of all tea in the world it is sold by the ounce for outrageous sums of money. Thankfully we had been trying to be semi frugal, even when assuming it was price per pound so the damage was not nearly as bad as it could have been. But still. For a few, very few ounces of tea the total loomed before us. It was fifty something-ish dollars before taxes. Horror dawned on us as we realized that this was not an item one could simply back out of purchasing at the last minute. A minor inconvenience for some staff person to re-stock. Oh no, nobody could re-stock these. These were our custom blends. That they had mixed for us only minutes before. Potential embarrassment and shame looming we forked over our money and walked out in stunned silence.
Back in the relative safety of the main walk-way of the mall with it’s varied vendors hawking hand creams from Israel and foreign language study programs my friend finally found her voice. “We tell no one. No one is ever to know what we just spent on TEA.” I swallowed hard and tried to mentally calculate how many months of skipping out on the occasional coffee treat I would have to go through in order to make up the blow to my budget that the mockingly light bags of tea had dealt. Numbly nodding I agreed to her command. Yes, it was best that we simply keep to ourselves the fact that we failed to notice the apparently also as obvious as the nose on your face “oz” markings and had been, in effect, conned into buying a three tiny bags of tea for a not so tiny bit of cash.
As time has passed however, and I stopped blushing every time I saw the little bags of tea hovering together like orphans in my freezer I decided it was time to pass along our story to others. There might be some other poor soul making her pilgrimage to that place. Lest she get swept away on the aromas they so carefully fan in your face as we did, it is only right that I throw myself under the bus of public humiliation and share our story. Technically since I didn’t give the exact total and my friend is still completely anonymous I haven’t breached her forcefully issued edict. I’m pretty sure she’ll still be fairly flustered and maybe even a little indignant when she reads this though.
In honor of finally making this story public I made a pot of the Peach, Apricot and Ginger black tea we bought. As the smell as rich as the flavor of the tea itself washed over me I felt all residual self inflicted recrimination melt away and the internal monologue began.
“Little wonder really… (inhale)…Maybe it was even worth it…(tiny sip)…(inhale)…It did only take me six months to repair the damage to my grocery budget…(inhale…happy sigh)…I bet even TheFriendWhoShallNotBeNamed might think it’s worth it now. It did result in a great story. An experience really. We can tell our Grandchildren we bought __ ounces of tea for $5____ Of course by then $5____ will be worth about fifty something pennies if inflation keeps up….I’ll just fix her a pot of this and serve it before I show her the blog post…(Sip sip)…Nobody can get too mad while inhaling this…and actually drinking it! Oh! the flavor…Yes, it was an experience alright, one of those experiences and memories that money just can’t buy…”
Even though my personal experience with Teavana left my wallet wondering what hit it I still highly recommend it for anbyody that does truly love tea. Save your pennies, or dollars even, go in knowing the difference between pounds and ounces and enjoy the experience. Their well trained staff can literally invent you a tea if you just describe to them what you love. It’s an indulgence every tea lover should experience at least once in their lives.
The rest of the time the frugality and quality of http://www.morethanalive.com’s teas are more than tea-bliss enough for me. My budget is a lot happier too.