Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Hot tea in the scorching sunlight?

Seems like most tea people are more fascinated with green tea than black. If they had to choose, I mean. Of course this is a gross generalization, but when I go through the blogs/sites I know, it seems like the beautiful photos are of Oolongs and greens. The logical among you might say, 'Yeah, but have you looked at black tea after it's been used?' You'd be right. It just looks like refuse. Nothing like these delicate sea creatures that float in their green tea soup.

But that's my contention. Even if you like drinking black teas, and I'm not willing to believe you do, then you at least seem to be more taken with the delicate, sometimes even grassy, tastes of non-oxidized tea. Or at the bare minimum you like partially oxidized teas.

Turns out this phenomenon is nothing new. I was reading about tea drinking habits of Americans in the early 20th Century, and most people drank green tea from China. Those who drank tea, that is. The story is that because tea from China had somehow cornered the market, a group of Indian tea importers set up a stand at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904. They decked out the people serving the tea in elaborate costumes and tried to make the black tea exotic.

To no avail. It was too damned hot in St. Louis in the summer (They really do get the worst of cold winters and hot summers, don't they?), so because no-one wanted the steaming hot brew, the guy in charge started serving it on ice. And only then the people drank it. Supposedly with pleasure. Thought that'd be a nice bit of trivia to drop on you for this sweet summer's evening (source: The Tea Lover's Treasury by James Norwood Pratt).

Although I'm not much for iced-tea myself, there you have it. But St. Louis in the burning noon-day sun. Someone offers you the chance to take the turn-of-the-century equivalent of the Nestea Plunge, and you're going to reject it?


  1. Life in Texas would be impossible without two things: air conditioning and iced tea.

    Iced Tea is the National Drink of Texas. Texans probably consume more tea in a month than they do beer in a year. If you ask simply for "tea" in Texas, it will always be iced. Visiting Brits always get a nice shock first time. If you want it the other way you have to ask for "hot tea". Even Jean-Luc Picard has to do that (will have to do that?)

    Chez nous, we brew a lot of tea in the morning and whatever we don't drink hot to blast us out of our morning stupor, gets poured over ice to go with lunch (no milk, mind).

    If you ever want iced tea in England (but why) you have to order a cup of tea and a glass of ice, then make it yourself. The wait staff will stare at you.

  2. It is said that hot tea will cool you down faster than iced tea.

    The tea lover's treasury is probably the best tea book on the market.
    That man is a genius.

  3. I don't like iced tea. Except for Thai iced tea. Mmmmmm, Thai iced tea ...

  4. Chacun son truc.

    I tried hot tea to cool off when I lived in the UK. It nearly works in what passes for summer in Britain. It's absurd in Texas though. Who'd want a nice steaming cuppa in 40C?

    Most of the Brits I know here in Texas started out violently opposed even to the concept of iced tea but then lost their religion along about August 15...

    PS. Native Texans never drink iced tea from a can (blasphemy!) or instant tea. Brewed extra strong, then poured over ice.

  5. I have noticed this phenomenon...I find it interesting that although most tea consumed in the world is black tea, tea bloggers seem to focus more on greens, whites, oolongs, and pu-erh.

    I think green and oolong teas tend to be more photogenic, but in terms of taste, I like variety. There are many times when I crave black tea, and other times when I crave green tea or oolong.

    The black teas I crave most are Darjeelings and other teas from the Himalayan region. I especially like teas of this sort that have a sharp bitterness to them...odd, because the tea bloggers seem to focus on the more delicate sort of teas.