Kid’s don’t know much about tea. Unless it’s iced, sugared and marketed as ‘brisk’. It takes maturity to appreciate the delicateness of tea. Its meditative qualities. The beauty in an unadulterated, grassy, vegetal matcha. The subtle apple sweetness of calming chamomile. The pungent spiciness of freshly brewed ginger tea that continues to warm your chest even after the temperature has diminished.
But my first experience with tea, real tea, was at a Chinese restaurant, where the waiter would unceremoniously deliver a large metal teapot, flip over the miniature, handleless, white porcelain mugs in front of us, pour the tea, then take our order. As a kid, if everyone else is having something, you want it, too. Even if it’s indelectable, like Gefilte fish. So I wanted the tea. And because it was there and available for quick self-refilling, I would drink a lot it.
It was different than the tea that we kept in our house, typically Lipton’s Black tea, with it’s overpoweringly astringent after-taste and mass-produced mediocrity. This, however, was mellow, smooth and slightly sweet without having to add any sugar packets (and, honestly, probably just as mass-produced, but let me continue with my rose-colored memories, thanks). We asked the waiter what type of tea it was. He said, ‘Oolong.’ Oooohhhhh. Back then, something as commonplace as oolong tea is now was exotic, and impossible to find outside of a specialty Chinese purveyor buried in a Chinatown basement. The seller might as well have been sharing space next to Santa’s workshop in a North Pole strip mall.
Now, oolong tea is as easy to procure as it is to walk/drive to your local supermarket and stroll to the tea aisle. And I cherish that evolution. Oolong is the Goldilocks of tea. Not too bitter (green), not too bland (white), not too harsh (black). It’s the tea sweet spot. Oolong. I love you.
p.s. Yes, I’ll make a ‘Me love you oolong time’ t-shirt and market it for sale and retire a billionaire.