Early yesterday morning, I decided that my life would be take a turn for the intellectual and sophisticated with the introduction of tea into my daily routine. This decision by no means came naturally; tea is something that has always confused more than enlightened me. I've never sat back after draining a majestic cup of fresh herb-mountain-wildrose-sage blend and had that sense of calm or understanding or contentment that tea seems to provide for others. I usually slam the cup down and wait for something to hit. Wait, that's it? Other things i have no particular taste for, yet still drink on a given occassion solely for resulting effects: coffee, beer, gin, and tomato juice. Each possesses a consequenting high or low that I'm craving; at the very least I'm awarded with a small sense of satisfaction for forcing my tastebuds to weather a liquid storm.
The more I traveled, the more I became even more inquisitive about this beverage. Mainly because it was at my every turn. There was tea and there was me. Living with a family in Chile, I was served it typically twice a day. Most households even have a makeshift meal based around tea consumption, held in the late evenings. Tecito, as I believe it's called, is nothing more than a time for families to gather once more and drink their brew of choice. This is usually served alongside mountains of bread accompanied by avocados and a bucket of butter. Spending nearly two years in Asia, I've found myself more addicted to Anime and Korean boy bands than I am to a morning cup of fresh milk tea. And here I am, living in an arguable tea mecca, appreciating ever so little about the importance of a bag filled with leaves, soaked in scalding water.
Now don't get me wrong, tea is not something I wholeheartedly despise or have even held one man protests for. It's fine, really. The thing is, it's just so---bland. At least a black iced coffee hits my tongue hard and lets it know it's there. A can of tomato and carrot juice keeps me feeling healthy enough to accept the gag-inducing effect it often has upon me. I mean, at least these drinks show up. At times, I feel like I could get more from wringing out the soggy towel I've used to soak up a pipe leak in the basement than this supposed magical blend of vegetation has ever given me. (I've never remedied a pipe leak and have no idea what basement I'm talking about, but please don't take me for a liar.) I dont know, perhaps I'm turned off by the prim and properness of pinky up, antique china welding, cutesy sips that I envision an avid tea drinker to partake in. At this point in time, I don't even own nor have any means to acquiring a monacle. But I have begun to realize that the culture itself is not all tea and crumpets style, which I had previously decided it to be. For example, the intricate process of a tea ceremony I observed in Japan is spiritually above and beyond my all-you-can-drink club favorite Long Island iced teas. Poking into a streetside tea shop yesterday, I discovered the magnitude of this situation. The sheer diversity of tea flavoring I witnessed craftily persuaded me into a 90 Taiwan Dollar purchase of high mountain oolong tea. 18 bags and possible bliss in a box. Starting anew in small town Taiwan, two hours away from the grandeur of Taipei, I've accepted the possibility of beginning a fresh chapter in my life. And maybe, just maybe, tea will become a warm, friendly, and ever so slightly tasty partner in this new journey.
Afterthought: Last night, lacking a teapot, I boiled water in a massive pot and mixed the first cup. Painfully hot, it took a good twenty minutes to finish, but I reckoned that maybe slow sipping is part of the tea drinker's culture. I read a book while doing so and nibbled on a chinese cookie. I put on glasses for the occassion. I felt astute. Three hours later, I was sitting straight up in bed scrambling to find any blunt object I could utilize as a weapon. My possible tea-induced dreams had convinced me that dozens of dinosaur eggs were hatching in my drawers and carnivorous babies were on the prowl. Appendages were no longer safe. Teatime for Andy has now switched to a morning affair.