First, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. I’m sure some of you are all… “tea? This is a beard blog,” but you’re going to miss the point if you are thinking “beard” every time you read one of our blogs, so let’s get it out there--I’ll just say it--Mountaineer Brand is about WAY more than beards. Our blog is about us--our Mountaineer culture, which happens to be expansive, eclectic, authentic and, quite frankly, a wild ride.
I have been enjoying this wild ride and I have been enjoying the twists and turns on he journey and I have had the pleasure of meeting so many people that I would have never met otherwise. I decided early on that it’s best to go with it and see where it takes me. Some of the best things that have ever happened to me have come into my life serendipitously. Tea is the most recent best thing.
I’m not talking about sweet tea, bottled tea, English tea, or anything that I had ever experienced before. Get those things out of your head right now: breathe in--think of freeing your mind; breathe out--and erase all thoughts of McDonald’s, country songs, dainty cups with pinkie fingers lifted, and bottled 7-11 drinks. Even still, you may not understand where I’m going… but go anyway; it’s fun. I know I’m on to something great because my 13 year old daughter rolls her eyes and does the whole elongated, sing-songy “Moooooommmm” thing when I talk about it.
Here’s how this happy happenstance that soon became my tea obsession entered my life. This spring when my family hosted 2 exchange students from Beijing, China, both students brought tea as gifts--so I’m thinking it might be a big deal, or the universe is trying to tell me something, or at the very least there is tea to drink. So I ordered some tea paraphernalia (I was not prepared for the world of REAL tea--I hate to admit that I was a pre-bagged tea drinker) and took my first steep.
I was so very unprepared for the life-changing event that this first cup of tea turned out to be. I can’t say for sure what kind of tea I drank first because it was labeled in Chinese characters and the only English I could find that identified the contents said “Green Tea.” I can only say that I experienced what is an indescribable feeling I have since learned is known as Cha Qi. Cha Qi, it turns out, is not something everyone believes in -- kind of like the Santa Clause of feelings. Now, I love Christmas, Santa is fun, Holiday Cheer… blah, blah, blah… but this is BETTER than Christmas. Humbug, you say? Try it before you dismiss it.
Since I’m very new to this experience, you’re going to get the pre-beginner’s guide to intro to tea 101 for dummies. I know very little other than my own experience, and I have yet to experience much in this new-to-me-ancient-to-the-world microcosm. However, everything I have experienced so far has been a thrill. And I know that “thrill” and “tea” don’t seem to go hand-in-hand, and I would never have believed it either but they really do. This is the part where I’m getting all impassioned and my 13 year old, with her impeccable sitcom-like-timing enters the room with her eyes cocked in pre-roll position ready to fire away with whatever she thinks will put me in my place the fastest.
I will save my passion for another blog (yes, there will be more). I have included what I think are a few good links at the bottom of the blog if you want to check things out on your own and I will give you the few basic things I have learned--some things to get you started.
Always smell your tea before you brew it. I mean really go in deep. If you can feel the smell, this is a tea that you want to drink. You aren’t going to know what I mean by feel the smell until you experience it, so stop judging and start smelling. Remember--deep. One word of caution. Don’t smell the teas that have a bunch of floaty things hovering over the tea when you open it- those tend to be the blends with things like mint and jasmine. They taste great, but not so much for inhaling.
If one cup of tea is good, two cups is better. Think of the first cup as a primer and the second cup (and beyond) as the real deal. The best part is you can use the same tea leaves, but get this, your second cup won’t be the same as your first; somehow it’s even BETTER. I don’t think it’s something that can be explained--it’s just the magic of tea. Just kidding, it has something to do with the tea leaves opening or something, but having that second cup is really an almost must.
Tea tastes better with friends. I had to share this incredible new thing I had found with anyone I knew would approach it with an open mind. I now have several fellow tea nerds in both my professional and personal lives; we can go on for hours about tea mountains and Puer. Maybe not hours. But we can go on for several minutes at least while we bliss out on a good tea. Don’t tell them I said so, but I’m thinking of turning my staff meetings into tea parties.
I’m still learning but I have miles to go before I sleep. I want to cram as much knowledge in my head as fast as I can. I will, however, for the wellbeing of those around me take it easy and enjoy the journey. I hope some of you will give it a try.
WebMD gives a few health benefits of Green Tea here
This site provides a lot of useful info. Start here for a history of Green Tea in China.
Finally, I read a good fiction book that is not about tea exactly, but is a good read and brings you right into the Tea Mountains of China. Lisa See, "The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane." Amazon.com is my go-to for books. Check it out here.