Tea is classified typically into white, green and black teas. The same, with a few variations, applies to e-stores like Blend Of Tea that home deliver premium tea. More than 90% of the world’s tea production is used to make black tea. At home, we drink black tea on an everyday basis, several cups of it every day. Even though we receive and stock the finest green teas, they are usually relegated to the occasional use shelves. What makes black tea such a hot favorite, pipping its allegedly more salubrious cousin, green tea to become the most widely consumed type of tea?
The secret lies in what tea does to you – stimulating and relaxing you as you need at that point in time. Black tea is significantly more stimulating than green tea, and several times more stimulating than white tea.It compels your mind to recognize its forays into the tea gardens, the misty mountain mornings, the sunny hillsides, and come back to the brew at hand and the ugly city soundscapes. The repeated straying and returning is a kind of mental push-up, strengthening that faculty of ours which defines, interprets and judges everything. This is one of the fundamental practices of mindfulness.
Like most things in life, the beauty of this unique aspect of tea (black and green teas) lies rooted in pain; death pangs, to be more specific. From the leaf on the tea plant to the dry leaf in your kitchen, tea undergoes extensive processing. The leaves are crushed, cut, bruised, and rolled. Sometimes they are pressed to allow all the oils to blend uniformly. Sometimes they are left for some time in the dark to ferment and oxidize. Sometimes it is dried very, very rapidly. This unnatural process of dying causes the cells in the tea leaves to behave in a peculiar way. The more you crush, bruise, roll, throw up in the air, the more they release the chemicals that make tea what it is. And as tea goes from white to green to black, it begins to behave more and more like coffee, a drink that is several, several times more stimulating than tea.
Like the "dark ages," our perception of death pangs is a judgment. Mindful living helps us see how the trauma of an unanticipated disaster or end of life causes the organism to go into preservation mode, somewhat like an artist, a scholar or a writer, who will risk anything to save his life's work. As tea is plucked and processed, it does the same, and if you look at it - just look - you will see the anticipation of an "afterlife," of a rebirth or renewal, of an opportunity to share its life with another. But we stray.
Coffee picks you up as soon as you drink it, and the more you drink it, the more your body goes into the hyperprepared, hyperefficient mode that we all associate with caffeine and sugar. The first differentiator between tea drinkers and coffee drinkers lies in the amount of caffeine and sugar consumed per cup of beverage. The second is the fact that you do not need to keep drinking tea (unless that is the only choice you have left to get water into your system!!). The tea “high” is a more gradual one, like a therapist speaking to a client, reaching out and feeling for what needs to happen most urgently and importantly right now. Tea also “picks you up” but in a slow, gentle manner and lets you off the ride almost without your knowing it. These, dare we say “off label” black tea benefits are often lost to the clamor of marketing and hype and the overall need for speed.
The Darjeeling region yields several of the best black teas each season with delicate taste, aroma and variants of the muscatel flavor, a mild, fruity, grape like complexity that sometimes baffles even the most experienced of palates. Sadly, fine tea is time and skill intensive, making it prohibitively costly for many. The reason why almost all the black tea varieties we recommend are from Darjeeling is because it is the only place where the British were able to "go sinensis, go," and that too with a geographical aplomb that made the champagne of tea the champagne of tea. We have been drinking and studying (sounds like fun, doesn’t it?) for decades, and we are yet to find something that comes close to the beauty of Chinese cultivars grown in North Bengal, gifted in a manner of speaking by the trading ingenuity of the British.
Enough of that for now. Time to get the infuser out. I will be conducting a tea appreciation workshop on June 27, 2015, at Begumpet, Hyderabad. Do come if you are interested. As for this series, it might be a while before the casual student of writing finds something worth his while.
In the series so far:
An Arist's Date With Self Doubt
An Arist's Date With Laziness
An Arist's Date With Great Good
An Artist's Date With Writing
An Artist's Date With Tea
An Artist's Date With Reading
An Artist's Date with Good