Saturday, October 6, 2007

A Tea For All Seasons

I am acutely aware of seasons. The temperature drop, the colors, the atmosphere, even people's gait all register a an alarm that the season is changing. It is a signal to approach my day in slightly different ways, often out of necessity. Obviously I need to dress warmly for winter, and should lug around suntan lotion with me on sunny, summer outings. It's the exiguous details, however, that are most significant. In the Spring I read and go through intense bouts of entrepeneuralism. In the Summer I'm caught in heat driven lassitude. In the Fall I become quiet and reserved. In Winter I'm sociable, outgoing and unusually generous. But there are even smaller, more minute details which shift and flow when the seasons do. They are quirks of a mutable lifestyle, petty and inconsistent compared to the philisophical shifts catalyzed by a change in foliage, but these are the changes that amount to the more significant dynamic, season driven perspective. For example, when the seasons change I ask myself -

What should I drink today?

Since tea is, to me, a relatively new love (we're still honeymooning) the typical answer has swerved between more common and, dare I say, pedestrian beverages. As a kid it was between soda and juice. As a teenager it was between soda and lemonade. As a college student it was between water and craft beer. Now there's a new contender: tea. And what's worse is that tea itself is not a singular, identifiable, definable beverage. "Tea" in the epistomological sense would better serve the intangible meaning of "Tea" as a social phenomenon. The thousands and thousands of varieties of Yellow, Red, Green, Blue, Black and White (or Black, Oolong, Green and White) are so wide and so deverse that "Tea" is merely a concept. It stands for a drink whose history and diversity extend well beyond the capabilties of the word "Tea" to entrap it. Even in the modest consumer sense, tea can stand for Iced Tea, Bottled Tea, Bagged Tea, Instant Tea, Tea Time, Tea Etiquette, the Tea Trade or any other easily recognizable association with tea, to say nothing of how a connoisseur of tea percieves the word "Tea". So when I set down with an insatiable thirst and decide that a cup of tea sounds quite nice, I've really done a most horrible thing.

I originally stood between three choices - water, beer and tea. Suddenly, after non-chalantly choosing tea, I'm caught between many, many more choices, depending on the teas currently available in my stash. The problem of selection has been compounded, leaving me to choose between many fine shades of a drink that slakes different kinds of thirsts in different seasons. Really, I should have just chosen water.

These days, instead of choosing tea and being overwhelmed by a tyranny of choice, I include all my teas in that one, single, critical decision making moment. What's more, I've recently made this choice for a variety of tea with greater frequency and conviction than before. It is by and large my primary drink. And I believe this new trend to be a seasonal flux. Autumn approaches, and so does tea.

Pegging certain seasons to tea and vice-versa at first appears iconoclastic. The proper preparation of tea and respect for the drink can be dictated by strict and well meaning rules, but to fetter the enjoyment of tea with rules about the time and place of its consumption seems unctuously authoritarian. But I've had a feral quaking for tea since about three weeks ago when the very first glimmers of fall began to settle in. Call it instinct, but the marrow of my bones have cried for a delicious, deep and complex hot beverage. This had never before appeared in the Summer, and only tepidly emerged in the Spring. Now, in the throes of a vibrantly golden fall, I must drink tea.

And so I drink it. But I wonder, is there really a season for tea drinking, or is it merely an apocryphal, subconscious clarion call for a hot brew? Once again I come against the problem of tea's explosive variety. There are cold teas and hot teas, and teas meant to be had in the cold and teas meant to be had in the heat. Do my tea preferences simply lie with teas most appropriate for colder climes? Is my limited breadth and scope of tea prejudiced against hot teas for hot days? Or can there be an explicit time of year during which the angle of the earth relative to the sun provides the celestial make up for good tea drinking?

Suddenly the question of tea drinking has turned into a bloated conundrum of astrology and psychoanalysis. But my suspicion is that there is an Occam's Razor for this question: whether or not tea drinking is or can be seasonal I will need to explore this question further.


Mary R said...
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Mary R said...


Your prose puts my pitiful attempts to shame. :) Here's to a long and fruitful blogging career! With a style like yours, I'm sure you'll be successful.