I've got a confession to make – I love coffee. I'm a coffee drinker. I love the taste of it and I love the rush it gives you in the morning. But I also love tea. And how I came to discover real tea was pretty much entirely by accident.
First trip to China
My very first trip to China was in Dec 2008. I had recently graduated from university the year before and had been working my first job in the design industry for a little over a year now. The deadlines were tight and the nights were long. So naturally, I had developed a love for coffee. I was probably drinking on average two cups a day.
So imagine my shock when on my first trip to China, I couldn't find a decent coffee – anywhere. And why should I? China isn't traditionally a coffee drinking country. So I was kind of forced into substituting my morning routine drink with something else – tea. Tea is everywhere in China. From the lowliest, back alley restaurants to the highest class of fine dining; from working class families to the upper classes, you'll find tea. So I certainly didn't have any trouble at all in accessing tea. So I drank it. A lot of it. But it wasn't until I bought some tea to bring back with us to Australia that I really fell in love with tea.
I've told this story before about our first encounter with real Chinese tea. It was a true revelation. This isn't the tasteless teabags you get from supermarkets, nor is it the heavily perfumed, artificially flavoured "teas" that smell nice but taste like water. This was real, proper tea. The Yunnan Gold or Dian Hong that we ended up buying from an old tea merchant was hands down, the best tea I had drunk up until that time. Not that it was hard to beat though since up until then, my only real experience with tea was the stuff they give you at Yum Cha and other Asian restaurants. But the depth, flavour and aroma of this Yunnan Gold was truly remarkable and for once, after drinking this, I didn't crave coffee.
Soon, upon digging a little deeper into the world of Chinese tea, I realised that what we had bought was just average, everyday tea – it wasn't bad, but it wasn't anything special either. So I thought, if something that's considered "average" could taste this good, imagine what the truly, awesome tea would taste like? And so began our journey to discover more of the world of fine Chinese tea.
So many different flavours and such amazing depth, all stemming from a single plant – camellia sinensis. I know I've mentioned this before but it always amazes me how so many different flavours all come from just one plant. There is no need to add essential oils or any other sort of artificial flavourings or blended herbal elements. There's so much magic that can be found in a simple cup of fine Chinese tea – why destroy the hard work and dedication that's gone into producing such tea by adding extra flavourings to it?
Five main types of tea – white, green, oolong, red (black) and dark tea – each with a countless number of varieties. So many flavours, so little time to try them all
I'm a coffee drinker...
I always find it interesting that with some people, when I offer some tea for them to try, they say: "no thanks, I'm a coffee drinker." As if the two are mutually exclusive. You're allowed to drink tea as well. In most cases, people have come to think of tea as cheap, supermarket tea bags or a beverage with lots of weird flavoured concoctions like orange and mint or chocolate flavoured teas. All this couldn't be further from what real tea actually is and what it actually tastes like. It's like drinking instant coffee then immediately dismissing the beverage as rubbish.
So yes, I am still a coffee drinker. The pick-me-up it gives you when you're rushing towards a deadline is great. That and, good coffee just simply tastes great. But so does good tea. Real tea. And since becoming a tea lover, my average two a day coffee habit has now become an occasional one every two to three days. The rest of the time, I just indulge in brewing up some fine Chinese teas.