Forgive Me, Grandpa


Tea should be made of, you know, tea.

As someone who grew up drinking tea made from the tea plant (and stands a full 5' 6" to show for it), I long objected to herbal teas (or infusions or tisanes or t-fusions or whatever unpoetic name someone tries to slap on them). They're almost never anything more than scented water, flavorless things that have aroma but no depth, nothing to anchor them. Lemongrass is not tea. Dehydrated apple flakes are not tea. Orange Zinger is not tea. These things might be wonderful, but they can't replace the body of a good tea, its silkiness on the tongue, its little astringent bite.

Herb/tea blends are rarely much better. The tea usually isn't very good, and what's there just tends to expose the limits of putting nice-smelling things in water. The tea gives you a little bit of the low register and the aromatics are all over the high notes, but there often isn't anything in the middle to tie it together. Really, when I find myself having one of these things, they usually taste like two different drinks that don't have anything to do with each other. And if the blend uses a good tea—well, good tea is good stuff, why mask it with flowers?

But now I have an admission. A couple of years ago, I discovered mint tea, and I can't shake the habit. Moroccan mint tea, a sweetened brew that is mainly tea accented with mint, was sort of a gateway. But the habit I'm talking about is straight-up dried mint in water. It started innocently, something warm on a day I didn't want any more caffeine. But now I love it. I love how it messes with what you expect, a hot liquid that actually feels like it's cooling you down. A couple of drops of honey gives it that richness, that body that the mint lacks on its own. I'm particularly addicted to the Harney and Sons peppermint tea. It's got fantastic flavor, a mintiness that explodes when the water hits it, frosting up your nose when you breathe it in.

So there, I said it. My ancestors might be rolling in their graves, but I had to get that off my chest.

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