Mixing it up a little today.  A couple of weeks ago while stumbling my way through the documentary section of Netflix Watch Instantly (the heroin for culture addicts like myself), I came across All In This Tea.  It’s an interesting food doc that follows a tea importer as he travels through China looking for high quality teas to take back home to the states.  I recommend it.

During my viewing, my better half would wander through occasionally and stop to watch.  She mentioned that she would like to get into tea.  I made a note in the mental place in which I make notes (right next to the area reserved for Wilson Phillips lyrics) that I needed to follow up on that comment.  At that time, our wedding was right around the corner, and I needed to get her a gift.  Or so I was told.

I am not a tea drinker save for severely sweetened iced tea and the occasional hot cup during bouts with the common cold.  But I remembered that across the bay in the fancy schmancy mall, there was a store that sold tea.  It was the national chain store, Teavana.

As an internetist, I am ashamed to say that I did not do any research before my trip.  Had I done so, I would have been more prepared to handle the gestapo-like, hard sell tactics that Teavana is apparently known for.

Upon arrival I was greeted by a small, fast-talking Asian woman.  Seemed a little obvious, but I carried on.  I told her I was new to the tea world and needed a pot and some tea to get started.  I was whisked to the tea pot section and shotgunned with information about shapes and materials and health benefits and symbology blah blah.  Whatever.  I picked the pretty green cast iron one because it had a dragonfly on it and in some culture somewhere that means new beginnings or love or something.

I toured the tea tasting stations and listened to more drivel about how various teas bestowed various super powers.  Whatever.  I picked the one that tasted the best.  It was this Monkey-Picked Oolong Tea.  Turns out at $25 for two ounces, it was also the most expensive.  Why not buy one ounce, you say.  No no, my friends.  Two ounces is the minimum.  I was also sweet talked into buying a 16 ounce storage tin.  I have to admit that it’s nice, but will never be filled with 16 ounces of tea.

As I was checking out and deciding how many ounces I wanted to buy, my silver-tongued tea concierge told me she was going to fill the tin with a pound and then we’d go from there.  When the scale registered $230, I laughed out loud and said two ounces was just fine.

Now, “monkey-picked” is a term passed around in tea circles that means the tea is of high quality.  It is based on stories of monks training monkeys to climb and pick the best tea leaves from the tops of trees.  Come on, that’s awesome.

Before steeping, I just held a handful of the little rolled leaves and played with them in a state of wonderment.  They look gorgeous and smell fantastic.  Even with my limited experience, I found this tea to be delightful.  Perfectly smooth. There’s no bitterness or astringency.  It tastes vegetal (had to look up proper tea vocabulary terms) though not grass trimming vegetal, just healthy, good-for-you green.  There are also some pleasant floral tastes, and it left my mouth feeling very dry and clean.  I’m sure a lot of the subtly was lost on me, but overall, it provided for a great hot beveraging experience.  I was surprised at how much I liked it.

I’ve been back to Teavana a few times since, and am very much enjoying exploring this new world.  If you’re looking for a new food hobby, this is a fun one to try out.

If you’re looking for a good tea jumping in point, or just want something cool to trot out when your friends come over so you can look sophisticated, this is the stuff you should pick up.  And don’t forget to tell them it was picked by monkeys.  You’ll be a hero, and they’ll never look it up.