Another Switch: From Coffee to Tea

• ~600 words • 3 minute read

After writing about switching blogging platforms from WordPress to Jekyll I thought I'd talk about another recent switch: from coffee to tea. If I'm being truthful it's really more like a switch from just coffee to coffee and tea. I do live in the coffee Mecca that is the Pacific Northwest where you're never more than a stone's throw away from a local roaster.

In fact I used to roast my own beans in the kitchen nearly every morning. Small batches for a single pot or sometimes I'd push [my little roaster][roaster_link] to the limit and roast up a whole pound or so for the coming week. Monthly purchases of green beans at Sweet Maria's were part of my budget like a phone bill.

Since returning from my travels in 2013 and resettling into Portland I have not gone back to roasting, possibly for the lamest of all reasons — I have no vent in my kitchen! Coffee roasting is a very smokey affair.

Thankfully (?) an international year had given me a tolerance for instant coffees: mostly the ubiquitous Nescafe — when this world ends it will be cockroaches, rubble Coca-Cola and Nestle products — but it came in a surprising number of varieties (My personal favorite: Cafe Pelé). I've never purchased that stuff for my kitchen in the states but buying the cheapest brand of slightly-burnt whole beans at the grocery store now doesn't seem so bad. So long as the grinding and brewing take place within a few moments of each other you're pretty much golden.

During my time in Asia last year I really became fond of tea. Pu-erhs, lapsang souchong and sencha were regular favorites along with pretty much any green tea. This was particularly true while I was in Japan — the land of green tea flavored everything, along with some other curious flavors.

Let me take this moment to plug what I think is the website for a green tea shop in Tokyo I've managed to carry in my wallet for over a year now: I have no idea if that's a particular brand, a general word for green tea or what. More helpfully, here is their address: 1-1-17 Asakua Taito-ku Tokyo. In the street view it's the shop with the green tea soft-serve ice cream cone. I don't know much about it at all except that their business card boasts having been in business for 146 years. If we had exchange rates for the relative antiquity of things on a per-country basis the same way we do for money I think that'd be the U.S. equivalent of something like having "In business since 1984" on your card.

I digress.

After a recent, impromptu excursion to the Fubonn Supermarket in Portland my interest in tea was rekindled. I may not have the ventilation for home-roasting coffee beans or the desire to drop $15 on a bag of delicious beans that makes me wish I'd made them in my kitchen instead for half the cost, but the world of quality, loose-leaf tea is still quite new to me and interesting. And frankly, though it pains me to say this because I truly love coffee, there seems to be a lot more variety in tea.

This is a super long-winded way of plugging my favorite teas I'm enjoying at the moment:

  • Lapsang Souchong. It's like slowly sipping a campfire and I love it.
  • Sencha. I'm not enough of a tea person yet to describe this meaningfully. The flavor isn't overpowering like the lapsang souchong can be but it's hardly a weak flavor either. Green tea varies wildly.
  • Harney & Son's Paris blend. This smells like bubblegum to me, but I mean that in the most complimentary way you can imagine.
  • Harney & Son's Florence blend. This once smells like chocolate and bourbon to me.