A hot kettle roars from behind the bar while a young girl scrolls through a magazine sipping something coming from an ornate white pot. Large glass mason jars full of different tealeaves line a shelf near the register. The front door opens and a young man with a scruffy beard enters and walks up to the register. After looking over the menu, he leans in and asks the employee, “Do you guys serve coffee here?”
The employee tilts his head one way and looks at the man as if he just asked if they serve oysters. He gives a look over his shoulder and smirks at the server waiting to fill the order. “This is a tea shop, sir.”
We are the people of the drink. We get dressed up and drive out late in the evening to drink and dance with our friends. We wake up early to an alarm and walk into a cold kitchen to turn on a machine to make us another beverage to jump start our day. In the evening, we grab a blanket and heat water to enjoy another beverage next to a window.
When someone says, “I am a tea person” or “I am a coffee person”, what would be easier is to say, “I am a person.” This separation has likely been present since the two were so readily available on one city block, yet we still have a way of describing ourselves as one or the other. Why?
I do seminars all around the nation discussing the many benefits and joys of tea; yet I grew up in an Italian household where strong coffee was served after most meals. People often have dozens of teas in their cabinets, but when it comes to coffee, they have, coffee. When someone asks me, “What is the best tea?” I simply reply, “For what?”
You see, these beverages we are so fortunate to have within our reach are tools and gateways into different lifestyles and feelings and moods and sometimes the taste is just a bi-product of all that. We must learn our tea cabinets and coffee tins the same way we understand our medicine cabinets: have a headache, reach for Tylenol; have a stomach ache, reach for an aged Pu’er tea. Once we learn to use these beans and leaves we become more of a person, not just a tea or coffee person.
There are tremendous differences between coffees and teas. The leaf of any tree is what brings nutrients and energy into the plant or tree. The fruit of a tree, where the coffee bean comes from, is what allows that tree to give out and reproduce and spread. With our consumption, it is no different. As we enjoy teas, we are being nourished and taking something into ourselves. This is why tea, and seldom coffee, are used in meditation or those quiet moments. Whereas, with our coffee consumption, we are giving something out. We are talking and working and moving throughout our day. Of course there are exceptions, but those exceptions come most often when quality or preparations are altered.
You see, those who appreciate the very finest things in life often cross-consume high quality items. Someone who has very expensive taste in wine likely eats fine foods and someone who drinks premium grade loose-leaf teas would also be more open to walking into an artisanal coffee bar. Once we find that upper echelon of quality teas or coffees, we realize there is a tremendous potential in both beverages. Coffee doesn’t just give you a jolt and taste good with sugar, and tea isn’t just a good drink on a rainy day. We must separate ourselves from our “character” and reach for something new to see how it makes us feel.
As for the man who walks into a tea bar asking for coffee, he is no more of an oddity than the man who walks into a coffee bar and asks for tea. He may have been confused because both beverages are hot, and served in mugs. After that, it’s a different world completely. The error in this is not the confusion but the lack of quality that a specialty shop or café would stock in their non-specialty beverage. If we want to find the true potential, let us lean to the masters and the crafters to provide us with our coffees and teas. With this, we will change many minds and not only convert coffee lovers into tea lovers, and visa-versa, but we will bring more into the many benefits and joys of each.