Blog No. 109
Last weekend I had the pleasure of going to a tea tasting. I know that sounds really pretentious, but it was a very interesting and delicious Saturday evening. In the past several months (let’s say five) I have been going to a local coffee place called Anchor Coffee House. They opened in January and have been taking the local coffee scene by storm. The owners (Kyle and Rachel) are genuinely nice and their knowledge of coffee, along with their food offerings, is impeccable. I am a person who will gladly go out of my way for something good. A butcher can offer me a better cut of meat (and more of that knowledge) than a supermarket. Anchor offers me a better cup of coffee, and a better experience. I have gotten in the habit of going on my odd days off and writing (or editing) there. The atmosphere is great and they are happy to have me spend hours working off of one delicious cup.
But this isn’t an advertisement for a coffee shop. On Saturdays, in the winter, Anchor is open late Saturday nights. They often have musicians and sometimes they have classes, or tastings. So far this year (as long as I have known about the place) I haven’t been able to make it to any of those events. Finally, when something as cool as a tea tasting came up, I was free. The stars aligned and I made my way to the tasting with an expectant curiosity. I like tea. I’m mostly a coffee guy, but I grew up on tea after dinner (and when I wasn’t feeling well). It was decaf bags dropped into boiling water (something I have recently learned is not proper) but there was a lot of it. I still look forward to a large mug of evening tea, especially in the winter.
The cafe was mostly deserted then I arrived, a few minutes early. A few people were seated at the counter and some were preparing to leave. A man was behind the counter setting up some strange contraptions and the owners were cleaning up. A few more people came in and bellied up to the bar and at six the lights in the rest of the place were turned off. Joseph Wesley (the man with the tea) introduced himself and took us on a journey through Asia. His company is out of Detroit, but he goes to China every year during the tea harvests and oversees his tea’s processing. From his time spent there, he knows the farms, the tea masters, and the history. We learned the origins and process in creating the different teas we tasted and his personal experiences.
It was great. I love watching people geek out over their passions. I like it even more when I get to go along for the ride. The tea was served on a wooden box, washed, and poured into one ounce cups. The process isn’t just for the tasting either. According to our host, that is the way he was taught to serve tea while he was living in China. So I learned something. The group drank and nodded, listened and asked questions. Some were terribly stupid, but if the person didn’t know, it’s valid to them. We sampled four different teas and some lucky contestants got to take home tea of their very own. (I was not one of those people, but my brother was, and he has already shared the spoils with me).
I can’t say I loved all the teas served. There was a particularly spicy, sweet, chai at the end that I didn’t care for. But the experience was great and I know more about tea than I did before. I also got to taste a bunch for free. It turns out that Anchor is now serving all their tea in the same manor (from the same distributor). I’m looking forward to having a day where I can go for a marathon tea and writing session – maybe before Christmas. So it turns out, trying new things can be pretty cool (or hot, because it was hot tea). (Sorry).