Saturday, September 19, 2015

Quest for Tea

In keeping with the theme of things not going my way, I offer this post, first published on The Famished Freelancer on 1/19/14. This incident has taught me to travel with teabags in a little ziploc, even though I suspect that's a clear sign of mental illness.



I had a ridiculous ordeal trying to get my afternoon tea one day while I was in Kansas City. (As part of managing my migraines, I make sure to keep my caffeine intake the same every day - English Breakfast tea in the morning and a weaker tea after lunch.)

So we went into a coffee shop and I ordered a "hot tea". The barista gave me a latte because he swore that's what he heard. When I said I'd asked for tea, he said, "So what do you want to do?"

So much for Midwestern friendliness.

I explained that I can't drink coffee (migraine trigger), so I wanted the tea I'd asked for. He sighed the sigh of the tremendously put upon and got me a cup of scalding hot water. Which he handed to me. When I looked at him like, "I am now confused because this is clearly water, which is not tea," he got pissy again and asked, "What did I do now?"

Um, sighing like you're more persecuted than Sisyphus for starters. 

He directed me to the tea bags on the counter, all of which were either decaf (0-12 mg caffeine) or green tea (24-40 mg caffeine), which contained much less caffeine than I needed (14-61 mg of caffeine - I steep my tea for 4 minutes so I get close to 60 mg). (Caffeine stats from the Mayo Clinic.)

So the guy returned my $3 and we tried another place that claimed to sell all sorts of tea, but was covered in signs for bubble tea. So my husband asked the woman behind the counter if they had plain tea, "like Lipton." Her response?

"Well, we try to stay away from that."

I got really mean because that seemed to be what was necessary to cut through the pretension and ascertain whether they had what I needed. 

They had many varieties of tea, including Darjeeling which is very much like what you'll find in a supermarket tea bag, so get the fuck over yourself, Bubble Tea Girl.

Tea quality is closely related to the size of the tea leaves - the main difference between loose tea and supermarket tea bags is that the bags contain tea leaves that are broken into smaller pieces including "dust". There is some taste difference, but unless you're talking Earl Gray (which has bergamot) or English or Irish Breakfast tea (which contain more caffeine than other kinds), black tea is black tea. There's some variation in flavor between say, darjeeling and orange pekoe, but that's not a level of subtlety you're gonna get in a place that specializes in milkshakes with tapioca balls (which is what bubble tea is - what it is not, is tea.)


When she gave me the tea, she apologized, "if I offended you" which is the sort of non-apology the situation merited. I would've had much more patience for her if not for the asshole in the coffee shop. I mean, seriously, I'm from NYC, the surliest, most pretentious place in the country. And yet I can't recall ever encountering such surliness or pretentiousness in New York. Not even from Brooklyn Hipsters.

Next vacation, I'm keeping tea bags on me at all times.

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