Friday, June 26, 2009

Refine Taste from the Deep South

I am from The South. It gets deeper than where I live; but to most around the USA, Memphis, Tennessee, is pretty deep south.

I love tea. I've never been much of a coffee drinker, the caffeine puts me over the edge. And then there's wine, something my body has begun telling me it just doesn't care for it like it used to. Thank goodness for my love of tea... another connoisseur's dream and an endless array of exploring, tasting, savoring, sharing, and pairing.

Growing up, there were 2 choices of tea: sweet or unsweet. That's it. Good ole Lipton orange pekoe tea. Plain & simple or unbelievably sugary sweet. And then perhaps there was lemon and some of those little pink or blue packets, just in case the sweet isn't sweet enough or the "un" needs your own particular type & quantity of sweetening.

There was a special tea that marked the hottest time of summer: Mom's homemade mint tea. Now that was heaven in a glass. Fresh mint, fruit juices, maybe some sweetener; although my mom was pretty health conscious & converted to honey.

So it's been interesting for me to venture into the world of tea. I think it first started with green tea... you know, all those health benefits & antioxidants. And I actually liked it. And then a health food store moved into the area. More teas!

A few years ago, I lived in Houston, Texas, and befriended the owners of a Japanese style tea-house. There I was introduced to a whole new world of tea... teas from all over the world, organic, fair trade, loose teas... rooibos and puerh and oolong... specific temperatures for brewing each tea... the art of the Japanese tea ceremony. And there were more green teas than I could have imagined. Funny how through it all, I always had the same favorites... jasmine green and taiwan jade oolong. Just like wine, or beer, or even coffee... we know what we like.

What comes around goes around. I find myself living back in the sultry south this summer.... temperatures today are reaching almost 100 degrees. And that doesn't account for the humidity. So my jasmine green, delicately brewed has been cooled with an ice cube or two. And I must confess that I find few things more refreshing in this summer heat than a good 'ole glass of Lipton iced tea with lemon.


Susan Fondren