Last weekend, we attended a tea party/class downtown, where we learned the art of proper tea preparation - did you know that loose leaf teas taste completely different based on a) the temperature of the water, b) how long you steep it, and c) how many times you "wash" the tea, or re-steep it? We actually tried the same oolong tea five times over to experience the difference for ourselves. I finally understand that I never really liked certain kinds of tea because I never steeped them properly. And there are people who know the proper technique - have mastered it, and are quite particular about it.
It was very interesting to hear about the places teas are grown, how and when they are harvested, how they are crushed and preserved, and how we are supposed to use them correctly. But even as I heard all this fascinating information, I found myself not really caring, at least not on the level that the other people seemed to. Because for me, tea isn't really about the tea...
I love tea for warming my hands and face, for being something that can fill two or more cups, for giving me an excuse to sit still and spend time with a friend for a few minutes. I like that I can plop a bag in a pot and fill it with hot water - temperature, irrelevant - and leave it to steep - time, indefinite - and then mix it with flavored cream in a mug and hold it between my hands to sip, swirl, or smell as I please.
I delight much more in hearing stories and sharing secrets than I do in analyzing the leaves and flowers used in the brew. I prefer to spend my thoughts on the qualities I admire most in my dear companion than on the soil and climate the tea was grown in. I do appreciate the care given to the making of tea, but I don't think I'll ever spend more than a few dollars on cheap generic brands, because tea does not have as much value and worth as people do. Basically, I love tea, but I love my friends more. And I am glad this is true. :)