Between sips: The tea and coffee divide

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Published: June 23, 2019 3:55:18 AM

Coffee is friendly and hip like beer, tea is more akin to wine — old-school and snooty.

The trouble is that while coffee is seen as cool, friendly and hip like beer, tea has a reputation more akin to wine — old-school, snooty, and boring.

The world is often portrayed as having two types of people. Dog and cat lovers. People who wake up early versus people who sleep in. Fitness freaks and bon-vivants. Let’s not forget the beverage classification, tea and coffee lovers. Many of these distinctions stand rather true — people on one side of the spectrum, while they may curiously indulge the other, rarely ever cross over into the other with any sort of relevance.

Let’s focus on the one relevant to this column, tea and coffee, while I like my pre-10am cappuccino and the occasional skinny mac (a macchiato made with skimmed milk foam), I never really crave a cuppa’ joe. Instead I am all for a good cup of tea in its purer leafy form. Which is the only kind that people with any sense of refinement should drink, or want to drink. So for an upcoming project I decided to invest some serious time and resources to ensure that the tea that leaves the kitchen or bar is unique in all the right ways.

TWG tea is a company based out of Singapore and although it is superbly young — 2008 is when it was established — their sourcing and blending puts them at par with some of the world’s best and oldest tea merchant houses. My team and I went through a tasting of almost two dozen teas which had been carefully put together and curated by their in-house tea trainer. It was a marvellous exercise of the organoleptic variety, truly a treat for the senses. It reminded us collectively what swill most of us down under the garb of tea on a regular basis and why good money spent on sourcing proper tea is never wasted.

But then, TWG is doing to teas what Starbucks did to coffee — an experience more than just a space to consume or purchase a beverage.

The trouble is that while coffee is seen as cool, friendly and hip like beer, tea has a reputation more akin to wine — old-school, snooty, and boring. TWG isn’t really trying to change that, or not drastically at least. But what they are doing is certainly upgrading the service paraphernalia — the cups and other China in their store as also some very fancy jugs, albeit darned expensive for everyday use, will definitely make anybody acquire a polished English patina in their accents when they are entertaining with these sets at home. They are pretty and contemporary, something which can’t be said about most tea sets in general.

The tea tasting exercise was so enthralling it reminded me all over again why I prefer tea to coffee. In a country where tea is such a common beverage, we seem to treat it pretty badly so the joy of a good pot diminishes over time. Indians need to take a moment to connect with our morning breakfast rituals with more enthusiasm. Certainly we should make a trip to remind ourselves of just what makes tea the second most drunk beverage in the world, second only to water (and tidily ahead of even beer and definitely ahead of coffee!).

(The writer is a sommelier.)

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