A Tea Addict's Journal

Tea party without the tea

September 8, 2008 · 9 Comments

Yesterday we were invited to someone’s tea party in the afternoon. We went, and to my slight surprise, there was no tea to be had — there was wine, and lemonade, and water, but no tea. There were also lots of food.

I have to say it was the first time I’ve been to somebody’s tea party, and it was therefore obviously the first time I went to such a gathering that served no tea. Apparently, it’s not that uncommon — I just didn’t know that was the term that was used. This got me thinking. The United States is a place where, I think it’s safe to say, is not particularly friendly to the tea drinker. They love coffee here, but tea takes a distant second place. I’m never quite sure why that is the case. Some have suggested to me that perhaps the Boston Tea Party killed any interest in tea, but that is plainly not true as the traders of New England and other places obviously traded tea among many other things with China during the 19th century. I also read how for Taiwan, exporting to the US was a big part of their tea trade in the early 20th century. Clearly, somebody was buying the tea here.

somehow, though, tea has basically dropped out of public consciousness and is largely drunk as iced tea (usually with tonnes of sugar nowadays) or seen as something that either old ladies or health nuts drink. It’s frightening to me when somebody says they only drink two infusions of a certain tea because it’s been shown that the third infusion contains very little nutritional value in the form of antioxidants, etc….

There’s certainly a bit of a revival in interest in tea here, but most of it is directed towards the health aspect of tea. I’m sure we’ve all seen the ads that tell you how much stuff there is in tea that will cure your cancer and make you live 200 years. They also come in funny flavours. Other than English Breakfast, the most common tea I’ve seen sold in shops that actually carry leaves is probably something like “Raspberry Earl Grey”.

Am I biased in my thinking? Do Americans drink more tea that I imagine?

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9 responses so far ↓

  • djn7304 // September 8, 2008 at 8:53 am | Reply

    I think Starbucks raised the level of coffee frenzy to what it is today. What we need is essentially a Starbucks for tea, since most Americans just do what corporations tell them to do.

  • MANDARINstea // September 8, 2008 at 10:23 am | Reply

    hahah-Very True D and Scary! -Toki

  • IdentiTEA // September 8, 2008 at 11:05 am | Reply

    I agree with you, the US has not really embraced tea since the rebellion against the British. I have seen more ‘green tea’ in products like skin care, tooth paste, medicine, etc… on the shelves than I have seen in true leaf form (and even then it’s normally crammed into bags). I always roll my eyes and die a little inside when I see that. Why do people think something has to be mass produced in order to be a good thing?

    I went to an actual “tea room” and saw that they were serving steak and seafood more than tea. When I had asked for some hot tea, the waitress had a shocked look on her face like she was trying to figure out if she heard me correctly. -sigh-

    I have actually got this response before “You drink green tea? Oh, so you must do yoga!” Wait… what? Haha! No I don’t do yoga… but this is an example of how people think tea drinkers are health nuts.

    I hope you still had fun at your tea party that lacked true leaf, though. 🙂 Thanks for posting about it!

  • Phyllo // September 8, 2008 at 12:58 pm | Reply

    When running for presidency, Sen. Kerry was accused of being out of touch with most Americans because (cue drum roll) he drinks green tea. Of all reasons that he’s out of touch with Americans, they have to bring up green tea. Amazing.

  • mulcahyfeldman // September 8, 2008 at 3:20 pm | Reply

    This is a pretty sad commentary on contemporary American society and unfortunately it’s true. Green tea only came into vogue when the media began touting its health benefits; it’s only lately that the health benefits have been extended to black and red teas, oolongs and puerh in particular. I think your friends called it a tea party to indicate what it wouldn’t be — a cocktail party. Perhaps they could have called it a get-together. In the South where I live, iced tea is the table wine of the region but it is almost always available unsweetened if that is one’s preference. Unfortunately, the tea is almost always Lipton or Luzianne from Cajun country where the tea preference probably came from the region’s early French influence. Actually a lot of tea drinkers in the northern U.S. have European or Irish roots. In Chicago, where I am from, Irish families (one of which I come from) always had strong, black tea to start the day. My husband’s family of Eastern European descent also has a strong preference for tea, rarely drinking coffee and then only decaf. So there may be some hope for tea drinkers after all. Unfortunately much of the tea one finds commercially is inferior or old leaves and many times impregnated with pretty disgusting fruit flavors which are very often artificial. So even when people think they’re drinking tea, it’s often not the real thing. I raise a glass (of tea) to Marshaln and Toki and to Phyll, Michael, Winnie and Dae for inspiring many of us to go beyond the ordinary and seek the truly extraordinary leaf (with bud of course). Of course, can’t forget Guang, irregular blogger but an amazing provider. Eileen

  • Anonymous // September 9, 2008 at 2:32 pm | Reply

    I think that drinking tea is not popular with the general American public because the process of preparing tea can take too much time. With these busy times, not many people have the time to sit down and go through the gong fu tea ritual. I guess with coffee there’s also the “ritual” of getting the perfect espresso, but with coffee you only do it once. With tea, you have to sit around for up to 8 infusions! And who has time for that *sarcasm* Every time I see my friends drink lipton bagged tea, it makes me cringe a bit. I once threatened my friend that if I replaced the contents of his bagged tea with dirt, he wouldn’t notice the difference…

  • MarshalN // September 9, 2008 at 2:36 pm | Reply

    I think there’s certainly some truth to the “I don’t have time for this” that some of you have noted. I know, from friends who work in restaurants and what not, that as a server providing tea is a pain — you have to go through ten steps just to get the cup on the table, whereas coffee is much easier.

    I do wonder if a certain lack of (good) information is also at play here — people just don’t know, and thus are stuck with what they’ve got. It feeds into itself, and so we’ve got the state of tea drinking that we do today here.

    Oh well, thankfully there’s the internet.

  • sherabch // September 10, 2008 at 8:45 am | Reply

    It’s almost the end of my morning tea (and breakfast) session and I’m ready to head out for work… but I just can’t after reading this and all the comments follow it. Clearly, if WE as tea drinkers, want to meet and have some tea together, we DO NOT want to call it “an invitation to someone’s tea party”! Certainly not. My way is call it a “Tea Group Meeting” — that’s how I named my tea group on Google Groups actually. With the American presidency election still going on, should we form a Tea Party and run a convention? maybe not, maybe we simply need to have some celebrities drinking tea in a TV show, or hey how about this: let’s go to the American Got Talent show and play a tea ceremony there?!  Or, at least one thing we can do HERE: Tell Xanga that next time when you ask someone to do the survey, please put TEA on the list of “your favorite drinks”!

  • esotericchick // September 13, 2008 at 11:49 am | Reply

    Really, you can’t really blame Americans for not catching on to tea when tea like Lipton is all that’s available. My mother drank Lipton decaf for years, but lately, there has been a diversification of the market. I had her try some loose leaf Darjeelings, and she hasn’t gone back. People drink tea, but our culture is a coffee culture, like we are beer drinkers over wine drinkers. It will take a lot to change that deep-rooted history.
    But even though America’s affair with tea is in a sorry state, the times, they are changing. The variety of tea and specialty tea shops in my area have doubled, and the people who started out drinking their peach-cucumber anti-oxidant Om green tea are beginning to experiment. There is hope yet.

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