So I've officially become a tea snob.
It all started a few weeks ago during a friend's iftar party in Milwaukee. Now, typically, I'm not much of a tea drinker. I mean, every now and then I'll pick up a cup but I'm more of a coffee (injected with substantial amounts of chocolate and sugar) kind of guy. Anyway, he serves this tea, and I take a sip and nearly jump out of my chair as an unexpectedly pleasurable taste and aroma wash down my palate.
I turn to my friend and ask him, in my usual subtle way, "what the heck is in this? This is like the world's best tea, ever." He smiles a knowing smile and gestures for me to join him in the kitchen. He says, "Ah yes, brother, you like the tea? Now here is its secret," at which point he shows me a fancy looking tea pot with a tin of small dried leaves next to it.
It is at this point that I am introduced to one of the culinary wonders of the world -- loose leaf tea. Like many of you, I only knew tea as something that came in little baggies from Lipton or Celestial Seasonings. You boil some water, put the little baggie in the cup, add some milk and presto, tea is served. Such tea, my friends, is not tea. It is but the pale gustatory imitation of the real thing. It would be like growing up and having been told that NutraSweet or Splenda is the same thing as sugar.
So, this is the way it works. The fancy teapot actually contains a metal cyclinder that sits in the middle of the tea pot. The cylinder has multiple, small pores on its sides. You take some loose leaf tea and put it inside the cylinder, where it sits. Meanwhile, you boil some water and then pour it into the teapot. The hot water mixes with the tea leaves inside the metal cylinder (called an infuser) and the tea begins to brew. You let it brew for 5 minutes (for most black teas) and then you take out the infuser and are ready to serve some real, honest, delightfully delectable tea. And yes, you can still add milk and sugar...
It takes a little more work, especially to clean out the infuser, but it is so worth it. So, anway, after this amazing tea experience, I tell my Mom all about it, a true tea aficionado, and she gets all excited about it too. So, after a little online research, I surprised her with a set of loose leaf teas and the fancy teapot w/infuser for Eid. She absolutely loved it.
So now we're exploring the different kinds of loose leaf tea with the sampler set of teas we got. So far, we're sticking to black teas, but there are so many other types out there to explore. Lipton may just never be enough again...