Confessions of a (Former) Coffee Drinker

Coffee has always been king in my family.

From the legendary chicory brew of Cafe du Monde to Seaport–a Southern arabica coffee we purchased in bulk for my grandfather–coffee has been a staple in both my childhood and well into college.

My first memories of coffee come from my father’s morning and evening routines. I always hung around my father when he was making coffee, just so I could retrieve the coffee canister from the second shelf of the fridge. This was my favorite part. That dry, aromatic puff when the corner of the lid was popped, the cold of the little plastic scoop against your fingers. Measuring out exactly 2 scoops into the basket, watching the machine as it gurgled and hissed and brought forth the black ichor of life. The same procedure followed in the evening, though with one scoop of coffee instead of two. Never decaf.

I was only allowed to sniff the carafe in the beginning, until I graduated to a demitasse cup with ¾ parts cream and ¼ part coffee. By high school I was drinking a cup of coffee in the morning with my father, and in college this amount nearly tripled.

It wasn’t until 2007 that I was properly diagnosed with a condition I’d had since I was a girl–gastroesophageal reflux disease: more commonly known as acid reflux or chronic heartburn. If you have never experienced heartburn, then I could never adequately describe the genuine agony the condition can create. The major contributing factor to the condition? DIET. You can see where this is going. 

My doctor urged me then to give up all foods that are high in fats, oils, and acids. I gave up orange juice and chocolate, a host of other delights, but I would not relinquish coffee. Coffee carried both a useful and nostalgic banner, and I had yet to find a replacement. I didn’t know if I could. I continued to suffer from reflux, though it improved slightly with medication.

Variable temperature settings, and a keep-warm function. The brilliance of the Zojirushi water boiler cannot be overstated.

The Zojirushi water boiler features variable temperature settings, and a keep-warm function. Brilliant!

The stress of my previous jobs (teaching and retail) over the past 5 years have forced me irrevocably away from coffee. In 2011 I bought an Aeropress (ingenious instrument) in hopes of lowering the acid content of my coffee, and when that did not effect any change in my condition, I resigned myself to cold-brewing batches and only consuming coffee 3 times a week. The end, I knew, was near. After my mother-in-law passed away in Dec 2011 in the middle of my unemployment spell, I could not handle both my grief and my reflux. Coffee was out.

Now, I have always enjoyed hot tea, but it was mostly at asian restaurants or while I was sick. But I was drinking the bagged tea, and as any tea lover will tell you, the bagged tea is the furthest removed from the tea plant!

I rediscovered my love of tea in late 2012 because of the BBC’s Sherlock. While roaming the internet to cure my craving for anything Baker Street, Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Steven Moffat and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, I stumbled upon a “fandom blend” for Sherlock on Adagio Teas website. For a geek well-versed in fandom offerings and off-shoots, I was intrigued. Here was an entire substrate of fandom I had no knowledge of! I set about rectifying this glaring oversight after informing my friend Arielle that I had potentially discovered something “new and nerdy” for us to investigate.

So what is a fandom blend? Cara McGee created a specific blend of tea for each character from the show, complete with delightful label art.

Lapsang Souchong requires patience and a sense of humor to fully enjoy–much like Sherlock Holmes himself.

Sherlock’s blend was smoky and intense, while Mycroft’s was sweet and spicy, reminiscent of cake. Each blend reflected the character’s personality, and contained several different kinds of tea, many that I knew of in name only. I knew of the five types of tea, kinda, but I had never really pursued loose leaf brewing except for the once-in-a-blue-moon visit to Teavana (where the pushy up-selling left me irritable). After reading reviews and exploring the site, I made my first order from Cara M’s Sherlock blends: Sherlock Holmes, Mycroft Holmes, John Watson, Lestrade, The Mind and the Heart.

I tracked my package eagerly, and set aside an entire morning to sample them. I quickly realized that I did not have the proper equipment to enjoy loose leaf tea (I imagine most people don’t). I had 2 small infusers in the shape of little houses that I inherited from my aunt…and that’s it. After fussing with microwaved water (NO), I got a cheap electric kettle, a few more infusers, and splurged on a tea pot from a British specialty store after Arielle purchased an adorable one from the same place. Then discussions of biscuits and tea cosies followed, and well, to cut a much longer story short: I fell in love with loose leaf tea and the blends I had purchased, the process of steeping them at different temperatures and trying each tea unadulterated, with rock sugar, with cream, and with both. This process was even more fun because Arielle is a chemist and shared my desire to experiment with temperature, water pH, etc.

My current tea collection has outgrown the cupboard. I also give Adagio too much money.

Tea can be mysterious, playful, light, brooding, and comforting. Any problem can be solved given enough time and cups of tea. Tea is a better successor to my love of coffee than anything else could be. I do not make that declaration lightly!

Tea is generally just awesome.

It seems silly to attribute so much emotion to an inanimate object, to a beverage. But the hallmark of being a geek is in the details. Nerds love and pursue their hobbies/interests with more passion and dedication than the average person. It’s not enough to read the novel; a nerd will reread the novel many times, will adopt behavioral characteristics of her favorite character, and will spend hours writing analytical essays of the novel’s tropes just for her own enjoyment. It’s a method of drawing closer to whatever holds your imagination. Fandom tea blends are a definite minority in the tidal wave of fandom creative offerings, but, without them, I may not have ever discovered loose leaf tea.

So…why tea?

My first teapot.

My charming little teapot.

Because tea has a rich, varied history that touches many different cultures and countries.

Because tea is an art, from the buds hand-picked off the plant to the elaborate tea ceremonies.

Because tea has so many legitimate health benefits, it would be foolish to pass them up.

Because tea encompasses so many varietals, from oolong to tisanes, which in turn create a staggering number of blending options–more than enough meat for a toothy nerd to sink her teeth into. Obsess and go to town!

Because tea is fun. Plain and simple.

Because tea is a science. The very best methods for brewing and steeping utilize specific equipment, exact time measurements, and precise amounts. It’s the scientific method for a substance that’s safe to put in your mouth! Win.

Because tea can shine at any occasion, be it fancy or casual. Tea is always appropriate.

And lastly…because tea is low in acid and easier on your digestive system, unlike coffee.

~Allons-y!

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