Written by Arielle F.
A few months ago, I joined a meetup group for nerds in Houston on a quest to meet some nerds and make new friends. At the group’s first ever meetup, it became clear that many of us were into tea, so I was thrilled to find out the group’s third meetup was a tea tasting at Path of Tea.
Path of Tea is an organic tea shop nestled in the Upper Kirby area of Houston, the only completely organic tea shop in Houston. As I have never seen another organic tea shop in Houston other than this one, I suppose I’ll have to believe it, though I do hope more tea shops follow this trend. As much tea as I drink, it’s nice to know my leaves aren’t infused with pesticides.
Heading to this meetup, I didn’t know what to expect. I know what tea tastes like. At this point, I’m no longer a level one newbie. I’ve gained enough experience to level up to amateur tea drinker at the least. I do have a silver level two Explorer badge on Adagio. That means I have purchased more than enough tea from them for the time being and my husband, Brandon, wants to put a ban on my account. To be shown the different types of teas by someone whose whole livelihood is based on tea, well that’s something else. We weren’t just given a cup of tea and told, “Okay, here’s a green tea. Yummy, yes?” We were given each type of tea and given an explanation, not just about the tea and how it’s made, but about what the tea does for you, health-wise (tea gives enough health benefits that I’ll have to discuss that in a few posts later on), and the proper way to brew it. Going in, I already knew things about different water temperatures. I knew that you had to brew white tea at a lower temperature than green tea and green at a lower temperature than black, but this tea tasting gave me something entirely different to think about: the type of water I use.
One of the main things I’ve heard about brewing tea is to use a good quality water. In an effort to brew more tea at work, which would allow me to re-steep leaves throughout the day, I bought a small teapot and a refillable glass water jug filled with reverse osmosis water from my local Whole Foods. I figured I might as well use nice, clean, filtered water. The teapot and glass jug work great. The water, however, hasn’t been very satisfying when it comes to the taste of my tea. It may be due to my own personal tastes, but I don’t like it. It gave the tea a terrible flavor. You know when you leave a bottle of Ozarka or other bottled water in your car in the heat and you know it’s hot after sitting in there, but you’re super thirsty on that hot summer day so you drink it anyway? It tasted like that. Disgusting. I tried to brew a cup of tea using the deionized water at the lab and it still had that nasty taste. So is it just me? I don’t know. But I know that I love how the water at my house tastes. Now I just run that through a filter and bring it to work in the jug.
Path of Tea offers something I’ve never heard of before. At the tea tasting, we learned that water with a pH of 9.5 is the best pH for your body, something to help balance out our highly acidic modern American diets. They use a water ionizer to give the water this “perfect” pH. I haven’t found any scientific proof this is what’s best for us, but I’m on the hunt. I want to know if there is hard, scientific evidence to back this up, or if the water ionizer companies are just trying to make sales. Those little systems aren’t cheap! All their tea is brewed with this water, and I do admit that it didn’t have the unpleasant flavor of the reverse osmosis or deionized water I tried. It was quite delicious, so maybe they’re onto something. They also allow customers to come in and get their water jugs filled with their special water. For free. That’s a pretty sweet deal.
I never thought I’d agonize this much over water. But since I don’t live or work anywhere near Path of Tea, I’ll try not to think too hard about it and just drink the water from home. I don’t mind, it’s delicious.
One great thing about a tea tasting is that it’s fun to drink tea and be social. Tea has that relaxing quality to it, that slow, ritualistic feel. You drink, lean back, and talk. And did we talk. Nancy, Brandon, and I all sat at separate tables so we could maximize our friend networking and spread the nerdiness. I heard later on that the man who gave us our little crash course on tea thought we were a boisterous group, but that was okay because we were excited to learn about tea. Yeah, that sounds about right. Nerds can get pretty passionate about the things they love.
So what did our rowdy little group talk about? My table talked a lot about movies, which occasionally got the attention and a few comments from the nearby table Nancy was sitting at. Her table was all girls and they seemed to get into some pretty heavy Sherlock and Doctor Who discussions from what I could hear. Did I mention most of the nerds in this group are big Doctor Who fans? As for the ones who aren’t, we sit them down and explain to them why they need to be. Brandon’s table was all men, and they got into a deep conversation on board games, another fun pastime of ours.
We tried five different types of teas at the tasting, and let me just start off by saying they were all delicious. We eagerly tried our first sample, their peach white tea. This is the least processed tea and also the most delicate flavor-wise. Next, we tried their strawberry green tea, followed by a citrus oolong. Then came a black tea flavored with grenadine, called Monk’s Sacred blend. Our final tea was a butterscotch rooibos, a naturally caffeine free tea derived from an African bush. During the tasting, we munched on snacks they put at our table, delicious jam-filled cookies and a lemony flavored bar-like item. In my stupidity, I forgot to ask what these things were called, but they were both delicious. Our first experience at Path of Tea was enjoyable. At the end of the tasting, I purchased some coconut oolong and was chastised by Brandon for not buying any of the butterscotch rooibos, which I didn’t learn until then was his favorite tea. Well, I know I’ll be back for more. The tea shop has many flavors to choose from (they do online orders too), and you can get brewed tea to go. They sell some beautiful and unique tea pots and tea sets that I would trade our copy of Earthbound for (don’t tell Brandon I said that). They even have a self service tea sniffing bar with tins containing all the different types of teas for your smelling before you buy some tea or order a pot. You should do both. You won’t regret it.
Until next time! /wave