Tea culture and selection.
Hello everyone. I have a question but I have to first put it in context.
I live in the U.S. and prefer green tea. I have been an avid Chinese green tea drinker for a while and recently started leaning more toward the Japanese greens. As it is to be expected, I have been doing some informal research into Japanese greens and have found a wealth of information, specifically about the qualities and nature of specific varieties. I say “to be expected” because green tea drinking, specifically, is something relatively new to these parts, somewhat exotic (still), and somewhat obscure, in a way.
Now, when I look for tea information and read about different opinions on different teas, from the grocery store bought variety to the “specialty” teas I find many different passionate opinions about their short comings or virtues respectively.
Let me put this a different way. The U.S. is mainly a coffee drinking country. When most Americans go to the grocery store to buy coffee for the week they see a variety of similar brands at the store and end up picking varieties like Foldger’s, Maxwell House, etc. commercial varieties to be specific. Yes, there are many specialty coffee beans available of much, much higher quality that command a premium. Now, most people (not all) tend to stick with the commercial varieties and save the special stuff for special occasions or occasional self indulgence, there isn’t always the passionate research and opinion about specific varieties of coffee; as long as a specific commercial bean is pleasant enough then it is suitable. Let’s now translate this into tea.
Think of a place like Japan, where green tea to them is like coffee to us. I am sure that there are many varieties on the shelves (and perhaps less coffee?) just like the coffee we find here at the stores. We (westerners) seem to be also passionate about the “traditional” Japanese ways or Chinese ways of brewing specific teas. With this background in mind, I ’d like to pose some questions:
1.- do the tea culture in Japan somewhat compare to the coffee culture here? what I mean is, do they really strive to shop for the best quality high grade tea or do they, like us, buy a suitable commercial brand at the grocery store and occasionally indulge in a high grade one?
2.- As far as the traditional brewing methods go: I doubt they spend time with methods that might be, let’s say, less convenient. I’m thinking maybe they use tea makers as opposed to specific brewing vessels (some considered ceremonial). Are they so, like us, caught up with the super best (and sometimes complicated) ways of making tea? Or, like us with our coffee, do they often make it simply in like an automatic maker?
To me, it is easy to see why we would think some complicated and ceremonial ways are best, I mean they are fun and exotic.
Please understand, I am in no way criticizing anyone who enjoys brewing tea in specific ways, this is just a question about everyday tea culture.
It is hard for me to phrase this question, so I hope I got the message out properly. Let me know what your thoughts are.