I “converted” to tea" in March 2008, along with my friend Shelley, after decades of drinking espresso, while on a trip to Santa Barbara. In my 20’s I went through a phase of drinking oolong tea all the time, but basically hadn’t drunk tea in decades. Discovering the world of tea, in concert with my friends Shelley and Linda, under the guidance of Shang Zehua of Shang Tea (a walking encyclopedia of tea knowledge as well as generous and friendly) and with the encouragement and friendliness of Catherine Heagerty of Silk Road Teas and Greg Glancy of Norbu Tea, has been transformational in my life. After almost three years of tea immersion, I still feel that I am a novice in a large and complex world of human culture, history, and experience, but I am enjoying it, as well as noticing the beneficial effect of tea on my physical and mental life. I keep on coming across new pieces of research about the amazing health benefits of tea. I currently drink about two quarts of tea per day. I mainly have red tea in the morning, white tea throughout the day, and pu-erh tea in the evening, sometimes with oolong thrown in in the mid-morning or early afternoon.
Other pertinent things about me: my greatest passion in life is classical music (especially Monteverdi, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Wagner, Mahler, Schoenberg, Berg, Webern, and Morton Feldman); I’m a vegetarian; I love cats; and I love travel, especially to Mediterranean lands, especially Provence. I also love philosophy and am stimulated by information technology.
From being on this site for a couple of weeks, seeing how other people think and write about and evaluate tea, and therefore reflecting more on my own intuitive and previously unarticulated approach to and criteria for tea, I realize that I have a particular orientation to the teas I have (which I also realize parallels my relation to other pleasurable things in my life) that shapes my comments and evaluations. Namely, for every major kind of tea, I like having one or more really good staple or basic ones, and one or more exceptional, outstanding ones. I don’t like to drink only the most exceptional or outstanding ones. I prefer to mainly drink the good staple, basic ones, and then have the exceptional ones when I’m in special or particular moods or on special occasions. So, for example, if I rate a tea as an 80 rather than as a 100, it doesn’t mean I have a low opinion of that tea and that I’m thinking of it as less than what it should have been (e.g. that it ideally would have been a 100). Rather I’m thinking of it as really good, but that I’m aware that there is a tea that is even better that I reserve for special moods or occasions. To take a parallel example from the rest of my life: I really like to eat in diners. When I’m doing so, I’m not thinking of it as inferior to eating in a gourmet restaurant. I’m completely enjoying it (assuming that it’s good diner food). Then, when I eat in a gourmet restaurant (if it really is one), it’s like enjoyment to a superlative degree, especially because someplace in my awareness is a comparison to really good diner food, which even at that moment I’m not thinking of as inferior. Anyway, this is the kind of orientation that underlies my evaluation of teas. I wouldn’t want to drink only teas that I would rate as 100, it would seem unbalanced, decadent, and lacking in perspective.