This blog is going to be where I go to rant about things that bother me in this tea world. This is one that didn’t bother me until a couple months ago, and as you’ve probably already guessed, I’m going to be talking about the many comparisons I keep seeing between wine and tea culture here in the west.
I just want to state for the record that I do actually love wine. This is only about the surrounding cultures.
Growing up in Vancouver, wine has always had an unbelievable amount of pretentiousness surrounding it. I started getting into tea when I was 18, before I could buy alcohol legally. One day, when I was 19, as I was still developing my tea skills quite heavily, I got curious about wine, I was excitedly sipping wine for about a month before it just sort of faded to the background. It was too expensive for young student Mackie who was already supporting an immense tea passion.
You see, during that time tea was all about the tastes and the variety of taste for me. Since then I’ve been developing all sorts of avenues of tea, largely focussed on my brewing skill.
Now, there are of course similarities between wine culture and tea culture. There are also similarities between literature and television. However, the way I see it, if you took all of only pu’erh tea and then had it pre-brewed and bottled and sold in that manner then we could have a reasonable comparison between the two. But tea culture is immeasurably more vast. Rather much in the same way that literature leaves your imagination to fill in the blanks, while television gives you all of the information, tea leaves room for interpretation.
The wine drinker has the wine itself and the drinking vessel, while the gongfu tea drinker has to worry about the brewing vessel, drinking vessel, water quality, water temperature, water boiler, water/leaf ratio, steep lengths, use of strainer, use of cha hai, and how they relate to the individual tea all on top of the leaves’ innate qualities.
But I’m not writing this to bash wine culture. Im writing this because I can’t stand the way that tea culture is developing in North America. I see way too many “tea somellier” courses, (which, like.. if we’re gonna do that, at least give me some good tea at a restaurant? Like once, ever??) that are like a week long and have people merely learning how to create tasting notes. I personally ignore any tasting notes now anyway. It feels like they’re putting wine’s pretentiousness into tea culture, and that’s not what tea should ever be about. Tea is a social drink, but even alone, it brings me within myself in a way that I seldom used to have.
For me, this is an art, and I am constantly working to be able to express myself in the wonderful language of tea.