I was on a trip last week. My sense of smell was frustratingly wonky (plane travel? allergies? who knows) which I dealt with by ignoring it, mostly. But I also tried sniffing some new, different things, on the theory that I’m still trying to get my nose back into shape.
So I went into a fancy tea shop and spent two hours smelling pretty much every single one of their teas. It was a quiet, spacious place. I told the owner she could ignore me with impunity and I’d let her know if I needed anything. It was a great setup. The teas were sorted (green, black, herbal, etc.) and there was a jar for each of them, sort of like a spice jar, with a cap and holes in the top, so you could smell them all you wanted to.
It was wild. I’m not a fancy tea drinker, really, although I’m aware there’s a solid (and unsurprising) overlap between perfume lovers and tea lovers. Both perfume and tea are, at their best, sensory delights. I think the thing that surprised me most (or that I appreciated the most?) is how fresh they were, although I’m not sure that’s the word I’m looking for. Not gonna lie, my idea of luxury tea is some bags of Bigelow from the top shelf of Whole Foods. Specialty loose teas from a shop that sells nothing but tea is a whole different level, you know?
I’d like to get into tea, just a little bit. I’m not sure where the hurdle is. It’s not the cost, and I think it’s pretty evident I don’t let my own massive ignorance get in the way of my enthusiasm, yeah? I should probably just pick somewhere (anywhere!) and start. I admit I find the level of detail a little nerve-wracking (exactly x amount of tea leaves submerged for precisely y seconds in water heated to z degrees, no more no less blah blah). On the other hand, it’s not meth I’d be making, or C-4. It’s not going to explode in my face if I get something wrong.
Is there, like, a loose tea sampler? Should I stick to one genre at a time, like oolong? Or can I just slut around? What about herbal, do you even consider that tea? Should I just get two or three teas, based on the smell and description (I made notes at the tea shop) and a strainer and start there? Maybe a dark tea, an oolong and a pu-erh? I like all of those, in a general sense. (Green and matcha, not so much, at least not yet.) The idea that I’d buy something I end up not liking is kind of a bummer, although I’ve certainly done so with perfume blind buys.