Monday, March 30, 2009

California Tasting

Each time I return, I convince myself that I must have imagined it. Can a place really be so perfect?

Well, I’m back again, and the answer is yes.

I’m on the southern California coast, and just a quarter turn of my head presents me with the ocean. Another quarter turn – rolling green hills dripping in sunshine.

And the food – words fail me, you lucky, lucky Californians! California cuisine is fresh, gently handled and absolutely delightful – even my poolside veggie sandwich consisted of lovely mixed greens and light mozzarella cheese on whole grain bread, lightly brushed with olive oil. I enjoyed all of my salad greens, felt each one interact differently with the mix of lemon juice and cilantro and spices. There was simply no need to douse, sauce, fry, smother, or hide this food.

And what does this have to do with tea? I’m getting there, my friend. Eating this way reminds me how to eat and drink always and everywhere – mindfully and with total attention and awareness. As you know, I always advocate drinking tea in just this way.

So, be still with that cup in your hands. Sip, wait, breathe. How does the ginger interact with the fennel and licorice in this cup of tea. And in that cup, how does it interact with the mint? How does that black tea feel on your tongue – and how is it different from the green? This sort of mindfulness while tasting tea is a meditation of sorts, a way to be entirely in the present moment. So, baby, sip, consider, savor your tea.

--Chai, Baby!

Friday, March 13, 2009

What are you putting in your mouth, baby?

“There’s a growing sophistication in drink as there has been with food,” says Eric Seed, an importer of tough-to-find liqueurs. In a recent Atlantic Monthly article (“Spirits of the Dead,” April 2009), Wayne Curtis described Seed's business and the growing interest in cocktail liqueurs that have been long out of use -- liqueurs with flavors like walnut, apricot, and even violet.

The popularity of such drinks reflects a gradual change in the way we consume food and drink. It seems that, as people become healthier, they pay deeper attention to what they put in their mouths and consequently demand subtler, more flavorful food and drink items. This is precisely why I find the world of tea so (forgive me) delicious. The varieties of teas and blends are virtually endless and always intriguing and interesting.

Instead of grabbing a drink on the run, I love to sit with my tea, and allow it to be what it was intended: an experiential drink. I love to breathe it in, to taste it on every part of my tongue, to savor its goodness and uniqueness. After all, my next cup will afford an entirely different experience !

Remember -- always drink extraordinary tea!
- Chai, Baby!