Tea is fun and complex to explore. Beginning with the five well-known types of tea—white, green, oolong, black and pu’erh and then moving on to add yellow and blue tea (I’m still not sure what blue tea is), there are flavors, processes and regional styles that number in the hundreds. Just when you think you have your arms around how a certain traditional tea is made, a new processing twist is applied to create a new and different tea. I have gained considerable respect for how the chemistry of the leaf behaves in relation to slight changes in cultivation and processing techniques. Even the process of steeping the tea leads us to talking about, analyzing, and debating the best ways to get the most out of our tea leaves.
Besides the challenge of all the tea types and tastes, there is the study of tea’s history and how it evolved through the past 2,000 years in Asia, plus its move through the west, changing norms and traditions. It’s hard to get into discussion about tea without it leading into world politics and economics.
The connection of tea with spirituality invites thought and discussion about how and why a simple leaf changed so many lives in the world—and why in some distant generations it was actually revered.
Studying tea is a lot like studying wine, whiskey, cheeses and other finely crafted foods and drinks. It might begin with the taste spectrum, but it can go as far as you want to take it.