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Tea Cup and Saucer


That first sip...

“And I’ve drank a cup every day since”; What it's like to experience tea for the first time

A life-changing experience

Kevin's First Experience: "I remember hearing my grandmother tell me a story when I would come over to her house. She had a tea cozy and doily on every surface imaginable. I'd always make a point of touching every fuzzy, soft, oftentimes dusty tea cozy she would keep on each table, desk, or davenport whether there was pot in need of being cozied or not. "What are these things?" I would always wonder. One day I had the mind to ask her why she had all these tiny pot-shaped sweater things all over her house. Then she told me a story.

During the war, she had worked in a factory for a while. My grandfather was off fighting in the Pacific, and she worked back home. Though she had tried coffee as a teenager she always hated the taste. Bitter and unpleasant, like chalk or mud, she said. But she drank it anyway because she needed the energy to work long and grueling hours at the factory. That is until one day while on break one of the other women at the factory offered her a hot drink from a keen porcelain pot. "Want some tea, Evelynne?" her friend asked her, "sure!" she said though she had never tried tea before.

She found out later it was black tea, access to green was nearly nonexistent then, and she fell instantly in love with the hardy, robust, deep, rich, and innervating drink. It was much tastier to her than coffee and she felt a lot of energy from the drink but not the jitters or the heart-thumping excess of caffeine that coffee can muster up. "And I've drank a cup every day since" she concluded. A lifetime of tea from one chance taste-test." (Kevin Horank, personal interview, 2021).

For those who enjoy coffee or tea every day it may sound like an almost startling question, “when did you first try coffee or tea? How did it feel?”. The question may also be a nearly unanswerable one. Some loyal tea or coffee lovers may have tried their first cup so long ago or even enjoyed so many afterward it is hard to remember the exact moment when they first experienced their drink of choice. Or where they were, or how old they were even!

But what can be known for certain is that for every dedicated and experienced tea drinker there was a first time and a first time that ultimately changed the tea drinker’s life for the better! Today we will talk about a very subjective, and perhaps for some an even almost intimate experience of trying tea for the first time and what it is like to experience tea for the first time ever.

An acquired taste

For some tea drinkers, their first experience of tea may have been a not-so-positive one. We are talking here about young tea-tasters! While herbal and fruit teas are certainly sweet, delicious, and palatable for children, the true tea family may be a tough sell!

Surely some of us remember hearing about the magical and exotic properties of green tea! That color, those stories of longevity or of martial arts masters or monks in China or Japan drinking this magic drink and being nearly invincible! But then, the fateful experience of tasting it came and, at least when we were children, the flavor was...quite bland or quite bitter or not our proverbial cup of tea!

Despite negative first tastings in our youth, many folks return to tea later in their lives, maybe even in their later teens or twenties. Maybe even later! By this point in our lives, our palates have maybe changed quite a bit. Let's take vegetables for a good analogy, the bane of many a child’s dinner plate, have become not only sufferable but maybe even enjoyable or preferable as our palettes change. A similar thing may happen for early tea-tasters who found tea‘s flavor none too tasty! But let’s talk about the first time one downs a cup of tea and finds their life forever changed for the better!

Just like Shennong

Describing what tasting tea for the first time is like is elusive. it is so subjective and certainly can differ from drinker to drinker. But perhaps another analogy can help to illustrate the premier experience of tea and how that can affect a person's life. According to legend, the origins of tea go back to the mythical Chinese god-emperor, Shennong.

An herbalist and polymath, Shennong went on a quest to taste every herb, plant, root, leaf, twig, vine, blossom, and fruit he could get his hands on to compile the most comprehensive medical book ever for his subjects. We have discussed Shennong quite a few times already on here, But the part of the story we would really like to focus on today would be the surprising and serendipitous nature of him trying tea for the first time.

One day while Shennong was on his quest of sampling herbs, tea seems to have introduced itself to him by chance! An auspicious breeze lofted some mysterious leaves into his hot water bowl while he was taking a quick break from his important herbalism work. From that fateful sip, and the effects the strange drink had on his body, mind, and spirit, the whole lineage of tea culture would begin right then and there.

While this story is generally confined to the realm of myths and legends it does illustrate an incredible point. From a spontaneous chance or random encounter with tea one's whole life could change for the better for the rest of their days. We know that tea changed Shennong’s life for the better because it became his go-to chaser when he sampled herbs. He would wash down a new plant with tea to counteract any negative side effects the plant may have. And from Shennong, we received not only his legendary herbal medicine text, the Ben Cao Jing, but also the lineage of tea up into the present and modern era.

But how does it taste really!

Though as we mentioned, the first experience of tea is very subjective, a first-time

tasting may go a little something like this; first, one may notice the drink's color. Especially for green or black tea. If a green is particularly verdant or if a black is strikingly dark. Other tea types will certainly be remarkable based on their liquor color, too, but especially greens. Next the aroma.

Maybe one is being subjected to a green tea bag, so the smell may be a bit stale. or perhaps someone has the honor of enjoying a choice brew of sencha, and the scent of wet grass, vegetation, and imagery evoking the misty mountains of Japan may make an appearance. Now, for the most salient part. The flavor.

Maybe it is a biting bitterness. Or a smooth, fruity, sweetness. Maybe one is tasting a finely whipped matcha. The creaminess, the foam, the deep and soothing vegetal flavor with the innervating and truly rich verdant flavor may be the most unforgettable parts. Or perhaps a bold black tea, savory, a little sweet, and perhaps if it is a Sri Lankan black tea a bit malty.

And now, the effects! Did you drink too much and get a little tea drunk? Did you spit it out? Did you savor the tea? Depending on which of these reactions you had maybe you noticed feeling a bit more lucid. maybe you didn't notice anything. Maybe you felt calmer and more relaxed. Though tea has manifold health benefits those would be impossible to notice from trying tea the first time. But the caffeine and L-theanine effects would most likely be noticeable! Especially if tea was the first caffeinated drink you tried in your life! Perhaps you felt less tired or stayed up a little later than normal. Or maybe you fell asleep faster from the L-theanine. Maybe a Zen-like sense of calm awareness took place within your mind and heart?

The first time

Tasting tea for the first time can be life changing. And for those who miss the feeling of curiosity, of wonder, of mystery, of the pleasant thrill from the new and unexpected scents and flavors, then there is good news! the world of tea is vast, large, and diverse. Believe it or not, new teas are being discovered every day. Whether they are new tea blends being discovered or the entry of once local and traditional teas finally making it to an international market, the world of tea will always keep you in a state of newness! So, if you would like to experience the joy and bliss of trying tea for the first time, seek out a completely new and different tea for you, and feel that same sense of awakened wonder once more. Happy brewing friends and always be ready for a spontaneous encounter with tea!


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