I had an interesting conversation today with Idalia about tea. Someone who was visiting the house wanted tea. She found some tea that a delegate had left behind for the house. The box was in English so she asked me what kind of tea it was; it was basic black Lipton tea. “Té negro,” I told her (black tea). She said, “Sí, pero qué tipo de té?” (Yes, but what kind of tea?) I repeated myself. She responded, “Pero qué hierba? Manzanilla?” (But what herb? Chamomile?) I repeated myself again and further explained that the name of the plant the tea comes from is called “tea.” She looked at me like I was nuts. I tried to explain that the only drink that’s actually “tea” comes from the “tea” plant which originated in China. She said that the manzanilla tea they sell in stores here is tea too.
At that point I gave up. Herbal tea not being actual tea is not easy to explain to people from the US. It’s also not an easy concept to explain to someone when they’ve really never had exposure to a variety of teas before. Pretty much the only kind of “tea” that you can buy here in Berlín is chamomile. Black and green tea does not exist. You can find them in the grocery stores in bigger cities but unless you drink tea you’d have no reason to go looking for it.
I want to explain that if you want to be technical about it, the only “tea” that is actually “tea” comes from the tea plant (most of the time from the camellia sinensis used to produce tea in China). Here I quote from the store Gong Fu tea in Des Moines. These guys know what they’re talking about: “Herbal teas are not truly teas at all - they are simply a variety of herbs, fruit and flowers blended together in a manner which will allow them to be steeped like a tea, and provide a tea-like infusion. There are many different herbal combinations possible, using ingredients that can be sourced from all over the world - some based on recipes for ancient herbal remedies, others blended purely for an agreeable taste.” http://www.gongfu-tea.com/start.shtml
Another tea story
I think Cecilia could be a tea connoisseur. Later in the day I told her to smell my tea. I often do this because most of the time the women don’t like the tea I drink. I admit that I have a different taste in tea than many people and enjoy my lapsang souchong and genmaicha tea that have somewhat of an acquired taste. But today I was drinking ginger peach (black) tea. She smelled it and asked what it was. Then she said, “Durazno?” (peach). That’s right! I was impressed and told her that. She smiled and told me she was very smart. I’ll have to get her to try it next time. I think I can turn her into a tea drinker yet!