Tuesday, November 6, 2007

How do you take your tea?

I tend to think of wine as being a far more intimidating subject than tea. I would argue that many people think that wine is for the wealthy, the cultured (or snobbish) and the well-traveled while tea is for your grandmother, your upset stomach or your breakfast. Generally speaking (and without doing a true ounce for ounce comparison) wine is considered more costly than tea. A cup of tea from the corner cart vendor will only cost you a dollar while even the cheapest house wine averages 5-7 dollars at a restaurant. And when you do order that glass of wine you are faced with many choices. Whereas generally speaking people usually stick to the same type tea. It seems that people prefer their tea made a certain way.

During my first year as a teacher I always got my tea with milk and no sugar while my co-teacher ordered hers with lemon and four sugars - we were on complete opposite sides of the tea spectrum.
I have just made many many generalizations; some of which I believe and others which I don't think are true at all. Nonetheless I will continue to make generalizations in an attempt to demystify some of the choices about wine. I will use tea as my guide, so before you go any further, ask yourself, how do you take your tea?

You like that bitter astringency that comes from the tannins in the tea.  You may even enjoy that feeling of wetness being wicked away from your tongue and the squeekiness of your teeth
You will like dry red wines. Try one from France like a young Bordeaux (younger wines = more tannic) or a Chateaunuef-du-Pape.  Or if you are on a budget, a Cabernet from South America may do the trick. 
With milk only
You like the mellowness that the milk brings as it cuts down the tannins in the tea, but you still like a little bitter element.
You could be interested in a smoother red wine such as a Merlot. For a splurge try a Pomerol and experience its velvety texture and smooth tannins.  Or go for a Carmenere - doing well in Chile. 
With sugar only
You enjoy the bright, lightness of the tea, but without the bitterness. 
Try a Beaujolais, made from the light and fruity Gamay grape.  Or maybe even a rose.  If you're really feeling adventurous, go for a Sparkling Lambrusco - a red sparkler that will remind you of drinking grape juice as a child.
With lemon only
You love the crisp sour acidity that the lemon brings to the tea. In wine this is not a favorable combination
You will go for a white wine.  Try a Vernaccia from Italy for its crisp citrus notes and light body. 
With milk and sugar
You are using the tea as a vehicle for a sugary, creamy dessert.  You love sweet, mild flavors
You may like a rich Chardonnay, aged in oak for its buttery finish. Or try a Viognier - if you really want something unctuous go for a Condrieu. Or try an aged Semillon.
with sugar and lemon
You like the acidity of the lemon but you want it toned down a bit.
Try a Kabinett Riesling if you take one sugar, Spatlese if you like 2, Auslese if you like 3 and Trokenbeernauslese if you like 4 and can afford it
Green Tea
You enjoy the grassy flavors of the green. Perhaps you like the bitterness too.
You could either do a white or a red.  If you go with white try a Sauvignon blanc from New Zealand - they are especially grassy and zesty. 
You like herbal teas, maybe you like organic things too. 
Try an unfiltered white wine - one that has been oxidized.  You will get that chamomile taste as well as apple cider.

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