I agree with @lahikmajoe, (otherwise known as Ken in that mystical arena called Real Life that I have only a passing connection to).
But then again, I don’t.
You see, Ken took the opportunity to advise someone who was in a supermarket and contemplating a virginal tea purchase. He asked a few questions about how that person took their coffee, and then Voila! One recommendation sorted.
Now I’m not suggesting that Ken did anything wrong in this. I would have asked a few more telling questions: “Do you prefer a mild Maragogype bean or are you more into a nutty Limu?” “Do you add an extra shot in a medium cappuccino?” “Do you like a nice mocha?” And my favourite: “In a latte, can you tell the difference between full cream and skim milk”.
There’s every chance of course, that the poor guy would have given up, headed straight for the gin and spent the night in a gutter, babbling about A. Arrabica vs C. Robusta.
But I digress.
The fact is, most coffee drinkers have the palate of your average Nubian Goat. Some of them drink INSTANT COFFEE if you believe it, which is crime against humanity of the most vulgar kind. Some add milk and sugar to drip filter coffee, which makes some form of runny dessert, like a custard that doesn’t have the decency to thicken. And many of them take a good espresso and bury it under terms like “weak”.
When we ran a tea and coffee emporium, we had 46 coffees, including some spectacular blends. But if you compare our mildest Maragogype to our strongest blend Mañana , or even our double roasted Costa Rican that came with a warning, it was still coffee. It tasted like coffee. Sure there was subtlety; there was nuttiness or not, astringency or mellowness, but it all tasted like coffee.
Whereas the range of flavours in tea is so much wider. There is so many more aspects to choose from.
So Ken’s interrogation technique doesn’t hold up. “Do you prefer the jasmine taste of your grande bollocky supremo latte to be at the forefront, or further back on the palate?” is going to be met with a blank stare.
I prefer a much more direct link to the brain. You only need two questions: “What do you normally drink?” and the big one “How do you feel right now?”
And the second one is the key.
We had a customer called Mary who would walk in twice a week. I’d say “How do you feel”, and she’d normally say one word a or a short sentence, and I’d match the tea to her mood.
One day she said “Whimsical” . I mixed our mango and quince teas together, and added some cornflowers on that occasion.
Another time she replied “Suffering from a melancholic lassitude”". I applied a Wild Cherry Sencha to ameliorate that condition.
I think my favourite was the time she said “Uncharitably disposed toward the rest of humanity”.
On that occasion, I gave her some Sikkim Temi. I only had four kilos left, so I’d withdrawn it from sale and taken it home to drink myself. But I kept a bag under the counter for emergencies like these.
So go on. Ask the question. Someone’s popped ’round for tea? Brew them something to suit their mood. So what if you have to make four brews for four people?
Tea is that versatile.
I’m feeling EXUBERANT! Time to brew a pot of…