We can all try a little bit harder…

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…

18 thoughts on “We can all try a little bit harder…

  1. Great post and I absolutely agree. I have always been a mood tea drinker and the fact I have so many teas only proves what I have said all along… “I NEED all my tea, I’m a VERY moody person.” It’s bad but I do have my “medication” in great quantity to help keep me in check. This morning I’m taking a cup of Irish Breakfast from Upton Tea, just as the doctor prescribed. 🙂

  2. What an amazing business you ran – the world is at a significant loss that it no longer exists.

    To be able to walk into a store and receive a custom-blended right there from the proprietor marks of pure genius – and love of tea and customer.

    Now, when it comes to coffee transitioning to tea, I think the more important question is, “How do you take your coffee?”

    Strong and black is a far different cup ‘o joe than milky and sweet and both have vastly different tea recommendations to go with. The latter requires advice on how make up a cup of Builder’s Tea, while the former points to a clean, hearty Assam.

    1. That was actually the question that was asked: ‘How do you take your tea?’

      And it’s the beginning of a list of questions I’m trying to devise that might be able to help me predict what sort of tea a person might like. It’s an ongoing process, but my point in my recent blogpost about this was that tea sellers are definitely doing something like this already.

      Am curious what your other questions might be to assess what one’s specific tastes are.

      As your rants go, this was a bit on the mild side.

      I need to offend you more heartily. My steely resolve is anything but depleted.

  3. Wild Cherry Sencha lovely combination. Tea and Mood I certainly agree. That’s one of the reasons (besides my need for adventure) that I enjoy the leaf. Although for a new person, and most of my new people are either coffee drinkers or drink Lipton Tea, a single reference may be necessary for they already have in mind the taste or product they are looking to substitute. If the tea does not meet their mental/taste reference they tend to give up unsatisfied.

    1. OK, so you’re feeling contrary. I’ve had that one before. At the time I prescribed Mah Jongg, which is a famous Australian blend. That might be hard for you to get hold of, but that’s not my problem.

  4. It might become your problem Robert, if @bram isn’t satisfied by your answer. He’ll come back, pound on the counter and ask awkward questions. Like; what tea goes well with a shop owner who’s been given a swift bit of foot to the rear end?
    Horrible so much violence in tea salons these days.

  5. ha ha Robert. I had to burst out laughing. The mental image of that soft strawberry tea glued meticulously to your bat. “I don’t know what hit me” certainly would not be easy to answer.

  6. You’ve heard of the expression “An Iron Fist in a Velvet Glove”?
    This is more of a “willow fist in a light sparkly infusion with mellow fruits and a creamy aftertaste glove”.
    If I was going to hit someone with a cricket bat with glued on Strawberry Cream Tea, I’d recommend they hold some milk and sugar at the time for the full experience.

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