Wednesday, April 20, 2011

coffee vs. tea (thanks for the idea Tamara)



First, thanks to my friend Tamara who posed the question, which I then stole for a blog idea.

     Coffee vs. Tea,  not so much the beverage themselves but more the culture involved in each.  Full discolosure time, I am a coffee drinker.  Not just a drinker but a lover of coffee I like to try different kinds of coffee and different ways to brew coffee,  I don't much care for tea.  My wife however, likes tea (real tea, not the stuff that comes in a bag that has been sitting for who knows how long) and she doesn't like coffee even a little.
     My first impulse is to say that in general tea drinkers are a bit elitist, and coffee is the drink of the average guy I mean, come on, when was the last time anyone called tea something like "Joe"?  So let's compare a little.  Laying aside personal preference for one drink or the other, what is difference of the "culture" of each?

      Tea.  Well the history of tea stretches back centuries, and I suppose China would be the "hometown" of tea and tea culture.  But, I'm not going to get into tea and coffee history even though it is interesting and does go to the formation of the cultures.  My observation is that traditional tea culture isn't so much about the drink, it is more about relationship.  I am always amazed at watching a traditional Chinese or Japanese tea ceremony, that is were you can really see the relationship in tea.  The care taken in the preperation of the tea shows respect from preparer to drinker. The patience, time and detail during the pouring builds a commonality of experience between the two. And the appreciative drinking of the tea shows gratitude and acceptance from drinker to preparer.  If you haven't seen or taken part in a tea ceremony, you should....even if you don't like tea, because it's not really about the tea.
      There is of course another tea culture, the one born of the British Empire.  I'm not going to claim to know much about English tea culture, but perhaps that is were my perception of tea elitists comes from.  All those old movies that would at some point involve some stuck up jerk taking tea regardless of what is going on.  But obviously tea in the UK is an important part of the culture, after all we seemed to get pretty ticked off about a tea tax and chuck a bunch of it in the harbor.  And now some 235ish years later we have a political movement called the Tea Party........go figure.

      So what about my impresion of coffee being the average guy drink?  Think back to all those old war movies, what did your average soldier, sailor, or marine want to drink?  Coffee.  But, as with tea, when you take a closer look it's not really about the drink.  Where tea is about the relationship, coffee is about socializing.  Coffee can be a drink used as an excuse to get together, "hey do you want to get together for coffee?"  I personally have been with soldiers and Coast Guardsmen passing a cup of coffee around on a cold evening.  It was not really about the coffee it was more about sharing the misery of being cold and/or wet.  So where the relationship built with tea is focused on sharing the tea,  coffee is usually not the focus, the focus is on some other shared experience.
      Yes, there are exceptions to every observation, my wife drinks tea while we play games or sit around talking.  I enjoy the different preperation styles of coffee.  Some cultures have a very deep respect and ceremony for coffee, to be invited to an Ethiopian coffee ceremony is a great honor and show of respect.  And certainly there is a different coffee culture in Italy, Turkey or North Africa.  Vietnam has some amazing coffee where the traditions of colonial France and South East Asia collide creating some really nice coffee.  Even in Japan there is a growing coffee culture and here in the States tea is becoming a more "social drink"

Of course this doesn't even touch on the whole   Venti, Non-Fat, No Foam, No water, 6 pump, extra hot, chai tea latte. Or the grande hot decaf triple five-pump vanilla non-fat no foam whipped cream extra hot extra carmel upside down carmel machiatto.  Or whatever.............thanks Tamara!!!!

So there you have it, my take on tea vs. coffee...............any one for a glass of wine?

Stay hungry..................peace

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