We heard some interesting feedback at the Duke University farmers’ market today. More than one customer, independently of each other, tasted our sweet tea made with the beautiful Sewpur Estate Assam black tea, and offered the following observation… “tastes like coffee”.
Since I was not at the market, this message was relayed to me this afternoon, with some concern about my competence and attention to detail. After all, it was Yours Truly who made the tea.
I had cleaned the brewer thoughly before brewing it (yes, I use the coffee brewer to brew black teas in large batches). I cleaned the urns. All the utensils. The countertop. Even the scales. So I was puzzled.
With great trepidation, I just tasted the offending tea. And since it is a cold sweet tea, I even heated some up to see if temperature made a difference in the volatiles. You know what I tasted?
Tea. Just tea. No coffee.
Just to be sure, I had my teenagers taste it. They have highly sensitive and pretty sophisticated palettes. And they don’t like coffee. If there was one part per million of caffeol (the water-soluble substance that gives coffee its aroma and flavor) in that brew, they would be all over it. You know what they said? “Good tea.”
That rich, complex flavor the customers were talking about? The malty, slightly floral, beautifully nuanced beverage, with a fairly full mouthfeel? It’s called TEA.
I don’t say this to be some kind of smart-alec. Part of me wanted the complaints to be correct, because that would be easy to fix. The problem, I realize now, is that too many people have never actually tasted a really GOOD tea (and for that matter, if they thought the tea tasted like coffee, they’re not drinking good coffee, either). One with rich, full flavors that compel you to taste it over and over, because you get a new experience with each mouthful. One that’s lovingly grown, carefully fermented, skillfully sourced and thoughtfully brewed. One that’s treated like a beautiful, seasonal agricultural product, which, of course, it is. That stuff chopped up in bags you buy in the supermarket? It bears a passing resemblance to tea, but is no substitute for the real deal.
So if you were one of those customers who thought the tea tasted like coffee today (or any other customer, for that matter) – I invite you to contact me to arrange a private or semi-private tasting. I would be thrilled to have you cup teas and coffees of the world with me to show you what you’ve been missing. Please give me a call, seriously.