The case of tea is not very different from that of other foreign drinks. As with wine, one day we will end up learning and surely, as it happened to beer, we will develop a culture with its own personality that eventually could even be exported. Neither the vineyards nor the centenarian brewing is in the DNA of the Mexican, but how is the adaptation?
Today the tea world in Mexico follows an eternal remix between curative herbalism (of that we do have cultural antecedents), the trend of well-being and details of sophistication. Although it is becoming increasingly clear that tea is called the infusion leaves derived from the Camellia sinensis, people are still calling at the tea restaurants waiting to hear chamomile, peppermint, and cinnamon. The waiters and the establishments in general, better not to argue.
To clarify the difference is fruitless because in any way people say and will continue saying lemon tea, chamomile tea, and boldo tea. Then the waiters, even if they are trained, the first thing they offer is chamomile tea. And it should not frighten us, it will be better to assume that we are. A line designed, thinking of expressing the best of tea, is doomed to incomprehension if it does not include chamomile flowers in their blends. I think you could even do without the popular rooibos (a South African root that is not tea) or an elegant green tea but never a relaxing Egyptian chamomile tea.
I visited many places that offer tea. The vast majority of them restaurants. In almost all cases I encountered a deficient experience that I had to correct on my own. From removing the sieve or pouch from the jar with still boiling water to request more water to rescue a poorly bitter infusion.
One place was absolutely spotless. As impeccable as it is many other aspects. In Pujol, by chef Enrique Olvera, the tea business is taken care of perfectly. I closed a work meeting with a white tea that I did not ask for more details but I’m almost sure it’s a “White Peony Needles”. As a result of a very good reading by the service, we were not interrupted to hear unsolicited explanations about the tea (another day I will talk more about that point). The jug came with a bowl (a cup without handles own Chinese services, which makes me think that probably also care protocol). Inside the jar, there were no tea leaves, just a clear liquor (so-called infusion result) of rosy nuances ready to be served.
The most common mistake I have encountered is not about the choice of brand or selection of varieties. Not even with the confusion of offering tea as tea, no. The big mistake is to serve tea in coffee mugs and jars. There is no turning back. Once a sachet or fine loose strands is infused into these containers the result is catastrophic. I must give this example as a reference, I must also say that only one comment was well thought out for the chef to take up the subject. I applaud the chef to have included an artisan range of tea called Bloo Tea which offers a very well conducted experience. Note that they have dedicated to the subject and bought very nice mugs, the menu includes nice photos and nice descriptions. Everything goes very well until with the first sip comes in the background a touch of coffee.
I love coffee, but I like it when I drink coffee, not when I drink tea. Simply coffee and tea can not coexist in the same cup. The aroma of the coffee is absolutely protagónico and to put it next to the tea is like putting to Miley Cyrus next to Celine Dion in the same scene. In the end, none ends up liking.
I do not have any extremist fighting nor do I want a revolution. Many people switch to tea and stop their coffee. I do not, I can with both but at different times. If you have a whole ceremony to uncork a bottle of wine and many restaurants have included novel ways of infusing coffee, I do not see why they should not have more care with tea.
In the city (and in many states in general), tea houses are not new. There is not much I can say about them because I am really a novice in the subject. It was only a few months ago that I began to take an interest in the subject and that these institutions attracted my attention. There is one in particular, that without knowing much of the others, it obliges me dangerously to visit frequently it. Tomás Casa Tea Editor is the result of the union of a lover and enthusiast of tea and a very prepared sommelier of tea. From the place, I’ve already talked to tiredness. There are those who have reproached me that I look like their public relationist, but the truth is that it is important to make known these places that are assembled with affection, respect and a lot of professionalism.
It is very well placed this adorable little store, floor-to-ceiling details lavish taste and offers a wide range of tea blends, including some herbal and fruit herbal teas but what predominates is tea. Personally, I prefer pure teas. I calculate that there must be at least 10 or 12 that go from the white to the Pu-erh passing of course by the green tea , Oolong tea, and black tea of several origins. The place is very pleasant and is well thought out to enjoy with all tranquility the delicate infusions that arrive in glass or metal knuckle, according to the type of tea.
I am attracted to the possibility of sitting down to work or reading with a good supply so I would love to be able to re-infuse the tea strings. The best teas, in many cases, offer a more pleasurable experience with the second and even the third infusion. Of course, that would involve a reconfiguration in the way they serve the tea, however, would gladly pay an extra for this option. From the place, I love the furniture, the shelf with boats and its didactic bar where you can see some leaflets and understand the differences. The range of accessories is very correct, although perhaps it would be more successful if you could find some accessories and toys that in Mexico are difficult to get; Notebooks for logs, thermometers, scales, and cans for storing the precise sheets.
What other things have I encountered? Unfortunately with tea services where it would be best to offer a modest “tea” Lagg’s of chamomile than the barbarities that are sometimes seen. The restaurant El Cardenal of the Historical Center attracted my attention, where they applied the “I bring the tea box”, a poor drawer scraped, dented and when open, a jumble of envelopes, marks, and contents. It is clear that nobody cares about the issue.
Among the clutter of envelopes, I rescued an organic Earl Gray from the brand Mighty Leaf Tea, a young American company, who has taken care of very simple details like the sack where the leaves are (of good quality) and its presentation. To the previous one will have to add to the experience, the battered jar that took me with half of water. A shabby jug with no lid, with only half of the liquid. Why not fix it when serving? The service was friendly, it was very clear that the tea theme did not interest them and surely it is because the customer himself does not ask for anything better. The Cardinal, in principle, is not the best place to drink tea but to order shells and hot chocolate. I would tell the Briz Garizurieta family that I understand that the tea does not really matter to them, but I do not mind their customers who drink tea and hopefully they can leave us some medium-sized sachets. On the water and the jars, there we go with the waiter. After all, the responsibility lies with the most concerned.
I close with the last scene that baffled me but then I did not have the arguments to say it was wrong. Tea Connection, a place that has become known for its breakfasts in the Condesa and Polanco, offers a whole experience to bring the carafe very tapa-dita not to lose temperature and the servers talk with much tea. What is not clear to me is why they do everything the other way around. The pitcher comes full and the tea strings in the brew colander. The waiter pays what is to be infused, introduces the strainer with tea in the water and closes the lid. Then, turn a mini hourglass to count inaccurately 3 minutes. Imprecise because some hourglasses count 2’50 “and other 3’10”. We want tea, not shows!
In this modality, the tea can not get wet properly, because besides, I had to say that the jug is half full (or half empty). I do not know if they control the temperature but they definitely do not control the leaves getting wet. As a diner, I will not necessarily worry about pulling out the strands when the hourglass stops. Surely I will forget when there is no bell or buzzer. This concept, without adjustments, has the days counted.
I can only think that aspiring tea sommeliers (like me) who have decided to specialize in the design of tea lines (like me), we must complement our training with much protocol and herbalism. While not for curative purposes, yes with the idea of valuing and enjoying the nuances that this wide and unexplored range offers.
The tea service is a virgin land that must be conquered following the same tortuous path followed by various glass cups and thermometers to serve the wine at the correct temperature. The future is promising.