I love wine. Really, really love wine. I owe my love of wine in large part to Rodney Alex, owner of the best wine bar in Chicago, and probably the whole world: Juicy Wine Company. Over the years Rodney has taught me more about drinking (and eating) than a month-long Food Network marathon ever could, and I am grateful.
But in recent months, tea has become my beverage of choice. I haven’t ended my love affair with the grape: I still drink wine on a regular basis. But tea has become my daily (hourly, minutely?) companion for almost a year now, and I am happy as a clam with this state of affairs.
I am not alone: Tea has become a “hot” beverage with sales in the United States expected to reach ten million dollars by 2010. Methinks that tea is becoming the new wine. Why? Read on:
1. Its the Economy, Stupid!
The economy is tough right now, and may well end up getting tougher. Compared to wine, even really good tea is a bargain. A 6 oz pour of good wine will run you anywhere between $7-$15 at a wine bar. A 16 oz cup or pot of high-end tea will run you about $5.50 in a tea shop/tea room.
When you look at “take home” prices, the disparity is even more startling. A moderately priced bottle of wine, which contains enough for 4 six ounce glasses, will cost a consumer around $20. Yet a 50 gram bag of Silver Needles (a premium white tea) from TeaGschwendner costs just a little more at $21.93, and will make 15 eight ounce cups of tea. . .and that doesn’t even account for multiple infusions!
2. A Hobbyists Delight
The nifty thing about tea is that, like wine, it has its own traditions, rituals, trivia, and communities. Yes, there are “vintage” teas, and teas that are sourced from a single tea estate. There are various brewing methods and vessels and and tea cultures to familiarize oneself with. And collecting tea and teawares can be just as fun as stocking a wine cellar and acquiring specialized stemware.
3. Look Ma, No Calories!
Some time ago, researchers suggested that wine, consumed in moderation, had certain health benefits. The trouble is that while wine is a wonderful thing, it also has calories. Tea, on the other hand, is said to have similar health benefits, but is virtually calorie free.
In fact, it has been reported that Americans get one fifth of their daily calories from beverages (of all sorts): By swapping tea for other beverages, we can significantly reduce the number of calories that we drink.
4. Relaxation Without Intoxication
Wine can relax you, true, but it is also an intoxicant. This is not a bad thing, of course, but it does mean that caution needs to be exercised in its use. Tea, on the other hand, is work-safe, road-safe, and can be consumed anywhere, anytime, without any dulling effects.
Yes, true teas contain caffeine, but they also contain l-theanine which can promote relaxation and smooth the buzz from caffeine. (And many tisanes/herbal teas, such as rooibos, don’t contain any caffeine at all.) Plus, the ritual of preparing and serving tea, much like the wine opening/tasting ritual, can promote a sense of calm and restore one’s balance in a hectic world.