Paradise Lost?

by Lori Way, MS, RD

Despite my love of a wide variety of teas, for the last ten years, I had pretty much settled on one tea to drink every morning, Royal Golden Yunnan, which, as some of you surely know, is no longer available.  Since I knew this was about to happen, I started to drink smaller portions, always re-brewing the leaves, in an effort to delay the inevitable loss of my favorite.  Well, it’s been gone for some time now, and I’ve been drinking –gads– “other” teas.  Here are some observations:

On the one hand, to my surprise, it hasn’t been the end of the world.  Some days I drink whatever I grab out of my copious tea basket.  It’s always at least pretty darn good, and after all, it’s hot with caffeine, so that’s part of what I’m after first thing in the morning.  I drink my pot and move on with the day none the worse for the experience.

On the other hand, darn it, it’s not the flavor I’m used to and crave.  All those years really created quite a habit.  I can’t help but compare whatever I’m drinking to my favorite taste, and usually it falls short.  Some days, I really want my beloved, and I stare into my tea basket and grudgingly choose something else.

Still, it’s nice to experiment with other teas.  I’ve remembered how much I enjoy certain others, and it’s a refreshing change of pace.  Back when I had the Royal Golden Yunnan every day, I would notice that after a few weeks I sort of couldn’t taste it anymore, and I’d have to cleanse my palate by drinking something totally different for a few days.  Then I’d go back to the Royal Golden Yunnan and it would taste amazing again.  Changing things up like that made a huge difference, and I highly recommend this practice to any of you who routinely drink the same tea each day.

I had hoped that after a short while we would be able to find a tea so similar to Royal Golden Yunnan that it would completely pacify me.  Alas, that has not happened yet.  We have tasted every so called “Royal Golden Yunnan” that we have come across and not one of them matches the flavor profile of our old one.  Apart from being from the Yunnan province in China and having the general characteristics of teas from that region, they have all differed greatly from each other and from our favorite.  This is another good thing to keep in mind when tasting teas — the name of the tea sometimes doesn’t mean that much.

I know we have lots of customers who are dedicated to their favorite tea.  We get orders for pounds and pounds of one single tea by the same folks all the time.  I’m thrilled to see such adoration for any tea, but I also worry — what if something happens and that tea goes away?  How will you cope?  I know this has already happened to some of you, and now that I’ve joined your ranks I understand the struggle.  I strongly suggest that you find other teas that you enjoy, just in case.  Do it while it isn’t urgent, so you can relax about it and know you have your favorite at hand if you don’t like whatever you’re trying.  You’ll probably be able to find a handful of others that like well enough, and you might be surprised to even find one you like better.

(For those of you who are interested, instead of Royal Golden Yunnan I’m drinking Nine Bend Black Dragon, any Keemun, Antony and Cleopatra, and Tippy Mangalam Assam the most often.  None of these really tastes much like a Yunnan, but they each have a distinctive character that I enjoy in the morning.)

So, paradise lost?  To some degree, yes.  I remain not completely satisfied, but still finding much enjoyment in tea.  If you’ve been down this road, feel free to comment on the experience!