Over the past few years I've slowly discovered the quiet, calming delight of tea over coffee. I still need my morning Americano to jump-start the day, but a few times per day and often at night, I also need to slow down and enjoy a moment of quiet, best done with a cup of tea ~ Jasmine tea is my favorite, but this has made me reconsider ~ ;-).
Last year for Christmas, I received a beautiful green tea pot and tiny tea cups as a gift ~ there's nothing sweeter than sipping tea and nibbling ginger snaps late on a cool Oakland night. I'm lucky enough to live in the Bay Area where tea and the culture of tea have seeped into a part of the daily ritual for many people ~ along the way I have found myself finding contentment musing over a pot of tea at various tea shops.
When I lived in San Francisco, I spent many rainy days studying for the LSAT at Samovar Tea Lounge in the Castro; in law school I spent countless study hours with Jee and Quyen at Téance in Albany (sadly, now closed) and at L'Aymx Tea Bar (the original location on Piedmont Avenue, and now the new location close to home, on Lakeshore Avenue) in Oakland. ~ The few times I am able to get out of the Bay Area, I like to find the local tea shop and sit a while ~ in Chicago, it was the lovely Tianguis, run by the very lovely Irasema ~ even Fresno (Teazer World Tea Market) and Houston (Té House of Tea in the Montrose) have charming tea lounges ~ and you can't drive through Encinitas without stopping at Pannikin Coffee & Tea. More recently, I am a big supporter of the new Numi Tea Garden in Oakland and the very cute Julie's Coffee & Tea Garden in Alameda.
When I think of the different tea shops I've been to, I don't just remember the tea and the atmosphere and the service ~ but I remember who I was with, what we talked about, how I felt about them and the tea and the day.
So, as my taste for different tea leaves has grown, it didn't really occur to me that the easy availability and (semi-) reasonable prices meant that the ancient craft of farming tea has been taken over by mass production, even in China. This is the focus of the film All in this Tea, by Less Blank and David Lee Hoffman. Apparently, the film goes beyond the beauty of the art of tea to show why the craft should be honored and preserved, and to discuss quality over quantity, fair trade and organics, and sustainable development. SFGate gave the film a great review (which doesn't mean anything but I like that the little man is out of his chair).
The film will be screened this Wednesday night, January 9, 2008, at Numi Tea Garden in Oakland (2230 Livingston Street). A $5-$10 donation will be requested. Go if you can! ~ Either way, please leave a comment telling me about your favorite local tea shop ~ if I can, I'd love to check it out!