Friday, January 20, 2012

Hold the Sugar by Katie L. Chamberlain

I grew up in the South, where sweet tea reigns supreme. Here, pitchers of sun tea bask on back decks in the steamy summer months. Iced tea accompanies most meals and when dining out, one should assume that the tea will be sweet unless otherwise specified. In the South, tea, by definition, means iced black tea (probably bags of Lipton or Luzianne) heavily embellished with sugar. This saccharine liquid masquerading as tea never appealed me. Early in life, I steered clear of tea despite its presence at every family meal. Of course, this is not unlike claiming a sweeping distaste for salad after consuming only pale, wilted iceberg. Often, it's simply a matter of exposure and a willingness to move beyond the familiar and open up to new sensory experiences.
Tea opened up to me in a manner similar to wine and microbrews after I relocated to the Pacific Northwest. Previously unknown categories were slowly revealed: oolong, Iron Goddess, and more recently, puer and aged tea. Along the way, I dabbled briefly in herbals and yerba maté (often mistakenly referred to as ‘tea’). My food interests—or sometimes obsessions—often follow closely on the heels of a related writing assignment. Some stick, others prove to be merely passing phases. In the case of tea, other factors intervened. When my relationship with Josh became more serious, so did my relationship with tea.
As it turns out, tea offers the subtle nuances in taste that make craft beer and wine so engaging. Yet tea intoxicates in an entirely different manner—and is more suited to regular and sustained consumption. Tea brewing also holds a high aesthetic appeal. It’s a slow and grounding process that suggests—and rewards—attention to the present moment. Beyond the deep categorical explorations that tea invites, the individual infusions are dynamic. Each infusion is a variation on a theme. I still find this remarkable given the utter simplicity of its elements: leaves, water, fire, and pot. Hold the sugar—tea offers a world of complexity and sweetness in its simplicity.

My grandmother’s ceramic teapot, brimming with sweet black tea, accompanied our family meals for decades, the cracked-then-repaired lid a testament to its endurance.


  1. wonderful article. I recognize that green tea pot . Many a pitcher of tea has been brewed in that pot.
    Blessed by your writing.

  2. wonderful article. I recognize that green tea pot. Many memories brewed in that pot