Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Coffee Vs. Tea by Andrew Hess

You can almost feel the tension build thinking about this one simple question: Do you drink coffee or tea? So often I hear this question presented in this manner: coffee or tea? Coffee, or tea? Why does it have to be "or"? I find, more often than not, people will have a specific answer one way or the other. This is when I find myself in the middle ground. I drink coffee AND tea. As a matter of fact, I drink a lot of both.
The similarities of the two drinks is impressive, and frequently I find that the people who only drink tea or coffee have the same reasons for sticking with their beverage of choice. And many of these people don't realize that the other drink may have just what they are looking for.
When you begin to look at the two drinks, you realize just how similar they are. These four things are just a few aspects that come to mind:

1. True with both coffee and tea: if pre-ground and low in price, you will never have as satisfying of a taste as a fresh ground, whole bean or full leaf tea.

2. You are able to find teas and coffees in a wide array of prices. These prices typically dictate quality as well, whether you are buying an ounce of Sun Moon Lake black tea or a pound of high quality Kopi Luwak coffee beans. The price will be high, but the quality is even higher.

3. Deep, roasty, sweet, floral, berry, savory, rich, malty: all words to describe coffee and tea.

4. People drink both to wake up in the morning, and some even drink them in the evening before going to sleep. People relax over cups of tea and coffee everyday.

While there are many similarities, for every one thing that is the same there is probably at least one thing that is different as well. One of the main differences I have noticed amongst the two cultures is using additives to the drink, namely cream and sugar. This is where I differ drastically between the two drinks. Allow me to explain: Right now my two favorite types of tea are high mountain green oolongs and formosa region teas. Both of these have more delicate flavors with many sweet, floral, buttery and smooth flavors. I prefer all of these unadulterated. Tea is, in my opinion, best enjoyed pure; simply water and leaves.
My coffee, on the other hand, is anything but "pure." While I do enjoy a good strong cup of black coffee, I prefer it on the sweeter side. This may be an understatement, actually. There have been times when I've had my "coffee" described as hot chocolate with a shot of coffee. Like with many things, this difference in preference shows that there is a time, place and mood for both drinks.
While I do find myself enjoying both drinks, I too am guilty of being able to distinctly answer the question: coffee or tea? If I had to pick one, it would always be tea for me. There are many reasons for this, but my main reason for this is the process. I am fully enthralled with tea, and I love the motions performed to brew tea in the gong-fu style. From the moment I open my tin of tea and smell its wafting scent, I can feel a wave of comfort and relaxation come over me. While I brew most of my coffee in the pour over style, which I guess is the gong-fu of coffee, I still never quite feel the enjoyment I get from gong-fu cha.
So while I thoroughly enjoy both drinks, the lack of process and care that coffee requires will always make it fall short of tea for me.

So what does all of this rambling boil down to? My name is Andrew Hess, I drink coffee AND tea, but given a choice between the two I will always reach for the cup of tea.

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