Let me break it to you. Tea is just flavored hot water. In fact, you take water, that’s pure by itself and make it taste bitter with you tea leaves. And yet it inspires cults, the tea ceremony, the East India Company (wasn’t that tea?), the Boston Tea Party.

Yesterday I spent several hours in used bookstores near Leicester Square. Somehow I’m magnetically drawn to bookstores no matter which city I go to. (When I was in DC, I spent more time in used bookstores and that 24 hour bookstore in Dupont Circle, than going out at night.) At one particular particular store, there was a section of books relating to food, including recipes from cuisines around the world and a few that dealt creatively with food, including their histories and tracing food history in Dickens’ literature etc. I picked up one book about tea to understand how words elevate something so ordinary to great heights.

Stupid me, I forgot to write down the name of the book.

“It would have been a soup of liquid jade rimmed with froth and presented like a jewel in a chunky bowl meant to be received in both hands.” and…

“Let us dream of evanescence and linger on the beautiful foolishness of things.”

Suddenly tea becomes precious in its comparison to jade, jewels and encased in beautiful worlds! I imagine not everyone would describe tea so, but if you’ve come to love something deeply, don’t we try to use words to capture what it means to us? The way wine’s taste is described in a paragraph, “fruity, full bodied,” oh and there’s so much poetry about wine. When to me, they all taste acrid and many studies have revealed that we don’t find expensive wine any more tasty than cheap wine, so all that full bodied stuff is just marketing crap that we just distracts us from our own judgements about wine.

And coffee, “deliciously creamy tasting froth with hidden depths of rich, Arabica coffee,” says the description on the back of my cappuccino mix made by Nestle. Honey, your lumpy in my milk and leave a weird after taste in my mouth. But it is still frothy.

Just like the aroma of food provides half the pleasure of eating, words provide even more in the pleasure of drinks. I’m definitely not the first one to realize this but I feel kinda jipped because these words are hollow, empty. But when I say them in my head as I hold a warm cup of green tea, especially when watching the wind blow the trees violently and know that I am safe with a cup of tea, it seems to become true. Its amazing that words can transform a drink so ordinary to…a special moment.

I wasn’t very happy when the author chafed at the simple innocence of hot chocolate. Proper hot chocolate is just as full-bodied as the best wine, and even better because it’s cheap and easy to make at home with proper chocolate. You don’t need any espresso machine or any aging process to “develop the taste,” or brewary. Yesterday Frankie made a delicious hot chocolate from a bar of Green and Black 70% cocoa. She added only a bit of sugar so it retained that deepy chocolatey taste. So often these drinks are marred by an expectation that cocoa means sweet. Vivia la chocolate! Hold on a few days, and I’ll create my own poetry to  convince you of the beauty of good hot chocolate, not just some innocent throway kids drink.

(Next up, a new cocoa drink infused with rum.)