28 June 2015

Becoming a Tea Drinker?

Holding a cup of Earl Grey tea at World Tea Expo 2015

Before going to last month's World Tea Expo, I had maybe consumed a handful of teas in my life, certainly no more than a dozen. And I didn't particularly care for them.
However, while at the World Tea Expo, I had teas, then more teas, and even still more teas. And, lo and behold, I began to like them!
Yes, I had been a coffee drinker, although teas are of a different character.  While coffee seems to confront its drinker with a fuller and more aggressive mouth experience, tea seems to me to more subtle.  Yes, I still drink coffee and am not planning on giving it up.  However, I have begun not only to like tea, but also drink it instead of coffee at times.  
It is not only the subtler taste that appeals to me at times, but also the way that I have experienced the caffeine's effects.  Yes, there are teas with less caffeine, but for those with caffeine - such as two of my current favorites, Earl Grey and Darjeeling (first or second flush) - I have enjoyed the way that they help me focus more cerebrally than does the caffeine with coffee.
This one-two punch of a more subtle taste as well as a more enjoyable effect of caffeine has caused me to become someone who now likes to drink tea.

21 June 2015

Becoming a Beverage Blogger?

While covering the World Tea Expo last month, I frequently encountered the common question of "What do you write about?"  For those of us with press passes at the World Tea Expo, the badges listed our publication, and while many people there with press passes were there covering the event for tea blogs or other publications, mine simply stated "Matters of Interest Blog" listed on my press pass.  

After trying to say that I write about local events in Long Beach, such as the World Tea Expo, I have covered other events such as the Long Beach Comic Con, US Coffee Championships, and more. I also began to realize that I do a fair amount of writing about beer and whiskey, that I've written about wine, and that I had written about coffee at the US Coffee Championships. With that realization, in addition to covering local events, I said, "I write about beverages."  Perhaps, in other words, I could say that I am a beverage blogger, right?
It worked.  Rather than trying to describe all the various topics about which I write at Matters of Interest, answering their question with "I'm a beverage blogger", they nodded and seemed to be content with that answer.

It is an interesting proposition to categorize myself with such a description, though.  It is not as if I set out to become a beverage blogger or even write a lot about beverages.  However, I realized that, due to kashrut, most foods and restaurants are off-limits for my experiencing (although I do write about kosher-certified restaurants), whereas many beverages are not. Yes, most wines aren't certified kosher, so they're out, as are many liqueurs that have wine in them (and, by extension, cocktails), but coffee, tea, and many beverages with alcohol are okay. So, I've written about them.

Of course, assessing those things which I have consumed gustatorily are not the only matters that I consider at Matters of Interest, but I am realizing that they are not an insignificant segment of my material.  So, perhaps I need to consider that beverage blogging is something that I do and part of my [writing] identity.

14 June 2015

How I Began Drinking Coffee Four Years Ago

While I am now a fairly regular drinker of coffee, this was certainly not always the case.  In fact, I only began drinking coffee four years ago.  I never drank coffee in high school, I never drank coffee in college, and I never drank coffee in rabbinical school.  However, all it takes is the right circumstances.

When I moved out to Southern California a little over five and a half years ago, I found myself frequently meeting people in coffee shops, so I felt obligated to drink something.  Initially that something was hot chocolate, which was seasonally appropriate, since it was the winter.  However, when the winter warmed up, I wanted to drink something different, so I went with ice blended drinks (okay, it was primarily at stores of Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, which have very tasty iced blended drinks, which are sweet).  Somehow, I eventually moved on to drinking lattes, which were the closest I came to actually drinking coffee.
Outside of coffee shops, I would normally get my fix of caffeine through either Diet Coke (or similar drinks) or energy drinks, which had a generous amount of caffeine.  However, when I was out of my element four summers ago, I turned over a new leaf in my caffeine consumption.
While staffing BBYO's International Leadership Training conference four summers ago at B'nai B'rith Perlman Camp, I did not have access to my typical caffeine sources - no lattes, no Diet Coke (okay, some, but how much Diet Coke was I going to consume?), and no energy drinks - what was I to do? After nearly a week, I knew I needed to do something, so having seen a pot of coffee in the staff lounge, I figured I would try some.  With some Splenda added, it wasn't terrible.  I then began consuming coffee regularly both there, in the staff lounge, as well as in the dining hall (which was not as good as that of the staff lounge, but it wasn't bad).
Upon my return to Southern California, I tried drinking lattes again, but found them to be too heavy for me to drink, whereas coffees were not.  In addition to finding coffees lighter and easier to drink than lattes, I also enjoyed that they were minimally caloric, versus the hundreds of calories that came with lattes (or iced blendeds).  Thus began my drinking of coffee regularly - thanks to being outside of my normal circumstances.

07 June 2015

6th Press Pass: World Tea Expo 2015

At World Tea Expo 2015 on my 6th press pass
With the World Tea Expo taking place in Long Beach last month, I figured it would be a great opportunity to learn about teas. Yes, that's right: learn about teas.  As someone who has had very little tea in one's life, I was nevertheless curious to experience and learn about tea.  Fortunately, I was able to secure a press pass to attend the World Tea Expo, which made it my sixth press pass, having received three in 2014 and my third press pass of 2015 (as well as my third press pass not at a comic convention, along with the LA Travel and Adventure Show and US Coffee Championships).

Teas available for tasting by Teas, etc on the first morning
The first morning, I was only able to be there for a couple of hours, so I was able to start off tasting some teas by a few vendors, which was great to be able to experience how different styles of teas tasted and broaden my palate, as well as to understand how they taste.  I had arrived early that morning to try attending a session given, however, I was told that I would have to seek permission from anybody giving sessions if I could attend, since I was press.  That seemed a bit strange, so I just avoided sessions altogether.  Another instruction was to not take pictures unless I had received permission first.  Apparently, this proscription against picture-taking was primarily on account of fear of vendors having their products being widely being seen before they were ready to go to market.  So, I made sure my picture-taking was done with caution and with permission.
Tasting some Waterfall Teas on the second morning

On the second day, I tasted some more teas by the same vendors with their offerings out, which once again provided a nice buzz to carry me throughout the day.  This was great to get some more tasting in and to expand my knowledge of teas.

I then stayed long enough to also catch a bloggers panel!  Yes, my people - fellow bloggers!  I knew I had to attend (yes, there was a bloggers panel the first day, but I was, sadly, unable to attend). (Yes, I realize I'm blogging about my blogging about a bloggers panel.)
Bloggers Panel at World Tea Expo

I thought having a bloggers panel was a brilliant idea and I'm glad such a space was carved out for tea bloggers at the World Tea Expo.  Of course, it's great for various tea bloggers to catch up and to connect with each other, but it's also great for people who are not into blogging to gain an insight into this demographic. I thought it was good, although it would have been nice if there was more time allotted for them to deal with more questions.  But it was interesting for me as a blogger to see how this particular topic of bloggers considered their subject.
Also, I appreciated that one of the panelists considered it a "wonderful write-up".  Also, there were some folks, including panelists, who thanked me on Twitter for the write-up (see here and here (and also here), which makes me so glad that I was able to positively contribute to such an event and to its attendees through my blogging.

International Tea Importers teas on the expo floor
On the final day of the event, I was not able to try the various teas available out in the walkway as I had the first two days, but that was no matter, as I was able to taste many teas [finally] on the main exhibition floor of the expo. While I didn't taste all of the teas available for tasting on the exhibition floor, I was still fortunate to be able to taste many of them.  (Also, I should mention that there were some cool products available for viewing, including Alpha Dominche's Steampunk MOD..)

Tasting tea and Scotch was a blast!
A definite highlight of that day, however, was undeniably attending a tea-and-Scotch-tasting!  This was really cool!  Although you can read more at the link I shared, basically,  there were three Scotches and three teas that were paired with each other and we got to experience how their pairings enhanced each other and contrasted them with each other.  It was eye-opening - I would never have thought to put these two beverages together! Update: that post got mentioned in a post by World Tea News.

I am grateful to have received this press pass and to have learned a lot about teas!