Tea aficionados in the U.S. are quick to point out that tea is an age-old beverage with deep cultural roots around the world, and that its popularity as a drink is only surpassed by water. Meanwhile, those in the tea business hype the rapidly rising sales figures the industry has seen over the last decade or so, predicting enormous yields in future years. Strangely, both of these divergent outlooks completely fail to capture something essential and incredible that’s happening with tea in America.
The U.S. is in the midst of a tea renaissance. Tea traditions that had long lain dormant under the surface of American culture have sprung to vibrant life. Tea rituals, tea flavors and types, tea foods and teaware have begun to intermix with one another to create a new fusion style of tea that is wildly international and yet distinctly American. The American palate has become vastly more sophisticated with regard to tea, just as it did with coffee, beer, chocolate, sushi and wine in previous years. American culture has been infused, if you will, with tea.
Still more interesting is the fact that tea culture in America has been infused with an independent, experimentalist approach. This approach is distinctly American – after all, the same kind of innovation gave birth to jazz music and the same openness to transposing and transforming ideas gave birth to the hippie movement.
The pith of this movement is, unsurprisingly, San Francisco. However, revolutions have a way of refusing to sit still and this one, like others before it, is spreading across the country. Samovar, a San-Francisco-based company that in many ways epitomizes the new wave of tea in America, is a part of that growth and change. I anticipate seeing how Samovar’s most recent venture into the digital world of tea, Samovarlife, impacts the new tea traditions that are currently forming across the country.
Lindsey “Vee” Goodwin is a professional tea writer and consultant. Click here to reach her by email.