The first thing I notice as I embark on a year of conscious ingestion is that most all store bought teas carry, and many times as their first ingredient, “natural flavors” or “artificial flavors.” This is why many teas taste sweet or spicy and run miles over purer brands because of their hyped up, intense flavors. This makes me sad for many reasons but mostly because tea, which is supposed to be a reflective, meditative, clear drink and ritual, has now become bastardized by the same machine that manufactures the famous potato chip flavor to cause our tongue addiction to processed salt and fat. How can tea brands with integrity compete with teas beefed up on steroids? It is the same principle that occurs when children grow up eating packaged snacks and waxy candies that coat their mouths with that compulsory sensation that can not equally be found in the annals of fresh fruit or vegetables. Of course a child will choose a fluffy chocolate coated donut over an apple when their taste buds have become slave to that grocery store chemical feel—that bait that engages a palate young and takes hold for a lifetime. Going back to a simple carrot after years of fruity sugar gummy bears is a hard reversal. One has to relearn flavor—realize that everything doesn’t have to be an instant spike to our prefrontal cortex pleasure centers. We need to recall the art of the savor.
So as I sit here this morning drinking my recent favorite Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice Tea, I read the ingredients list: a blend of black teas, three types of cinnamon, orange peel, sweet cloves, natural and artificial flavors. Well at least artificial flavors are the LAST ingredient but I now know that I will not be buying more of this. I will however keep my Republic of Tea tin of Biodynamic Turmeric Cinnamon which counts only those two things and both 100% organic. Also, my Numi Collection box with its yummy organic sencha green tea with toasted rice. My tea stock is plentiful at the moment and I am not one to waste but after I finish going through my teas in current inventory I will be making a point to buy only teas with real ingredients going forward, even if it means having to retrain my brain to enjoy the simply authentic flavors in life, no matter how subtle they are. There is something beautiful in this thought, of quieting down and sitting still enough to really appreciate a blend for the herbs, barks and spices that waft up through the steaming brew. Of inhaling the essence in efforts to discern each note. Of being fully engaged with every single thing being ingested.