Friday, January 13, 2006

Remember when green tea just came as green tea?

I'm sitting at Starbuck's trying to get some work done, but the procrastination gene that runs dominant in my brood has taken over yet again. I've spent half the morning installing Firefox on my 4.5-year-old Mac because Safari has permanently crapped out. I have been using Microsoft Explorer, which is like an octogenarian driving through Leisure World in a 1982 Oldsmobile: it's going mind-numbingly slow when it's not crashing.

One of the staff members (excuse me—baristas, reputedly named for the Barism separatists of Bilbao who liked to drink a macchiato venti before attacking the federales) came up and gave me a sample of green tea latte. Some may find it terribly weird, but I have never tried this latest rendition of the bitter but therapeutic nectar of unfermented dried tea leaves.

I am old school when it comes to green tea. I love the stuff, but it is meant to be a bitter brew, sipped on a cold day (I will drink iced green tea in the summer, however, my one concession to green tea's recent faddishness). In matters like these, I am a purist.

Green tea is not meant, in my opinion (which is usually right), to be adulterated with sugar, milk, cream, or anything other than water. On my list of green tea heresy are green tea ice cream, green tea powder over pastries, green tea crackers, and of course, green tea latte.

My father, usually dinosauric in his preferences, absolutely loves green tea ice cream. So much so that when we were in Italia a little over a year ago (where I saw the top of the Pope's head), he made me ask each and every gelato vendor we saw—from Roma, Viterbo, pretty much everywhere in Lazio, Napoli, Pisa, Firenze, and Venezia—if they had green tea ice cream, er, gelato.

Mind you, I don't actually speak Italian, but for one month, I did a very good job of faking it, thanks to three hours of reading a "Speak Italian in Just Three Hours" guide and my trusty Lonely Planet Italian Phrasebook. Not able to find the phrase "green tea" in my phrasebook or dictionary, I just told the gelateria managers: "We're from America and we've come all the way to your gastronomically rapturous country so that we could consume foods we can easily find in a supermarket back home. Do you have any ice cream with the flavor [pause, then switch to English] green tea?"

Incidentally, this was also the way I ordered butter for my mother, who could not get over the fact that Italians did not always eat the yellowish emulsion of salt and butterfat with the copious amounts of bread they consume. Eventually, I just truncated my request to, "We're from America. Do you have any butter?"

Prior to today, I have in fact tried green tea ice cream. My father, a generous sort with food who doesn't mind sharing things that have touched other people's mouths, had offered me a taste of his, which I managed to sample before he himself took a bite (my mother's a nurse and she has made me fearful of sharing food even with myself). I wasn't a big fan. I tried a green tea shake, but it was only marginally better.

So about a half hour ago, I sipped my first green tea latte. And while I didn't spit it out as the Baptist Lord supposedly does with lukewarm Christians, all I can say is "meh" (a Simpsonian utterance akin to 별로).

You'd think my affinity for coffee in all its lacteous varieties would have prepared me for a love of green tea latte, but for some reason it doesn't work that way. To me, coffee's bitterness is a distraction from its aroma and taste, but with green tea, the bitterness is an enhancement to the purifying, salutary experience. It shouldn't be masked with sucrose and dairy products. Also, I shouldn't have to pop another lactase pill just to drink green tea.

I should also add that the surface of an open cup of green tea latte looks like a layer of pond scum. The kind of pond scum you might find if someone hadn't chlorinate the swimming pool properly [if someone would recommend a good digital camera to buy, I'd take a picture of this to show you what I mean].

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8 comments:

  1. Hear, hear! I was given samples of green tea frappacino and green tea something else at Starbucks last summer and thought the stuff was wretched. All I could taste was the sugary stuff. Couldn't taste any green tea at all. Like you, when I want green tea, I'll drink a cup of freshly steeped tea leaves, no sugar, no milk, no nothing.

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  2. Let me talk about...errr...many do drinks coffee here in Korea-a paper cup of "milk coffee"- out of the vending machine, not for the taste of coffee (or milk either), but for the sweet sugary flavor in it. The real substance,coffee's only displayed in color and name.

    I'm among the people hehe...

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  3. Sonagi wrote:
    Hear, hear! I was given samples of green tea frappacino and green tea something else at Starbucks last summer and thought the stuff was wretched.

    It's definitely an acquired taste. But nowadays in Korea, because of the 웰빙 (well-being) fad, people are lovin' green tea on everything!

    All I could taste was the sugary stuff. Couldn't taste any green tea at all.

    Well, my problem is that I can taste enough of it for my tongue to go, "What the fuck are these flavors being mixed for?!"

    My tongue has quite a mouth on itself.

    Like you, when I want green tea, I'll drink a cup of freshly steeped tea leaves, no sugar, no milk, no nothing.

    Preach it!

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  4. hastle wrote:
    Let me talk about...errr...many do drinks coffee here in Korea

    Here in Korea? I thought you were in Sandy Eggo, man!

    -a paper cup of "milk coffee"- out of the vending machine, not for the taste of coffee (or milk either), but for the sweet sugary flavor in it.

    Ah, 자판기 커피, what my brood refers to as "Victory coffee" (a "1984" reference).

    I must admit that I found myself addicted to that stuff. Before I stopped drinking the stuff to impress a health-conscious female (by showing that I would give in to whatever demands she made of me, I guess), I would drink the stuff about twice a day. That little bit, I thought, was being health-conscious.

    She convinced me to stop altogether when I heard the caloric content was stratospherically high.

    The real substance,coffee's only displayed in color and name.

    Well, I don't know about that. It does taste like coffee, enough for me, anyway. It gave me my coffee fix for the first half of the day.

    And the fact is that, at least where I work, people line up to drink the stuff because of its high caffeine content. It's a kick-in-the-pants jolt of coffee.

    I'm among the people hehe...

    Admitting your problem is the first step toward recovery.

    This is how far I've come: sometimes I actually crave a cup of java just straight. Nothing in it.

    But I must admit that what I really love is boiled coffee from one of those Italian things you stick on the stove-top burner which forces the water upward through the ground coffee and into a vat which holds the freshly boiled coffee there. You mix that coffee with a little more than half that amount of milk (even lowfat will do) and add some sugar or honey.

    That's the way I drank it every day in Italia and I loved it. I used the same burner for seven years before my Halmoni left it on the stove and burned off the handle.

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  5. I used the same burner for seven years before my Halmoni left it on the stove and burned off the handle.

    LOL I love your Halmoni!

    PS> It's been a couple of months now...and I still miss the weather in Sandy Eggo and the girls on the beaches...:-)

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  6. I just noticed (through a couple people whose connections were registered by sitemeter.com) that this post pops up in position #4 if someone does a search for starbucks green tea latte.

    Yay, me!

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  7. I think the main reason most companies only have flavored tea is because they are using the artificial flavors to cover up the bad quality of there tea. Really good fresh green tea needs no flavoring its a great flavor in itself.

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  8. Yeah I agree. Green tea is best in it's simple fashion. That is, just add water. It's like a marketing trend now to add it to everything like even shampoo.

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