Chris’s taste buds on tea

Chris’s commentary on food has certainly evolved over the course of our relationship. While he’s always enjoyed food, as the years have gone on together, he’s become far more vocal when it comes to flavors, textures, and presentation. This has even extended itself into foods he feels okay about, but doesn’t necessarily love or gravitate towards, such as bubble tea/tapioca tea/boba, and loose leaf tea, like the ones we’ve been tasting throughout this China trip. Before this trip, Chris never had a strong opinion about any bubble tea or loose leaf tea I’ve tasted or bought and had him try. He would just say they were fine or good and say it was my choice whether I liked them enough to buy them, and leave it at that.

As far as I can recall this trip, we’ve had about five different bubble tea drinks, and he’s declared the Yu Cha outside of our Chengdu hotel his favorite: in the taro milk tea, there was a very generous portion of minced and stewed taro — creamy, slightly sweet, and very rich. Then, in the egg pudding milk tea, the egg pudding was also creamy and rich, eggy and custardy. He disliked one of the ubiquitous chains we went to for their milk tea, insisting it wasn’t that sweet or unique, that the tea flavor felt watered down. And he’s not a huge fan of the “cheese” top with the salty-sweet milk foam, even though I love it. “That’s not good… I don’t want that,” he thought out loud. “That’s just tea with some milky thing on top, and that is not milk tea. Milk tea is tea with milk incorporated into it.”

The worst tea tasting we had was of a few Sichuanese teas at a Tianfu tea shop in Beijing. I was unimpressed by all four of the teas we tried. Two of them tasted like vegetables in a cup. A third one tasted like… nothing. The fourth one was probably the most flavorful, but that was a sad comparison when holding it against the other three. Chris sat there, also unimpressed after sipping from his tasting cup, and insisted that two out of four of them were “grass in a bowl. This is like drinking grass. This is not good. But, you’re drinking it, so you decide.” Luckily, the shop assistant helping us knew zero English and understood nothing that Chris so vocally stated. When she asked our opinion, I simply said that we were not particularly fond of any of these, and left it at that. She seemed crushed knowing she wouldn’t get a commission off of us.

But while at Zhu Ye Qing and the tea tastings we did at the tea market in Shanghai and Beijing, Chris declared these tastings far, far superior to the one at Tianfu tea shop, which is a mid-tier tea chain throughout China. “Not even a single tea we tasted at this place (Tianfu) can compare to the quality of teas we had at these other places. They’re just charging you for grass,” he insisted.

Tastes evolve over time, even for things you don’t really think you like much. That’s why it’s good to keep an open mind when traveling to places you aren’t very familiar with and still tasting things when you previously thought you might not have enjoyed them. You might actually discover you like said food or drink because maybe, just maybe you will have a version of it that suits your tastes.

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