I met my current best friend in my first semester of college. A Russian man with a love for philosophy, religion, music, pretty girls, and perhaps more passionately than all else, tea.
He stirred my curiosity. I began to occasionally partake in the bagged black tea offered in my school's cafeteria. I loved it, for the flavor alone. Washing down a bite of sweet breakfast muffin or toast with a sip of hot, slightly bitter tea made for a perfectly balanced palate.
Then I discovered how the tea affected my mood. I wasn't a coffee drinker, so I was quite sensitive to the leaf. I've always suffered somewhat from lethargy and inattentiveness, and the subtle cheery perk that tea gave me made me feel whole. Like awakening from a dream, like the delicate golden light of a sunrise slowly washing over my spirit, tea gave me a sense of weightlessness and freedom. Conversation over a cup of tea always flowed more freely. A cup of tea before homework turned work into play.
Once I purchased some Japanese sencha, I fell in love. I am very adventuresome in the culinary domain, and I take delight in foods from all corners of the world, but I have a particular weakness for earthy, vegetal flavors - salads are among my favorite foods - needless to say, the bitter "green" flavor of sencha was perfect. Additionally, the ritual of boiling water in a stovetop kettle to brew loose leaf tea enriched the experience of teatime immeasurably - I was accustomed to nuking a microwavable mug of water and throwing in a teabag, done in 60 seconds flat.
Learning about the intimate relationship between Zen buddhism and chanoyu, and the influence of wabi-sabi on handcrafted chadogu made my obsession complete. If I had to describe myself in one word, it'd probably be Tao, Eastern mysticism possibly being the single greatest source of joy and wonder in my life.
My latest favorite is matcha. The slight texture that matcha powder gives water adds a new dimension to the brew, as does the whisking ritual. And it just feels right to consume the entire leaf, without throwing anything away.
And, just between you and I, tea isn't the only herbal infusion that I enjoy. I am also rather fond of ayahuasca, and recommend it to anyone with a will for positive self-transformation, and a penchant for adventure.