Apparently I took Sunday off without realizing it. My sense of time is, well, not particularly well developed. So here is what I would likely have written about yesterday, had I recalled that it was, in fact, Sunday and not Saturday:

I would like to take a moment to plug the Hidden Peak Teahouse (I am in no way affiliated with or benefiting from this endorsement) in Santa Cruz. I had a lovely visit with two of my dear friends and my lovely and talented better half. My friends tried two of the green teas (Green Summit, Dragon Well) and were quite pleased, and my dear and I decided on a somewhat fancier oolong (Formosa High Mt.) tea with a lovely rich and mellow flavor that changed quite agreeably over the many steepings it allowed us. If you have not had the experience of a gung fu tea service, I highly recommend it both for the richness of the flavor and for the experience itself.

The point of the tea is not to enable a high-speed impact with modernity with fueled by sugar, milk, caffeine, and the promise of “anti-oxidants,” and you will do yourself an incredible disservice if you attempt to approach it in that manner. Divest yourself of your digital devices, bring anywhere from $0.99 to perhaps $10.00 and make the conscious choice to let yourself enjoy the experience at a relaxed pace.

One of the difficulties I predict new tea drinkers, (as I am myself,) is balking at the prices. So I will quickly explain how it works so you are not caught off guard:

When you go to the average coffee shop you are paying roughly $3.00 for a cardboard cup of hot water with one/two teabag(s) in it. Most of the time it gets over-steeped in short order because we are on the go or not thinking about it. There is nothing wrong with this choice–if you are on the go and need that jolt of Earl Grey to wake up in the morning, so be it. However, once the 12 to 20 ounces of steaming stimulant are gone, away goes the cup and you continue on your trajectory.

The difference is that Hidden Peak is not intending to sell you an adjunct to the endlessly accelerating pace of modern life. When you get a gaiwan, small teapot, or the full gung fu tea service you are getting exemplary tea and as much water (at the proper temperature) as you care to steep the leaves with, and as much time as you care to spend doing so. I myself am rather fond of a tea that costs $13.50 at the moment, the Pheonix Oolong. My somewhat fumbling neophyte attempts to describe its piquant and pleasant character can be most charitably summed up by the phrase: “this tea is a revelation”–and indeed it was to someone who had only ever had Lipton and tea from Costco.

Not only was the tea itself exquisite, but having paid a mere 13.50 for it, in addition to the 5$ extra to purchase the use of a gung fu service set for my wonderful partner and I, meant that the roughly 2.25 liters (roughly 76 fluid ounces) that the fabulous tea lasted ended up costing a total of approximately 24 cents per ounce, left zero trash, and afforded us two hours of peaceful warmth and enjoyment in Hidden Peak’s peaceful little outdoor garden.

To be entirely fair, the $5-$7 tea is also quite nice, considerably superior in flavor, aroma, and character to the average mass-produced stuff, and lasts almost as long as the more expensive tea when steeped. The end result, even if you opt for the slightly more expensive gun fu service is about than 8 cents per ounce of tea. Opting for a gaiwan or miniature teapot reduces this further.

By contrast, tea from the average coffee shop costs about 12-15 cents per ounce, leaves you with a cup to throw away, provides nothing to keep your hands busy and warm, and simply does not taste nearly as nice.*

I do not mean to suggest that swinging by a coffee shop is a bad option, but if you have a desire to converse with some friends in a pleasant atmosphere while sipping away at some truly delicious tea, there is simply no comparison.

On a side note:

The staff is friendly and genuinely knowledgeable–they care both about tea and about matching tea with customer. Moreover, at least on the three separate occasions I have thus far enjoyed myself there, none of the different employees I spoke to made any attempt to sell me something I did not want, and in fact made a point to avoid doing so even in the face of my innocent palate and deliberate openness to suggestions.

Give it a shot, if you enjoy tea in the least, I do not believe you will regret it.

* Numbers based on coffee shops local to Santa Cruz and San Jose, compare with Starbucks Venti (20oz.) tea at $2.45. I am in no way affiliated with any beverage sales business and my numbers are representative of the best information I currently have and should not be taken to guarantee anything.