|Pablo Picasso, "The Bottle of Wine," c1925|
Gentle readers, I would ask you to read the following article from Slate online magazine: "Drink Cheap Wine: I Mean, Really Cheap." Here's a sample:
Ernest Gallo, who, along with his brother Julio, popularized wine among the American masses, understood the psychology of wine better than anyone. He used to pour two glasses of wine for potential buyers, telling them that one sold for 5 cents, and the other for 10. According to Gallo, his guinea pigs invariably chose the more expensive option. What they didn’t know was that the two wines were exactly the same. Researchers have recently reproduced Gallo’s results, proving that our appreciation of a wine depends on how much we think it costs. If you can break yourself of this psychological quirk—or have your spouse lie to you about the cost of your wine—you’ll save a small fortune.
Interesting, no? Basically, they're saying that "everyday wine" is usually pretty consistent within a brand, and that it's typically serviceable, unless you happen to be a dedicated oenophile. And maybe even then.
So what about tea, O Wise? Would you drink what we often term, "bog-quality swill," without being embarrassed by it? Or do you need the "high-quality" imprimatur from such geniuses as the writers at The 39 Steeps?
Personally, I've found that I can drink even Lipton's and make a fair-to-middlin' cup. If I get to open the plastic wrapper, and if the tea is newly purchased, and if I am extremely careful about steeping time. With Tazo at Starbucks, I've had no such luck, because the temperature at which the tea is steeped at is too low, in my opinion, to make anything but a rather flat, insipid cup of tea. (The paper cups may have something to do with that effect, also, at least psychologically. A nice, solid ceramic teacup makes me think what's inside it is better than what's inside a paper cup with a plastic lid.)
I don't think the tea market and the coffee or wine markets are equivalent, however. Americans are accustomed to a higher-quality product with their coffee and wine, and they associate tea with what you drink when you're sick, or something that tastes execrable.
Please respond in the comments. What "bog-quality" teas will you drink, and why? Or do you stick to only the highest and bestest stuff?