TEA101 – Tea & Texture. Part 1
Before talking about different elements that make us distinguish and appreciate texture, or mouthfeel, of different teas, I find it interesting to talk about the importance of texture in food in general. I think we Westerners have an arm-length, somewhat infantilised relationship with food texture. The meats, poultry and fish the majority of us Westerners prefer are steaks, breasts and fillets – something easy to work on and chew. But so much less interesting in texture than if we just had the guts to adventure into more challenging dishes!
If I could recommend just ONE book on Chinese food, it would be “Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: a Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China” by Fuchsia Dunlop. I heartily encourage you to read it entirely. Here, I just want to quote several passages that perfectly grasp our different relationships with texture and difficulty for Westerners to appreciate REAL Chinese food:
“Texture is the last frontier for Westerners to appreciate Chinese food. Cross it, and you are really inside. But the way there is a wild journey that will bring you face to face with your own worst prejudices, your childhood fears, perhaps even some Freudian paranoias. It will disgust you, disconcert you, and make your compatriots view you, at times, with a scarcely disguised revulsion.”
“Think, for a moment, of the words we use to describe some of the textures most adored by Chinese gourmets: gristly, slithery, slimy, squelchy, crunchy, gloopy. For Westerners, they evoke disturbing thoughts of bodily emissions, used handkerchiefs, squashed amphibians, wet feet in wellington boots, or the flinching shock of fingering a slug when you are picking lettuce. Did you shudder slightly while reading this paragraph? Be honest”
“It takes several years of dedicated Chinese eating, to begin to appreciate texture FOR ITSELF. And that is what you must do if you wish to become a Chinese gourmet, because many of the Chinese delicacies, not to mention many of the most exquisite pleasures of everyday Chinese eating, are essentially about texture.”