I'm not a big tea drinker. I have a cup of coffee in the morning and water the rest of the day ... until maybe it's time for a cocktail.
That said, I am a fan of tea: Black, orange pekoe, darjeerling, matcha, yerba mate and Constant Comment, that slightly spicy blend from Bigelow that will forever remind me of my dear college dorm mate and friend, Meg, who introduced me to Constant Comment between her lip-synching sessions to The Rolling Stones and Tom Petty. (It was, after all, 1979 and 1980, so damn the torpedos and pass the Marlboro and whatever else Meg was smoking.)
Real tea drinkers and connoisseurs are pretty exacting in what they prefer and I understand that. I have been to India where tea service of bold, crisp, bright tea served in fine white porcelain china was a revelation. True, the brilliance of tea in India was heavily scented with British Colonialism, though that was counterbalanced by the street-issued little cups of steaming chai, rounding out the polar opposite tea traditions in stratified India.
But outside of my indifference to raspberry tea or ginger turmeric or anything that doesn't have caffeine, except chrysanthemum tea when at a Vietnamese pho shop, I have not been loyal to any brand of tea -- except suddenly, now, I have taken to one that has earned my deepest loyalty: Red Rose.
Now, for the team snobs out there, Red Rose is the sort of bagged tea that one finds at the bottom of baskets at continental breakfast buffets, the tea of last resort for late tea-drinking stragglers who missed out on the Twining or Tazo or other hoity-toity sachet teas.
But for my money -- and to satisfy my sense of allegiance -- I have gone all in on Red Rose. The initial reason was that I wanted a big box of tea that straightforwardly delivered a tasty and somewhat robust black tea beverage for afternoon or Sunday sipping. I'm not into the tea boxes that carry eight precious sachets of tea set forth in cone-shaped little packets made of fine linen or spun gold. I wanted A BOX OF TEA. And Red Rose was a utilitarian stalwart that I long appreciated for its price point and utility.
Then, something really nifty happened. In adopting Red Rose as the house tea bag, I started to look up where the tea was manufactured. I knew or presumed it was a Canadian or American company, and that turned out to be both correct. Red Rose was started by Theodore Harding Estabrooks in 1894 in Saint Johns.
There is still a Canadian outfit for Red Rose owned by Unilever. However, the American Red Rose company, which is owned by a German company, is located and manufactured in Utica, New York!
Suddenly, my commitment to Red Rose has taken on a whole other level of intoxication, fed mostly by my rabid desire to champion and support made in New York products, particularly upstate New York and especially I Heart NY beverages.
Much has been made -- and rightly so -- of the booming craft beer industry in upstate, as well as the craft distilleries from Hudson to Saratoga to Lake George and beyond. Heck, Saratoga Winery can even produce a decent Cabernet Franc, which makes it easier to support the local vintners. Likewise, even Death Wish Coffee -- a hyper caffeinated "World's Strongest Coffee" -- is roasted in a plant off Exit 10 of the Northway in Round Lake.
Red Rose is now more than tea to me. It's more than the house tea we're now stocking with pride. It's a delicious reminder that upstate New York continues to produce and try against the odds to be a player and stave off even greater ruin from the end of manufacturing that has left plants along the Hudson and Mohawk rivers long vacant.
Utica! Red Rose! Who knew? Not me, but now that I do, I am drinking a lot more tea.
I used to write politics, news and sports for newspapers in cities like Albany NY, Seattle, Baltimore and Harrisburg PA. Now I take a lot of Instagram photos, check Facebook, swim, read about T$$$p and cook dinner for people I really like. New York native, living in Port Washington and Greenfield Center (that's near Saratoga Springs FYI).