Dear Dr. Boli: At a snobbish coffeehouse in my neighborhood, I heard someone talking about “orthodox tea.” What did she mean? I was not aware that tea had religious principles. —Sincerely, A Coffee Drinker.
Dear Sir or Madam: Tea culture is an ancient art with many traditions, but broadly speaking the methods of preparing the tea leaves may be divided into two classes.
Orthodox tea is picked as whole leaves, traditionally by hand, the harvesters taking only the top two leaves and the bud from each twig. The leaves are then rolled by hand, or (in the cheaper grades) by a machine that simulates the action of the hand. This orthodox tea is usually sold loose by the pound.
Heretical tea, also known as CTC (for “crush-tear-curl,” the mass-production of tea being a brutal business), is harvested by a machine, something like an elevated lawn-mower, that removes the upper leaves, twigs, caterpillars, spiders, and blowing trash from the tea bushes. What is collected by the harvesting machine is passed through a machine that folds, spindles, and mutilates it all until it becomes a batch of tiny pellets or fine shavings. This is the tea that is put in sad little bags and sold in American supermarkets.
Ours is a land of religious freedom, and the right of American citizens to follow any dubious heretical sect of their choosing is guaranteed by our Constitution. Dr. Boli is a very tolerant man, and understands that the only way to secure religious freedom for himself is to grant it to everyone else. But there is a wide difference between tolerance and encouragement, and Dr. Boli would not have his tolerance of rank tea heresy misinterpreted as approval.