2004: Year of the Leaf

White Darjeeling
White Darjeeling
Tea & Sympathy
Tea & Sympathy

You hear the same resolutions every year: "This year is the year that I'll get healthy... or, I will stop spending so much money... or, I'm gonna slow down and stop stressing so much." Of course, tea is the simple (not to mention delicious, healthy, inexpensive and soothing) solution to all of these resolutions. But I need not cover these resolutions to a congregation of tea followers. Instead, I offer several ideas for a tea lovers' New Year's Resolutions. These ideas for 2004 are sure to keep you happy, healthy and THIRSTY!

#1 - Wake up Those Bored Infusers
Running low on tea? Before you click that "refill" button again, I offer my first resolution: Try something new. Give English Breakfast a break! Earl Grey's on holiday! Say "so long" to Ceylon! The world of tea is vastly unexplored by most western taste buds. There are so many teas that don't get the attention that they so much deserve. A worthy example of an unknown tea treasure is Genmai Green Tea, whose unique taste is only rivaled by its distinct appearance. Also, White Darjeeling, often referred to "the caviar of tea" by Tea Gurus, is both subtle and fulfilling. For those trying to watch their caffeine intake, the chic Rooibos "Red" Tea is a naturally decaffeinated (yet smooth and full) substitute for the same old decaf teas. Give your taste buds the gift of variety for the New Year.

#2 - Make Them #1
Normally, New Years Resolutions focus on self-improvement, but my second suggestion is centered on your relations: Spread the word. With all the positive effects tea provides, why keep the secret to yourself? Pass the gift along to a loved one! The road to good health and great taste is just a friendly infusion away. There is no better way to nurture these relationships than by giving them this knowledge. A great way to get the word out is to throw a Tea Party. These can range in theme from a Children's Tea and Storytime to a Grown-up Tea Party (like a cocktail party) and everything in between. They will appreciate the thought and you will be the hit of the party!

#3 - Expect More
Last week, while dining at the newest NYC hot-spot, I asked for tea with my dessert. What came to the table surprised me. At this an upscale, high-quality establishment, I was served little more than tea-flavored dust that had been aging in a bag for what appeared to have been a lifetime. It just makes sense that places that serve your favorite food should serve beverages of the same quality. You shouldn't have to wait until you get home to get good tea. Thus, I came up with my next resolution: speak out against bad tea. It is not entirely a restaurant's fault for serving an undesirable product if you do not let the proprietors know that they can improve their tea quality. With this resolution, everyone wins.

#4 - Give Support
One of the riskiest businesses out there is the Restaurant industry. Among the highest rate of turnover in this industry is in the Café field, at about a 70% failure rate over three years. Any Tearoom owner who has lasted the first three years can tell you: it takes lots of luck, great product and, most importantly, great customers. The final resolution I propose is the following: Support your Local Tearoom. These are folks who have "put it all on the line" to share their appreciation for our favorite beverage. The best way to show your love of tea is to give these risk-takers the business they deserve! Search them out, then become a regular. Make 2004 the year they'll remember you.

For the most comprehensive, up-to date listing of tearooms near you, as well as across America, please visit TeaMap.

By January 5th, most people have cheated on their resolutions at least twice ("I'll start again tomorrow," they say), and then promptly abandon them. The best way to keep a resolution is to have is to make it specific and realistic. Share it with a friend or loved one. Commit to it. (...Really). Every year brings new possibilities. Welcome to 2004: let's make it the Year of the Leaf.