How Fandom Infuses Appreciation For Tea Culture
When I first found myself researching fitness and nutrition for fun, it was 2009, and I was a Mount Holyoke College freshman* at everything, including life in general. Some article I found said, “Green tea is the best!” so I found it at our dining hall and started chugging away.
The next article I found— unfortunately, can’t remember where either of them came from, since this was back in 2009 and the Internet is a very ephemeral thing— dictated that you needed to sip not just any leaves, but specifically loose green tea in order to experience the maximum benefits of the cup.
Alright. I plugged “loose green tea” into the search bar, and first on the results was Adagio. And here’s where you have to take that leap of faith with me, because coming into Adagio’s tea selection was like discovering anime and comics all over again. The same, “Gotta catch ‘em all!” feeling of being a little kid watching Pokemon was what kept me going through the leaves.
I started off with a basic green, plus some citron-flavored stuff, just in case I didn’t like the natural one. It turned out that both pleased my palate, and I happily switched off between the two per meal: citron accompanied lunch, and pekoe with dinner. (A few months of insomnia failed to clue me in to my own slowly-rising caffeine sensitivity, but that was solved when I switched to chamomile at night.)
Those beginner greens launched a thousand shipped packages straight to my dorm. I wanted to try everything! (Within budget, of course.) This allowed me to develop a true sense of taste. A standard Assam Melody didn’t tickle my fancy as much as the less-popular Yunnan Jig. And that was ok!
It was these flavor-memories that, five years or so later, allowed me to ace my tea sommelier certification and mature into a proper tea-person in 2015. There’s something to be said for the confidence in knowing the beauty of a well-gongfued Pu-Erh, having gone through the awkward-growing phase of sipping through random blends just to have an idea of what they taste like.
But I understand that not everyone comes into this pastime with such vigor. For me, it was easy to fall into tea because I had so much experience falling into a different kind of connoisseurship— namely, fandom— which was equally vibrant and beautiful, with tons of variety to offer.
So how to explain this odd, flavorful parallel?
It’s backstory time again, but this time we’re going even further back than undergrad. Grab your cup of Mocha Nut Mate and cozy on over to my chair. I’ll give you the happenstance of how fandom is such a gorgeous gateway to tea culture.
Similarly, as a young fandom kid, I started off watching Pokemon religiously after school, and was enthralled with the virtual battles and magical creatures. But when commercial breaks hit, I discovered Sailor Moon airing on a different network during the same timeslot, and felt the rush of a different kind of magic that appealed to my slowly-dying appreciation for sparkly girls and dresses. 4pm weekdays was a channel-hopping smorgasbord— as long as I did my homework and kept up in class.
The cartoonyness of Pokemon and SM gave way to a love for rich storytelling and detailed illustration, letting me experience shows that didn’t always make it to the mainstream market. To this day, I always recommend works like Mononoke (NOT the princess, folks!) and Petshop of Horrors so that others can get a taste of something special, too.
You can see what happened in both phases:
Mild interest => Eager obsession => Elevated taste
Now, it had been approximately six years and ten months* since my last comic convention. On the bright side, I recently went to Flamecon 2019. It’s the largest LGBTQ-centric comic convention that we have record of, yet still one of the niche-ier cons that have sprung up since my days of hitting the big ones, ie: Anime Expo , Otakon , Anime Boston, New York Comic Con, etc.
Go ahead and go, “DANG, son! All that since middle school? She was a nerd.”
Of course I was! But I’m not ashamed of this. And judging by the skyrocketing number of fandom blends on Adagio, I suspect that you might not be ashamed of the fact, either.
Besides, what could be wrong with getting into tea after a background in loving something so wild, fun, and ultimately universal in bringing people happiness?
What’s your fandom of choice? Let me know in the comments!
*Pardon, “first year.” Mount Holyoke is a liberal arts all-women’s school, so terms like “freshman” are traded up for “first year,” which is then affectionately abbreviated to “firstie” and softened the constant, painful awkwardness of not knowing anything about how college functioned. The other affectionate abbreviation for all students, plus the school itself, is “MoHo,” which makes the transition easier when you move to Manhattan after college and once again, every part of the city is condensed into catchy little syllables: NoHo, SoHo, TriBeCa, etc.
**My last non-business, totally-for-pleasure-and-maybe-some-undergrad-fieldwork, comic convention experience was New York Comic Con 2012, which was Columbus Day weekend in October. This article is being written on August 14, so I’m rounding a bit. Hence the “approximately.” Too many numbers make for bad storytelling. Less numbers, more tea.