Around 1994 I weighed 210lbs (95kg). I used to eat pretty poorly. A typical meal might have been some kind of sandwich like a burger or main course plus say fries or other sides and possibly before then an appetizer shared with whoever I was eating dinner with. I might have a soda as my drink or sometimes if I was at the right place an ice cream sunday or malt.
One day I realized I needed to lose weight so I decided no more sides, no more appetizers, no more sugary sodas. No fruit juice as a substitute either. I had learned before that fruit juice is JUST AS FATTENING as soda. Instead I’d generally have a diet soda. Anyway, … cutting out those things I got down to 180lbs (82kg) over the course of say 6-9 months and kept it that way for the next few years.
Then, in 1998 I set off for Japan. The first night at my new job my co-workers took me out for dinner and guess what, there was no diet coke. While they do have diet coke in Japan it is not like America where it is basically ubiquitous. A typical traditional restaurant will have beer, sake, popular cocktails, ginger ale, orange juice and tea. Of those, tea is the only non-calorie drink. So, that first night I had my first glass of oolong tea. That was the start of my tea addiction.
Over the years I really learned to love Japanese or Asian teas. Oolong tea, Mugi (wheat) tea, Roku cha (green tea), maccha (another kind of green tea). I have never in my life liked American ice tea, i.e., whatever kind that is the standard for Lipton or Snapple. Blech. I could never get into all the sweetened teas either they serve and nearly every casual restaurant in America. But, I found I liked the asian non sweet teas. In fact, before I went to Japan I did like one tea and that was Jasmine tea which I’d get whenever I went to dimsum or some other Chinese restaurant but I never thought to drink it outside of that context.
As I kept living in Japan drinking tea became as habitual as drinking coke was and diet coke became while I had lived in the states. Typically on my way to work in Tokyo I’d stop at the combini and buy one diet coke and one tea and vary the tea each day. Japanese combini carry tons of types of tea. At home I’d generally get four 2 liter bottles of beverages when I went shopping. 2 diet sodas, 2 teas and drink 2 or 3 glasses a night.
Well, when I came back to the states there was no Asian tea easily available and so it was diet coke all day long, at least at work. I made a trip to some Chinese supermarkets to see if I could find some tea but sadly they only sold sweetened tea. I don’t know if that’s because ( a ) Chinese actually like sweetened tea a lot ( b) Chinese living in America have been changed into sweet loving Americans or ( c ) They all just buy tea leaves and make it themselves instead of buying it ready to drink. It’s probably ( c ) but I’ve tried making it myself and being that I want it cold it takes way too much organization to keep myself supplied with cold tea and even then it wouldn’t be easy to do for work where I drink it the most.
I found a couple of Japanese supermarkets where I could get some 2 liter bottles of my favorite teas but making the special trip to the Japanese market was again, too much work for the amount of tea I wanted.
I also found Republic of Tea at some sandwich place in town. I tried one and it was okay. I ordered a sampler case from their website but it all sucked. It tasted nothing like real tea and instead tasted almost like water that happened to smell like tea. Pretty weak.
That Tazo tea they sell at Starbucks is the worst! It tastes like dish soap. I really don’t get that one and I’ve had it several time like basically when my friends want to go to Starbucks and so I’m stuck ordering something non-calorie.
Well, one day I was walking through Whole Foods Market and I saw they had 500ml Japanese tea on their shelves. I bought a couple and after my Republic of Tea experience I was thinking odds would be it wasn’t going to be good and even then, I’d need to buy their whole supply to keep stocked. But, then it turned out to be good tea so I thought, hmmm, maybe I can order this stuff in bulk. I looked on the label and that’s when I noticed the tea is made by Itoen which is one of the major Japanese brands. Sometime between the time I went the Japan and the time I came back Itoen has started selling their tea here.
I checked out their website and it turns out I can order it in bulk. It is a little expensive. With shipping included it comes out to about $2.10 per 500ml bottle. Compare that to say diet coke which I can probably get for $0.25 a bottle. But, I don’t really care, I want my tea and I want to drink something other than diet sodas all day long. Here’s my second order.
That’s about $250 of tea! I think that’s approximately 3 months worth.