An American Editor

May 9, 2011

Going Hand-in-Hand — Drinking & Editing

Okay, so “drinking” is a bit misleading. No, I’m not talking about alcohol or even the authors who could drive their editors to alcohol. Rather, I’m talking about drinks like tea, coffee, and soda pop — the stuff that can make a day enjoyable while suffering through another language calamity.

Years ago, I drank coffee. I never really liked it; it was just that it was a little better tasting than milk (I hated milk except for buttermilk) — just about anything was better tasting than milk — and drinking coffee was a sign of having crossed from childhood to adulthood. That should give you a clue as to how ancient I truly am!

I knew that I was drinking coffee out of habit, not out of like, the day I realized that I would have a sip or two, leave the rest to get cold, dump the rest because it was cold, pour yet another cup, and repeat the cycle. I bet on a great drinking day, I never got through more than 1 cup of coffee when totaling sips together.

This love-hate relationship with coffee continued for decades. I even tried buying expensive, gourmet blends, grinding my own, and gourmet coffee-making systems. Nothing changed my drinking process, although I will admit that I did learn how great a difference there is between a gourmet bean like Jamaica Blue Mountain freshly ground and Folgers.

Then one day I was reading yet another novel in David Weber’s Honor Harrington series when it struck me that Honor was drinking hot chocolate even when all her companions were drinking coffee. Well, I like hot chocolate — actually anything that is dark chocolate — so I decided to drop coffee and go to hot chocolate (no marshmallows, though).

Once again I went through all the machinations and from store blends like Swiss Miss to gourmet blends purchased online. Alas, this quickly became another coffee for me. The hot chocolate just wasn’t satisfying. It certainly was better than the coffee (much better than the chocolate dusted coffee I had been drinking), but I’d still drink a sip or two and end up discarding the rest.

I’d never been much of a tea drinker. Off and on I had experimented with tea but the truth is, I was experimenting with Tetley and Lipton and Red Rose and other store-shelf brands — the mass market teas. I did try Twinings, which was a step up, but all the teas suffered from the same problem: not much flavor and not a compelling drink. It was coffee and hot chocolate all over again.

Perhaps the problem with all of these drinks is that I do not use sugar (although the hot chocolate was sweetened with the substitute stuff). I don’t use sugar because I can’t. Too much sugar sends my body into disaster mode; it’s one of the reasons I rarely ever eat a dessert. If that was the problem, I wasn’t going to change my sugar avoidance, so I had best find another drink. Let’s face it; water is a great drink but even though it is life-sustaining, it hasn’t got that panache or flavor to satisfy the drinker in me.

Anyway, one day in the gourmet grocery I came across some upscale green tea. I wasn’t having luck with anything else so I decided to buy it and give it a try. That was the beginning of my downfall. I probably now need to join Tea Drinkers Anonymous because I am hooked.

I begin my day with a carafe or two of a full leaf green tea. I alternate each day between Bi Luo Xian, Sencha Kyoto, and Dragon Well (Lao Tzu’s Tea), all from the Republic of Tea. (I’ve tried a couple of other gourmet tea sellers, but I always come back [so far] to the Republic of Tea.) During the day, I either make a carafe of one of these teas or I drink The People’s Green Tea, which comes in tea bags.

With these teas, I have finally found drinking salvation. For quite some time, I simply boiled a kettle of water and let it cool for a minute or two before pouring it over the tea. But I kept reading about how important it is to use the correct temperature water for tea so as to get the full flavor without burning the leaves. I admit I was skeptical, but I finally broke down and bought a Cuisinart variable temperature kettle. Here is a link to a review of the kettle. What a difference using the right water temperature  — and the right steeping time — makes!

Yes, I am a convert — to green tea, timing the steeping process, and the variable temperature kettle. I actually enjoy drinking green tea enough that when I travel, I take my carafe with me, along with a timer. (The People’s Tin Lid Timer replaces the lid on the cans, making it easy to carry.) When we eat out, whereas before I would always decline an after-dinner drink, now I bring my own tea bags and timer and simply ask for hot water.

Needless to say, as I spend my day editing, I often have a cup of green tea at my desk. These days, when the cup of tea isn’t alongside my keyboard, I almost (but not quite) feel naked, exposed, as if something is missing. A good cup of tea just makes my day.

What makes your day, drinkwise? For those of you who drink green tea, what green teas do you drink? Do you have a favorite tea store? Tea blend? Tea brand? Does drinking go hand-in-hand with your editing day?

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