Tea Habits in Responding to Very Cold Weather

Recently, bitter-cold weather has been gripping much of the U.S.  Below is a screenshot of the weather report for Minneapolis, from Intellicast, a weather website that I’ve come to prefer to others recently.  I recommend checking it out if you haven’t yet–it’s fast and responsive, and doesn’t have as many obnoxious advertisements as Weather.com, which is incidentally owned by the same parent company.

Screenshot of weather forecast for Minneapolis, MN, showing a very cold forecast
Looking at the weather in Minneapolis makes me feel a little better about where I live.

I am a curious person, and I frequently check weather for various cities around the world out of curiosity.  Minneapolis is one of my favorite cities to check, for multiple reasons.  One of them is that I love the Midwest.  Another is that it makes me feel better about where I’m living, at least during the cold months of the year.  “Bitterly cold.  Dangerous wind chills approaching -40F”.  Makes my 10 degree low seem subtropical, which apparently it is, as I explain below.

The Weather and Climate Here in Philadelphia

We’ve had a cold week, but it’s been more inconvenient than truly dangerous or crippling.  There was a relatively heavy snow, but the inconvenience of the snow seemed more due to the city’s inexperience at dealing with snow, rather than the volume of snow itself.  I recall much heavier snows when I was living in Cleveland, in which there was less disruption to the ability to travel.  My impression of Philly’s snow response can be summed up by my experience the other day, when I saw two city garbage trucks from the recycling department driving around plowing snow.  I guess the city just doesn’t own many trucks ideally suited for plowing.  Needless to say, many of the side streets did not get plowed at all.

I want to follow up on my earlier comment about Philadelphia feeling subtropical when I look at the forecast for Minneapolis.

Philadelphia, surprisingly to people who think of it as a cold-winter city, is at the very northern border of the subtropical climate zone, according to the Koppen Climate Classification.  It shows.  While Minneapolis is dealing with lows around -20, Philadelphians are shocked when the temperature dips below 10.  Yesterday and this morning, we had a pleasantly warm rain that washed away nearly all of the snow accumulation, and today while birdwatching, I noted a rhododendron growing in the woods, a broadleaf evergreen plant like the tea plant, and sighted a lone Yellow-rumped warbler, a species that is a member of a family of birds that mostly migrate from the tropics.

A yellow-rumped warbler on a bare winter branch of a tree
A Yellow-rumped warbler, on bare winter branches, much like I saw today. Photo by Ken Thomas.

Broadleaf evergreens and overwintering warblers are both characteristic of subtropical climates–and generally absent from colder continental climates like the upper Midwest.  Last winter, I even located an overwintering Palm Warbler and an Orange-crowned Warbler, two of the next-most-cold-hardy species of this bird family.  Just as Rhododendrons are among the more cold-hardy of broadleaf evergreen shrubs, and Yellow-rumped warblers are the most cold-hardy of the New World Warblers, Philadelphia is on the coldest end of the subtropical climate zone.

Cold and My Tea Routine

Unfortunately, the heating setup in my apartment is not ideal.  My apartment has electric heat, something that I think is just stupid in a lot of ways, but as a result, heating my place is very expensive.  Thus, when it gets brutally cold out, I let it get a little colder in my apartment so I’m not faced with an astronomical heating bill at the end of the month.  I still feel grateful; I learned that a couple of my friends had their heat break during this past week–and that sounded pretty awful.  When I’ve turned the heat off in my living room (heating only my bedroom while sleeping) the temperature on the windowsill in the living room reached 49 degrees on the coldest day…pretty cold for an indoor temperature.

When it’s colder in my apartment, I want to keep warm, so I drink more tea.  Often this means resteeping my tea one more time than I normally would, and drinking a rather bland cup just to keep warm.  At other times it means brewing up a batch of caffeine-free herbal tea in between caffeinated teas, so I can keep drinking the hot liquids (and having a warm mug to hold in my hands) without getting overly caffeinated.

How About You?

Share with us your feelings and preferences on tea and cold!

  • Are you affected by the recent cold spell?  How cold is it outdoors where you are?
  • With your heating setup, does your place stay cozy, or does it get a bit colder indoors when it’s this cold outside?
  • Do you drink more tea when it’s cold inside?  How about when it’s cold out but cozy and warm inside–do you still want to drink more tea then?
  • Did it surprise you to learn that Philadelphia’s climate is classified as subtropical?
  • Have you ever seen a warbler overwintering in a cold-winter part of the U.S.?  Would you be surprised to see one?

More Focus on Tea Producing Regions, and Turkey in Particular

One of my key goals and missions from the very beginning of my work on RateTea has been to draw greater attention to the different regions in which tea is produced, and, paired with this, to draw attention to single-origin teas and single-estate teas.  RateTea has had a series of articles on the different regions that grow tea for a long time, and the database of teas has been indexed by (and searchable/browsable by) regions as detailed as individual counties in China, when this information is available from the manufacturer.  But I’ve wanted to continue working on this part of the site, because I think it hasn’t gotten the level of focus as the articles on styles of tea have.

Recently I started going back through and further improving the pages on individual tea-growing regions.  I’ve included a bunch more images, including images that highlight tea culture as well as tea farms and plantations.  I also highlighted the region section of the site on RateTea’s homepage, making the most common regions accessible from the homepage in a single click, and also showing a list of the most recently updated region articles.

I want to highlight one of the articles, that is, the article on Turkey:

Screenshot of RateTea's article on Turkey
RateTea’s newly expanded article on Turkey and Turkish teas.

Turkey is a region that is infrequently discussed in the tea world.  I knew little about it as a tea producer, for some time, and it took significantly more digging to uncover thorough information about it, relative to other countries.  Why do I think Turkey is so interesting as a tea producing region?  I want to throw out a few reasons I find it interesting:

  • Turkey is one of the top producers of tea globally; by total amount they hover around the top 5 spot, although in one year, 2008 they produced nearly as much as China or India!  This is incredible given that all of their tea is produced in a tiny region of the country.
  • The region of Turkey that produces tea is only able to do so through a bizarre quirk of geography and climate, producing an unusually wet region in a mostly semi-arid country.
  • There are some interesting economics of Turkey’s tea industry, including a very steep tariff and a black market for tea smuggling.
  • Single-origin Turkish tea is widely available in the U.S. in Turkish and Middle Eastern stores, and the tea is very inexpensive and, although not organic certified, it is grown without pesticides.  I’ve found it pleasant and mild tasting; certainly not the most complex or interesting tea, but different and quite good for how cheap it is.

How about you?

  • Have you ever tried tea produced in Turkey?  If so, what did you think of it?
  • Are you as fascinated by climate and geography as I am?
  • How much of the contents of RateTea’s article on Turkey is new to you?  Are things like the tariff, Turkey’s global prominence as a tea producer, and the peculiar climate around Rize things that you are already familiar with, or are these new, unfamiliar ideas?