On the dry-goods shelves of my neighborhood grocery store, near the jam jars, I recently spotted a box of “wildcrafted” Douglas Fir Spring Tip tea from the Oakland brand Juniper Ridge, which is famous here in San Francisco for bottling the fragrance of nature in a bracing line of hand-harvested soaps, colognes, and room sprays.
At $13 for 20 unbleached tea bags, Juniper Ridge tea is expensive. But it’s for a good reason: This tea doesn’t just replicate nature; it is nature. It has exactly one ingredient — new-growth needles from Douglas firs that took root in the Pacific Northwest. If you cut open the tea bags, you can see the stems and everything. When you make a cup of this tea, you are literally drinking a tree.
Unlike some of the fancy teas now that are having their moments across the country, this one does not require any special knowledge, equipment, or pronunciation, which comes as a relief to those of us who do not know our sencha from our bancha. Drop a bag in a cup and pour in hot water. After five or ten minutes, your tea will be a soft, golden green color and ready to drink. The flavor is profoundly, almost absurdly, outdoorsy. It has a pleasantly oily texture, a deeply piney aroma, and a wicked-dry finish that makes you thirsty for more. If you find it too dry, which is certainly possible, then I would advise turning it into iced tea. The cold version would be great in a big thermos, kept in the refrigerator for times when you need a nonalcoholic drink and can’t stomach another pamplemousse La Croix.
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