Flying is such a chore. Flying is also where you’re guaranteed bad tea, most likely. Whereas these days branded coffee is making its way into the planes, and at major airports it seems like getting a good cup of java is never a real problem, finding good tea in an airport or a plane is considerably harder.
United, for example, offers Chinese restaurant tea as their “Chinese tea” on their service to Greater China. What that means is that it’s tea powder…. with that strange taste one only finds in those kind of tea. I honestly have no idea what type of tea is used to make that powder stuff… and how to explain those bubbles that never pop. Anybody who’s been to a Chinese restaurant in the US will know what I’m talking about. If you don’t…. good, because it’s nasty.
I’ve generally resorted to making tea on my own on the plane. Using their sub-boiling water though, one shouldn’t use a leaf that requires too much heat or too much finness. I find that young puerh, especially of the maocha variety, works particularly well on a plane. A few leaves, and you’ve got yourself a cup of very pleasant, sweet, and gentle tea. Since the water is not really hot enough, it’s almost impossible to overbrew the tea and so it will never really get bitter. Indian teas also work, for obvious reasons. I’ve tried brewing tieguanyin on a plane, with not-so-good results. The leaves didn’t really unfurl, and throughout the cup tasted weak and watery. Not a good idea. I haven’t tried brewing Wuyi using plane water yet. I should probably experiment.
Today I flew Cathay Pacific back to Hong Kong, where I’ll be for a few days to pick up my stuff and to settle my tea from Beijing into a more permanent home. On the plane they served up a slightly weak, but still pretty reasonable (all things considered) cup of slightly roasted Southern Fujian oolong or something like that. It’s a little too weak to tell for sure what it is, but it’s pleasant enough. Flying into Hong Kong is, of course, quite nice. Aside from being home, it’s also the most efficient airport I’ve been to. Gate-to-door time was one hour and five minutes, including immigration control, baggage claim, custom, ground transportation … there’s no place like home 🙂