James Norwood Pratt has been called America's Tea Guru. As author of The Tea Lover's Treasury, the seminal tome on the subject published in 1982, it could be said he started a trend, one that's taken a bit of time to catch on, but a trend nonetheless. The world has evolved considerably since the days of Lipton in a bag and Pratt, an inveterate wine drinker turned teetotaler after what he describes as his "champion wine consumption," is most likely the man to thank. For him it was a natural progression, since tea is to wine as beer might be to coffee. "Tea is an agricultural product like wine that varies from one crop to the next, one type to the next," Pratt explains. "At its best it's one of those few points where agriculture can be art."
A proponent of black tea early in his tea-drinking career owing to the lack of anything else on the market, Pratt now extols the virtues of green tea. In fact he's on an American tour conducting interactive seminars at health clubs about the merits of the miracle drink, which is said to aid weight loss, strengthen bones, and prevent heart attacks, arthritis, sun damage, and cancer. It's taken Americans twenty years to move away from the common Lipton and embrace loose leaf and herbal concoctions -- will they ever go green? Granted green tea tends to taste like wet grass. It just needs to be prepared properly, says Pratt: Water (the filtered kind) must be at 30 degrees below boiling and steeping time should not exceed one minute. The best thing: Green tea leaves can be reused about three times and Americans love a deal! "Even the priciest ones [green teas] are cheaper to drink than Coca-Cola," Pratt notes.
Sure, tea can be cheap, tasty, and infinitely interesting, but will we ever see Starbucks-style tea franchises? "As a nation, we were born with a prenatal disinclination for tea!" Pratt exclaims. "But people are in need of a coffee recovery movement. Tea is a chance to have a vacation in the middle of the morning and again in the middle of the afternoon. There's nothing better for your body, but I've always believed it's the mind it benefits most."