What's In Your Glass?

A new series sheds some light on your favorite beverages

Not all iced tea is created equal - SARAH PHILP
Sarah Philp
Not all iced tea is created equal

Chances are, you have several different types of drinks every day. Maybe you start your morning with coffee or tea, grab a kombucha at lunch, and end your day with a glass of wine or a pint of beer. Whatever your beverage, it's likely that you don't think much about it, beyond the flavor or the caffeine rush. The new Inland Northwest Food Network series Drink This! aims to change all that.

Teri McKenzie, Inland NW Food Network founder and executive director, was inspired to create this series after reading Bread, Wine, Chocolate: the Slow Loss of Foods We Love, a book by journalist and educator Simran Sethi.

"She was trying to get people to think about the stories behind these foods and what's going on with them from an agricultural perspective, from a human labor perspective," says McKenzie. "Because a big part of the work that we are doing here is to help people get reconnected to their food, and think about where does their food come from. Again, what does that mean in terms of the plant life? What does it mean in terms of the people? The idea occurred to me, 'Well, what about our drinks?'"

Each month, join an expert to get a sip of the history, culture, physical processes and people who go into filling your glass or mug. This month, you can delve deeper into coffee at DOMA in Post Falls, or mix things up with cocktails and infused syrups in March. Over the course of the year, you'll have a chance to take a closer look at tonics and herbal drinks, milk, fermented drinks, shrub soda, beer, wine, hard cider and distilled drinks. All classes are $25 for nonmembers and $20 for members; preregistration is required.

click to enlarge Steaming hot goodness. - SARAH PHILP
Sarah Philp
Steaming hot goodness.

The series kicked off in January with a class on the origins of tea at Gaiwan Tea House in Coeur d'Alene. The room was buzzing with tea aficionados, including a woman named Brenda Doggett from Post Falls. Her excitement was palpable.

"It shows up in so many other places besides your cup," she said, noting that she'd begun to cook with tea. She came to learn more about the health benefits of tea: "I'm naturally caffeinated, so I'm looking for decaffeinated options."

The presenter for the evening was Josephie Dean Jackson, a certified tea specialist and tea grower from Australia by way of Texas. Now she's growing tea in Coeur d'Alene.

The atmosphere was hardly that of a lecture, in spite of Jackson's PowerPoint presentation. Almost from the beginning, participants were asking questions about everything from the differences between green, black, and white tea to how long to steep it, and whether or not they could grow it themselves.

As she spoke about the history of tea, everyone got to taste some of it. It was not unlike wine tasting: We were invited to smell the tea first, before taking a small sip. Both dry tea leaves and the ones used to brew our tea were passed around for us to smell and inspect. The process reminded me of the world of teas available, and how the same plant can change dramatically in flavor, depending on where it's grown and the processing it undergoes. So much to consider: Jackson later characterized trying to learn so much about tea in a short program like this as "drinking from the fire hydrant of the universe."

Exploring the history and magic of tea. - SARAH PHILP
Sarah Philp
Exploring the history and magic of tea.

In the end, what's McKenzie's goal for Drink This!?

"I'm hoping that these presentations will help pique people's interests to delve deeper, and to think about how there is so much more to our drinks or our food than we typically think about," she says. "We're just so perfunctory, or just on autopilot so much, with our food or drinks. I'm hoping that this will be a fun way to get people thinking. It's not intended to be guilt-tripping or anything like that, it's really just meant to be inspiring." ♦

Visit inwfoodnetwork.org/drink-this for more on the Drink This! series.

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Sept. 23-25, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
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