Monday, October 29, 2007
Alligators & Swamp Tea
Have you ever heard of "swamp tea"? I hadn't until I came across the term in a book about alligators. Swamps contain "tea-colored" water because of the tannic acid in the water, the result of decaying vegetation. The names may be similar, but I learned that "tannins" in tea and "tannic acid" in the "swamp tea" are chemically different. Tannins are what cause oversteeped teas to have that bitter, astringent taste, and both they and swamp water are to be avoided!
Enjoying a long weekend away from work, my husband and I were visiting friends in Louisiana and got up close and personal with a few small alligators at Avery Island's Jungle Gardens. (Avery Island is more popularly known as the home office of Tabasco hot sauce, where they are currently building a levee around the plant so that it will be able to withstand a Category 5 hurricane.) We saw bigger alligators in the "swamp tea" there, but these small gators (about 3 feet long) were as big as I cared to see from this close a distance.
For those who enjoy tea that is not brewed in a swamp, I must report that nowhere in Louisiana was I able to get a glass of sweet tea. Imagine! But at dinner at Prejean's, a fun, touristy place in Lafayette, La., I did get to enjoy fried alligator and alligator boulettes (sort of like crabcakes). Prejean's also has a 14-foot alligator on display, and I was much relieved that the only live alligator I got near in Louisiana was of the more modest variety.