From the Star Ledger -
You can set your watch by Ron Villone’s morning ritual.
The Yankees reliever comes off the field, iPod headphones still in, clothes damp with sweat. He takes a carafe filled with some dark, shriveled-up leaves into the player’s lounge, and fills it with hot water. Five minutes later, Villone strains out the water through the bottom of the pot. He adds a little honey, and takes a slow sip.
Forget Gatorade and protein shakes. In the Yankees’ clubhouse, tea — particularly antioxidant-rich green tea — has become the beverage of choice for more than a few players and coaches.
“My best friend is monkey oolong,” says Villone, a native of Bergenfield.
That would be “Monkey Picked Oolong Oolong” tea, the origin of which the 37-year-old pitcher is happy to explain.
“Thousands of years ago, monkeys picked the tea leaves from the top of the tree,” he says as his morning cup steeps. “Monks taught them to do that. I guess it’s a lost art because they don’t need the monkeys to do that any longer.”
Another reason for tea’s prevalence in the Yankee clubhouse is due to the presence of Asian players like Taiwan’s Chien-Ming Wang and Japan’s Hideki Matsui.
“I drink it all the time,” Matsui says. “Obviously it is good for you, but it’s the flavor. I’ve been drinking it since I was a child. It’s part of the culture.”
When Matsui joined the Yankees in 2003, Jason Giambi went up to him and quizzed his new teammate on the properties of green tea.
Giambi, who has visited Japan several times, was fascinated by what he learned.
Now, Giambi drinks green tea frequently.
Wang usually waits until after he leaves the ballpark to go home and brew some tea in a traditional Chinese teapot. But when he noticed Villone’s fascination with tea he offered to swap his Taiwanese leaves for some of Villone’s.
Now, here’s where you expect me to insert a joke tying all this to Mr. Green Tea himself, Joltin’ Joe Tea-orre….right?
But, I have to confess something. I’m in my early 40′s and I’ve probably had a total of four cups of coffee in my entire life. However, I do have a cup of tea every morning. (Never with milk in it, for the record.) And, in the summer-time, I drink a lot of iced tea as well. So, I know where these guys are coming from with their interest.
Have I tried Monkey Picked Oolong Oolong? At five bucks an ounce, no – it’s out of my price range. I can get an entire box of Swee Touch Nee Tea Bags for less than that.