Tea has been a part of my life since I was a child. My family used to go to a Chinese restaurant on Horace Harding Blvd. in Queens, NY. They always gave everyone a glass of water and in the middle of the table was a bowl of crunchy noodles, a metal tea pot, duck sauce and hot mustard. My parents mixed the hot mustard with the duck sauce, which we kids didn’t like. We always drank the tea in those little tea cups that had no handles. I poured in way more sugar than it probably needed. I don’t think I liked tea as much then as I do now, but tea was part of the Chinese restaurant ritual. The owner knew us by name; I think we must have gone there weekly.
That tea was always too hot, steam rising as it was poured out into the small white cups. It sat for a bit, steam rising, too hot to pick up, but when it was lukewarm it was perfect, at least to my elementary school self it was. Chinese tea had a very distinctive taste, and it wasn’t until last year that I discovered that taste again.
I know I’ve talked about the teas that I tried and wrote about in memory of a friend, a victim of domestic violence, and after those were completed, my friend had sent me a variety of loose teas that he enjoyed and wanted to share with me. My favorites were Lady Londonderry and Moroccan Mint. His Moroccan Mint was a black leaf variety; I had only been able to find a green tea, which I did not like as well.
I discovered a local tea shop and started trying new teas and sharing them with friends. The one that my friend really enjoyed is Mexican Chocolate. This is lovely with milk and a tiny bit of sugar if any, and I found it especially wonderful to drink during Christmas time.
It was during these experimentations and tastings that I found Pai Mu Tan. This was the one that when I tried and tasted it I was transported back to the end of the Chinese dinners of my childhood.
British comedies sent me on a path of no return of putting milk in my tea. It was usually Lipton’s or Tetley or very occasionally Red Rose. My regular go-to tea now is none of those; it is a black leaf tea with ginger. It was a chance visit to a Job Lots where I discovered Stash’s Ginger Black Breakfast Tea; the first ginger tea that I had found that was a black tea and not a tisane. This became my daily drink with milk and sugar. When that one box ran out, I ordered a case. Even sharing it still took quite awhile to run out.
While I visiting friends in Denver a few years ago, I was treated to proper British tea. PG Tips with milk and sugar made by an authentic Brit. There was nothing quite like waking up to a beautiful, hot, blissful cup of tea. It was perfect. Every time.
I also went through a Star Trek phase and only drank Earl Grey, hot.
I’m not a fan of green tea, but last Lent when I gave up Diet Coke, it was recommended that I drink green tea with jasmine. This tea tasted good and it would counter the negative effects of always drinking soda. This was my daily drink during Lent with sugar, no milk. It made me feel good. I don’t know if that was the tea itself or if it was its relation to the spirituality of my Lenten habit.
My current favorite is from Twining’s: Honeybush, Mandarin and Orange. I add a bit of sugar, although I think honey would work as well. There is the warm soothing taste and the citrusy kick as it slides across my tongue. Since I’ve been so sick, I also pretend that it has enough vitamin C to keep me healthy.
When I go to therapy, I am asked if I want coffee, tea or water. I don’t drink coffee, so I always say water, although most days I’d rather have the tea. Unfortunately, my personality won’t ask for tea because it’s too much bother and for an hour long session, it would be too hot to drink immediately and then once I started talking, it would be too cold to enjoy. My anxieties are a complicated lot.
Tea, however, is not complicated at all. Tea is comfort. It is that cozy friend who sits in your lap and holds your hand. It’s medicinal. Tea makes all things better. It listens to the beat of your soul. Tea understands even when you don’t.
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