Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Tea

Christine, over at Quiet Paths, has a post on the importance of tea. I commented there, and she suggested I should post about it.

Well, making tea *is* fundamental. (And yes, you do have to warm the pot.) It’s the taking time out, it’s the sharing, it’s the connections, the conversations, the way my mother has always made tea, and the way I had tea with my friend Mary in the afternoons, the ritual, it’s the way the steam rises and the cup curves into your hands.

It’s the way my Great Aunt Rosemary gave me a cup of tea and a space in the parlor when I was old enough to sit with the women, and the way she asked me my opinion on something and then actually listened. It is the fascination of hearing my Great Aunt Florence talking about sneaking out of the house and off to the barn to listen to honkeytonk music on a smuggled radio. Tea is sitting with my coworker, Mohammed, over a cup of mint tea and talking philosophy. Or with my husband and my brother in law at his favorite coffee shop, while I have the tea - with lemon, please. Thank you. Oh, that’s lovely.

And to someone else, tea is a whole different set of memories. To my husband, tea should be strong and hot, drunk through a panel of sugar like the old Russian men who would drink it like that after daily prayers (when they weren't drinking schnapps, of course.) Or Earl Grey. Or the deep smoke taste of Lapsang Souchong (drunk while doing homework late at night - destroying both the ability to sleep and the math grade. Oops.)

To my mom, it's the memory of my dad with only two pans to his name - one for popcorn, and one for southern sweet tea. It's nights coming home to a lovely cup of herbal tea after a long day of helping others. It's travelling with a few bags stashed in her purse, in her toiletries bag, in her jacket, just in case. It's knowing that you have to run the hotel room's coffee machine a couple times to clean it out before you can even attempt tea. It's tea with biscotti after dinner. It's suntea on the back porch in summer.

To my dad, it's sweet tea, strong and sweet and cold, though he doesn't drink it anymore. For me as a child, sweet tea was always served with unsweet tea - not unsweetened tea, but tea made with unsugars - nutrasweet or saccharine, but never without sweetener of some sort for the iced tea. My mom didn't make this, but all my aunts and Granny did.

So, what's tea to you?

8 Comments:

Blogger Don said...

We have something else in common. I like English Breakfast tea in the morning with teaspoon of pure honey. I also like fresh cut tea in a tea ball. I don't get much of that but it's a real treat when I do. My grandmother got me started on tea when I was a little boy. Her family came from Wales and maybe that is where my taste for it came. I like a good cup of coffee at times, but there is no better way to start the day than with a cup of tea.

3/02/2007 7:20 PM  
Anonymous Quietpaths said...

Very lovely... I knew you had more to say. Thank you! And, I can't believe you mentioned biscotti. Yes, and yes again.

I didn't know what sweet tea was until my husband's cousin came to visit from southern Illinois.

Tea is... the world in a cup.

3/03/2007 10:54 AM  
Blogger Canine Diamond said...

No matter what I'm doing in the evening, I drop everything at 9:00 and go have tea with Mom. We don't always talk since we're usually pretty tired by then, but it's sort of our last check-in before bedtime.

And I just discovered that the jasmine green tea that costs $4.99 for 20 bags at the grocery store can be obtained for $2.99 for 60 bags at the Indian grocery. Indian grocery, here I come!

3/04/2007 12:38 PM  
Blogger Plain Foolish said...

When possible, I prefer tea brewed in my teapot with a strainer - even better than a tea ball, with plenty of room to expand. Unfortunately, I just don't have space for my teapot at work, so I also typically use teabags. I've considered getting a permanent filter from Lehman's that fits into a mug, so that I could just store the filter with my mug and a tin of tea...

3/06/2007 9:05 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

I still remember the first cup of tea that my grandmother (my midwestern Depression refugee grandmother. My Scottish grandparents only drink coffee.) made for me one evening when I got to spend a weekend at their home by myself - without my parents or my sister. I felt so grown up. I was probably eight or nine. The tea was Constant Comment. I still like it occasionally, with just sugar. But usually I drink a strong black tea with milk and sugar.

I almost never drink tea in restaurants because the water is almost never hot enough. I'd rather drink bad coffee than bad tea.

3/08/2007 12:12 PM  
Blogger Plain Foolish said...

In restaurants, I stick with herbal tea. The rosehip/fruit/hybiscus herbal blends can be made at a lower temperature and still be good. Nothing with chamomile though. Cold chamomile is like grass clippings. Ick.

My dad only drinks iced tea. For hot, he wants coffee, preferably the sort that is black and sludgy from the bottom of a pot that's cooked down for a couple hours. Med school was a bad influence, I'm convinced of it.

3/08/2007 1:05 PM  
Blogger Canine Diamond said...

Heh heh--I like coffee with molasses. Talk about instant ulcer.

3/08/2007 6:37 PM  
Blogger Plain Foolish said...

Mmmm. I like hot milk with molasses.

3/09/2007 9:02 AM  

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