My love affair with tea began when I was a little girl. My mom would go to aerobics class (it was the 80’s people) and my dad and I would sit on the front porch, read Peter Rabbit, and drink camomile tea with honey. My favorites back then were from Celestial Seasonings with names like “Sleepytime” and “Grandma’s Tummymint.” My favorite Peter Rabbit story was either the obvious choice of Peter or “Jeremy Fisher,” or “A Tale of Two Bad Mice.” That’s another blog though (yeah, that’s right. A whole blog on Beatrix Potter.)
Over the years, I can clearly see how tea has been with me ever since then. I read or work with a cup of tea next to me quite frequently. I’ve even gotten my daughters in on it, of course, they want so much sugar in it, there is literally no tea taste and all sugar. The cups my dad and I would drink out of were brown and white stoneware with blue streaks and dark brown flecks. A round cup for dad, and a narrow cup for me. I have the round one in my house now, it’s missing a handle but that makes it even better. I bet the other mug is at my parents for my girls.
When I went to Hong Kong and China on a mission trip in 1996, we were shopping in China and I found little stalls with these adorable tea sets. They were in red silk boxes and contained a miniature teapot, four thimble-sized teacups, and a plate for cookies (or biscuits to my UK friends). When we moved recently I found my set. It was in perfect condition and had little pansies all over the cups and teapot. I bought tea sets for so many people. Thinking back, I’m not sure how I got them all home!
After college, one of my roommates, Breea, and I went in stayed in the south of England for a month. We went to Edinburgh, Dublin, Paris, and then to Brighton and London numerous times. We were staying in this town called Worthing-by-the-Sea with this sweet woman named Brenda. When we weren’t galavanting around, we would hang out at Brenda’s, drink tea, read, and watch some classic British telly (Pride & Prejudice with Colin Firth? Yes, please!). One day, we went out and happened upon a charity shop that had this adorable tea set that was white with brick-red illustrations on it. I managed to drag it home to the States but barely, most of it was broken…I’m not sure what I was thinking. I still have it…maybe it’s white and blue? I should probably know that. I think it’s blue.
My love of tea was firmly cemented when I lived in Cardiff, Wales for a year. That was the year I learned to drink proper tea (with milk and sugar.) Not just any tea. Not herbal tea with adorable names like “Grandma’s Tummymint.” No, we’re talking about tea as strong as a cup of coffee. I fell in love with the ritual of grabbing a cuppa from the kitchen, boiling the water in the electric kettle, smelling the tea bag as I pulled it out of the box, watching the steaming water drench and soak the tea bag, adding the milk and sugar, then waiting until it was the right color, and pulling the bag out to toss in the rubbish. I loved how Tony would pop around to the desks mid-afternoon wondering if anyone wanted “a cuppa.” No one would dare ask the American girl to make them a cuppa and rightly so. I like to think I could’ve made a good cup by the end of the year though. I can still picture my cup of PG Tips with the perfect amount of milk and sugar, with a just-dipped-into-my-tea Hob Nob where the chocolate is melty and the biscuit tastes like tea. I wonder if I have any PG Tips right now…I usually have a box somewhere…
I’m not sure what it is about a good book and a good cup of tea. My mom is also on the tea-train. We do seem to have a problem though: we leave half-drunk cups of tea or (gasp) completely full cups of tea throughout the office and our homes. We don’t do it on purpose. We love the cozy warm cup filled with tea, the smell, and the “idea of tea” that is in each cup. We just forget to drink it. Sometimes we just want it sitting next to us like a candle because it feels so nice. Case in point: I am sitting by the roaring fireplace, listening to piano music, and writing. I was thirsty and about to get up when I remembered…I had made a cup of camomile tea and it was right next to me. Cup full, tea cold. Will I never learn? At least Matt didn’t catch me… this time.