I was young when my love affair began, not even walking. I used to sit on my father’s lap and steal the dregs of his tea. At the time he drank a strong brew with 4 sugars that we used to affectionately call a “squaddie”. I am pretty sure in hindsight that my first experience of tea was, in fact, more sugar than tea. Luckily I have experienced a much wider education in tea since then.
Tea has always been there for me
After my first traumatic break-up as a teen, I drank tea with my mom and confirmed that it was all definitely, absolutely his fault. When I got married I swigged tea while I had an existential crisis over my hair and makeup. Immediately after giving birth (sorry) to my children, I demanded a cup of tea, I had to reinvigorate similar to David Tennant as The Doctor just after regeneration. On the day my mother and I realised my grandmother’s health was failing, did we panic? Did we suffer hysterics? No, we had a cup of good old tea.
Tea is a drink that invokes family memories for me. When a person close to you has a problem, sort it over a cup of tea. Need to have a brag or a moan? Much friendlier to do it over a pot of tea. As Sheldon (Big Bang Theory) says, “When people are upset the cultural convention is to bring them a hot beverage.” No one so far as I know has been insulted by the offer of tea. Gluten-free, vegan, sugar-free, suitable for all religions and all dietary requirements. Tea transverses all age, culture and gender gaps. At the outbreak of war in England, the government took over the distribution of tea as it was considered essential to the moral of the country. It is the single greatest unifying force on the planet earth. There is a reason people refer to tea as a hug in a cup.
I am quite a reflective person by nature, tea helps me to do this. Loose leaf tea is doubly so. With loose leaf tea, you can immerse yourself in the ceremony if you so wish. Get out your favourite glass teapot and spoon in a tea that specifically matches your mood. This is a mix of science and art. Are you in need of soothing, refreshment, energising or relaxing? Sometimes nothing seems right, so I mix up something special. Brewing tea is a multi-sensory experience. Immediately after opening a new tea, I sniff it. I take a deep breath, usually with my eyes closed and imagine the feeling of drinking the finished infusion.
Then spoon it into the pot and pour over the water. I love to watch the tea dance. It swoops and swirls all while the water transforms. Do you think it was exciting watching the milk turn chocolatey as you waited for coco pops? Wait till you see what happens with Oolong Orange Magic, the orange pieces swell and the rosebuds float and the tea leaves dance about….it’s amazing.
Then sniff again, picking out the individual ingredients and aromas. Smells are a direct route to memory. As you smell the tea you will pick up different smells that take you on a journey of remembrance. The cake at your 11th birthday, that cocktail you snuck when you were 15, the smell of coconuts for no good reason in Las Vegas casinos.
It is fair to say I have experienced a privileged position when it comes to tea. You see my mom was (is, I suppose, since she still works here) a tea merchant. Almost every time I saw her she had a small white foil-lined envelope of botanical herbs and leaves. She would enthusiastically share with me why she loved this tea, the colour, aroma and tantalizing flavours were all discussed. Not many people in my friend groups have tried as many white teas as I have. I have a love of spicy blends that utilise liquorice, I have known this since I was 15!
My friends all have some good tea in their house that I personally selected and sometimes blended specifically for them. If a friend is ill or is having challenging times they will get a care package tailored to perk them up. I have some friends (looking at you Ellie) who categorically stated that they don’t like tea. They sounded very confident too, but I just see it as a challenge. I know for sure I can find a tea they will love!
Over to you!
We would love to hear about your tea memories. What were the moments that tea helped you through, or helped you celebrate?