Tea, My Unexpected Lifelong Companion

Let’s talk about tea.

Tea has served me well over the last 23 years or so that I’ve been drinking it. It’s been a constant companion and has come to mean so many things to me. It is more of a true companion than any person, any animal, anything. 

It is a safety blanket, a companion to literary journeys, a trusted motivation booster, a way to explore a new culture. It is my hygge in a cup. The exception may very well be books, but even then it is a close draw. Because tea and books, books and tea, have long been intricately woven together. At least for me. 

But I digress. Tea has been a lifelong companion and champion. Something I can count on, especially during coronavirus. Which – I know. I truly want to talk about tea, and tea only. But the inescapable reality of 2020 has been the coronavirus. With it, my tea routine hasn’t grown but it certainly has been a noticeable, unwavering bit of normalcy. Tea is my steadfast flame, never diminishing during a time when so many other things have changed and faltered. So, onto it: it’s teatime

Tea as in not coffee. The herbal tea that you seem to drink only when your throat is a little bit sore or a little bit before going to bed. The peppermint, lemongrass, or chamomile teas that you let steep forever and ever, and that you use a little wooden spoon, with a droplet of hardened honey, to sweeten up. Then, of course, the teas that sound like a picnic fruit basket: ginger peach, wild blueberry, and passionfruit papaya. Refreshing, soothing, and transporting teas.

Let’s talk about the lattes: The matcha and chai lattes are foamy and sweet, and taste like earth.  Making it  yourself is a ritual unto itself, pouring the powdery green into the mug and stirring it round and round and round with the bamboo whisk. Or there’s lovingly sprinkling cinnamon and nutmeg into your milk, to really kick up the spice for the chai.

There’s also the tea that really keeps us awake (although did you know that matcha tea actually has a lot of caffeine in it? I didn’t, either) with lots of caffeine in it. Irish Breakfast (dark and robust), Earl Grey (satisfying and lifting), Ceylon, English Breakfast, Nilgri, and Assam are all eye-opening brews. Take them plain, or with copious amounts of cream (actual cream? Almond, cashew, soy, or sun – as in sunflower – milk? Or cow’s milk, skim, 2% or whole?) and they’ll become a morning or afternoon ritual you can’t do without.

There are also the more delicate teas. I’m clumping green tea and white tea together here because there is something ridiculously refreshing about the whole batch of it. Bai Hao Yin Zhen (Silver Needle), and White Peony tea, Sencha tea: all of them bring to mind a zen-sort of state. Of clean spaces, green, tidy lawns, fresh air, and no hurry, no worries. Just being–and drinking tea.

But really, these are just the tip of the iceberg. Don’t forget there are amazing things like chocolate raspberry tea or orange spice tea. There are hundreds upon hundreds of different fruits, herbs, types of tea with different kinds of milk and sweeteners to combine with. It seems almost infinite, what you can do with tea. And hopefully, I’ll always see it that way. That a life with tea has infinite possibilities. 

As I sit here, typing and sipping tea (Irish breakfast, with honey and soy milk added), I can’t help but think how tea has graciously served me amidst the uncertainty of the pandemic. My faithful tea companions have become a key part of my daily ritual to help ward off anxiety, and find comfort in the uncertainty of the lockdown. 

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