Thursday, September 16, 2010

my cup of tea

In my adult life I have swung in and out of heavy tea drinking phases. Going months without any and then suddenly finding myself drinking more tea than water, with boxes and boxes of bags and leaves to offer guests along with biscuits and gossip. My flatmate and I once went through a 100 box of earl grey in a little under a fortnight and considered that quite an achievement, he was unemployed at the time so had more tea drinking time available to him than usual I suppose. Han and I used to share pots of lady grey, with a little honey, through cold Wellington winters. I recently bought a new teapot, it's large and blue and my favourite thing in the kitchen at the moment. Since moving into an all-girl house I have found myself once again drowning, not unpleasantly, in cups of tea around the kitchen table, on the front stoop, in the backyard, on the living room floor and taken back to bed on a Saturday morning. The jug is constantly boiling and I am increasingly stuck on what kind to have, sugar? honey? milk or soy? My indecisiveness is usually reserved (embarassingly) to meals out with friends but as the weather warms and my body craves hydration, perhaps more than the comfort of a hot mug, I'm getting stuck on this simple offer, ever gracious and oft off-handed.

It's no wonder that tea preparation and consumption has attracted such ritual in so many societies. The Japanese tea ceremony is something I've only experienced through books but the british high tea is an event ceremonious enough for a birthday or baby shower. The watery, sepia offerings of dumpling houses in chinatown, where I was once scolded 'no water! Only tea!' (this did happen) is self-served from steaming urns into grubby cups but they're free and you'll find you can't sit through a noisy drunken meal without refilling.

My favourite varieties change with each phase but earl grey is my rock. Lately I have become a sucker for Celestial Seasonings' Bengal Spice. It's the cinnamon, combined with a splash of milk and some manuka honey, that reminds me of a drink my mum used to make on the stove and call 'sleeping potion' on dark winter nights. Perhaps there's nostalgia also, in the brand; after a school tour of the Celestial Seasonings factory in Colorado when I was six we were each given a sampler box of herbal teas to take home. Only recently have I gotten over my 'smells great tastes nothing' disdain for herbals, and I have to admit, it was Celestial Seasonings berry zinger that turned me. My recent flu was coddled with a tisane of lemongrass and ginger, the same leaves in the pot for two or three refills of hot water, and, while I've developed a recent craving for hot chocolate, I have a steaming cup of peppermint on my desk in front of me.
Kate from stylized, Gaga from popdirt and George via weheartit...

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