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.