January is National Hot Tea Month, according to the Tea Association of the United States of America. While their campaign targets retails, Ruth and I think it's worth celebrating at the consumer's end.
Tea Etc. offers a brief article on the weight loss and germ-fighting potential of tea, but personally, I drink tea because it suits my palette better than coffee, sodas, or even water. (Gasp! I know, I know. Nothing is better for me that flavorless, plain water.)
Tea is a social icon in some cultures. There are formal – and I do mean FORMAL – tea ceremonies, and is there anything that says "linger and chat with me" like a pot of tea and cups on a tray? I still cling to my childhood image of the whole of Great Britain stopping at 4pm for a national moment of tea. In my little vision, blue collar and blue blood alike pause for a cuppa' with their companions, share a crumpet or scone or two, and return to the rest of the evening with a smiling, calm about them.
My fantasy is reality-based. As a very young girl, the lady of the next farm over – we'll call her Lady B – made afternoon tea a part of my reality. There was a small confrontation when my mother foolishly suggested that my toddler body couldn't handle tea. I don't recall it, but clearly, my mother lost the battle and my tea tradition began. Lady B was a schoolteacher, and when she arrived home in the afternoons, I would find my way to her house. We had tea in the enormous, country kitchen in the cooler months, and on the long back porch in the warmer ones. It was always the same black tea, served with a single sugar cube, and a splash of real cream. (The cream was delivered by a real milkman, thanks much.) I was taught on the first afternoon where to place my spoon, although I'm pretty sure Lady B allowed two tiny hands to grip her china cup.
I don't ever recall her daughters – all in their late teens by the time I came to tea – or any of my family being present for our tea parties. I remember watching birds and horses, and even before I went to school, I'd learned to flip through her bird guide until I found the matching image. There are no memories of discipline, although I'm positive I was expected to be a delightful young lady and was corrected if I wasn't. When I was older, I was taught to serve Lady B tea, and I remember feeling VERY grown up the first time I was allowed to pick up the saucer with one hand.
Don't let my prim and proper introduction to tea give you the impression that tea is a stuff beverage. At my house now, you're most likely to find me sipping from a chunky, extra-large mug, a room away from the teapot. The pot is hunkered down under one of many cozies, depending on the weather. That's the true beauty of tea. It's at home in cast iron and fine silver, bone china and plastic. I still take my hot, black teas with sugar and cream (or Splenda and milk), but I like my hot, green teas plain. Tea is perfectly content to be whatever you want it to be.
Stay tuned. I'm proposing a few topics for anyone so inclined to talk tea with me.
January 1 - 7 Please share your favorite hot tea memories with me. Who introduced you to hot tea?
January 8 – 14 Describe your perfect cuppa' hot tea. If you're like me and it depends, share as many different scenarios as you care to.
January 15 – 21 Do you have a favorite tea source? Do you shop online or in a local store?
January 22 – 31 Please share a favorite tea snack, especially if it is a treasured recipe!
Won't you join us? Please use Mr. Linky below, so that we can have a big ol' virtual, hot tea party!