I hate to admit it, but it’s true – I have an addiction. Tea is my drink. Black, green or white. Hot or cold. Regular or decaf. With milk or not.
There have been ceremonies and rituals dedicated to drinking tea, with the Japanese and British occurrences being the most widely known.
In both ceremonies, it’s not so much the drinking of the tea as the preparation of it. The Japanese tea ceremony is over 1000 years old has very precise steps, and can take 10 years to learn them.
No matter how formal the British tea appears, it is much less so than the Japanese. It is also a relative newcomer compared to the Chinese and Japanese, not having established trade routes (and a steady supply) until the late 1670s. While we tend to use high tea and afternoon tea interchangeably, they are quite different. High tea is basically a meal, with meat, cheese, bread, and of course tea, served at a ‘high’ table such as a dining table. Afternoon tea, started in the early-mid 1800s, has the sweets and savories many of us associate with a tea. The Afternoon Tea was created to foster friendships: the hostess would invite her closest friends for tea and a visit.
This is perhaps why I identify with the British tea so much. I can drink gallons of tea myself; have no trouble doing so. But it is so much nicer to share with a friend. I particularly have two tea friends whom I meet with at different times. One, we meet at a local Starbuck’s and spend way too much time catching up on our lives. The other is an older friend and we have been at each other’s homes more times than I can count. Tea is always involved no matter what else there is or isn’t. When our kids were little, they used to measure the visits in terms of our tea. If we finished too quickly, one would invariably say, ‘have another cup.”
Tea itself is refreshing. I can’t think of a more welcome drink on a hot summer day than fresh brewed unsweetened iced tea. For the other three seasons of the year, I have to have my hot tea. I even bought a tea kettle specifically for my office at one time. My office mate and I gauged how busy we were by the time we managed to have our first cup of tea. Tea by 9 was slow morning, by 10 was average and if the morning tea didn’t come until 1:00, the whole day was pretty our of control.
I like so many teas in so many variations I couldn’t even list them. But know this: by 10 in the morning, I will lift my cup of tea to you and salute – encouraging you to join me.