Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Tea, One of my Favorite Pastimes

Ok, here goes. I know I'm not a tea expert or anything. But I have been drinking tea for my entire life. I have found many "expert" sites on how tea should be prepared: sugar, no sugar, lemon, milk, steeped for 3 minutes, steeped for 5 minutes, leaves boiled in water then strained, leaves in an infuser, teabags or filter bags, etc. But, I just like to drink it almost any way....except unsweetened - yuck! But, then again, I am a Southerner.

When I was a child, the only tea we ever had was Lipton. My mother would boil a small pot of water on the stove, add 2 family size bags, and let it sit for a while. She would always let me have one of the empty packets, because I loved to hold it up to my nose and smell it. Oh my - it smelled so GOOD! Then, when dinner was almost ready, she would put some sugar in a large pitcher, then add the hot tea and stir it aggressively. When the sugar melted, she would add cold water to fill it up to the brim. My sister and I would help put ice in the glasses, and then we would carry them to the table. We never used lemon slices....we just drank it straight. The pitcher was always empty when dinner was done. DEE-licious!

When I became a teenager, I would try to make it myself. Sometimes it turned out just right, sometimes not. I learned that I needed to let the tea "sit" (brew) until it was just the right shade of brown. My mother never timed it, so it was pure guesswork for me.

When I entered college, I had to leave my mother's tea behind. It was heartbreaking to discover that no one else in the world could make tea as good as my mother. I tried it everywhere, but most people boiled the bags in the water, so it tasted like you were sucking on a tealeaf....bleh!

When I got married, we moved into a small apartment, and I had to set up my first kitchen. Was I nervous! The day we moved in, I had to prepare my very first meal...for 8 people! They had helped us move in our furniture, so it was the least I could do. I made beef stew in our crock pot, and it turned out pretty good. But the hit of the meal was my sweet tea, just like home.

When I had children, I discovered the virtues of hot tea. I bought Lipton regular size bags (the only brand I'd ever had), and boiled water, put it in a cup, and then added one tea bag. I would let it sit just like always, and then took out the bag and added a spoon of sugar. Yum. It was just what I needed to help me relax from working and taking care of my little ones. Some days, my nerves would be frazzled from dealing with them, so the tea was NECESSARY. Hot baths were my other escape. Thank God for bathtubs, fragrant soap and locking doors. Sometimes, I would bring of cup of tea to the bath - that was heaven. Candles and soft music helped too. Man! I need to start doing that again!

Since that time, I have tried several other brands of tea, but I prefer Lipton for making a pitcher of sweet tea.

About 10 years ago, when I was in my 30's, I decided to try the "special" teas I saw in the grocery store. Darjeeling, Chamomile, Earl Grey, Chai. I learned which teas I preferred, and kept a supply of them in the cupboard. Hot tea is still one of my favorite ways to unwind.

Now, I have a "Mrs Tea" teapot (like "Mr Coffee", but it has a pretty ceramic teapot). I found it in a Goodwill store for 5 dollars! (There's a photo at the top of this entry.) I snatched that up right away, and it has never been completely dry since. I think I make tea in that pot at least 3 or 4 times a week. It is a great way to stretch my tea bag purchases, because I can make an entire pot of tea with just 2 regular tea bags! : )

I usually start my mornings with Tazo Awake - a very nice black tea. It is so smooth, and the fragrance soothes my soul. I also love Tazo Earl Grey, Bigelow Peppermint, Stash Christmas Eve, and Stash Christmas Morning. There are others that I like to try, but those are my big time favorites. Sometimes, my day will start with a cup of tea and a granola bar. It makes a perfect breakfast.

Drink on!

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