Please. Just Don’t Even.

tea quote

For me, there’s no worse way to start my day than coming downstairs and finding the kitchen full of people who all want to talk to me. Out-of-town visitors. Local friends. Complete strangers to me. My roommate knows better.

I’m not a “morning person.” It usually takes means a good 30 minutes to wake up enough to even begin to be sociable.

And a crucial part of my morning routine involves a tea ritual: I empty the tea kettle, fill it with fresh cold water, and put it on the stove to boil. While it heats up, I carefully measure out 2 teaspoons of my choice for the day: either a strong black Assam tea or a spiced version of the same blend. I always use whole-leaf tea.

I add the tea to the pot and wait for the kettle to boil. While waiting, I look out the kitchen window to see how the garden is doing. This week, the lilies are in bloom. In the evening, as the temperature falls, their aroma wafting through the house can be intoxicating.

Finally, the kettle comes to a boil. I pour the water over the tea leaves, set the timer, and wait patiently for the water to work its magic on the leaves.

This morning it’s Cardamom Spiced Assam. It’s a lovely blend from India. In fact, it evokes such memories of other times, other places, that I can almost hear Ravi Shankar performing a morning raga is the leaves steep.

Finally, the tea is ready. It’s a deep brown liqueur, hinting at hidden delights. I pour my cup and add a bit of sweetener and a splash of milk. I still haven’t managed to replicate the tea served by my favorite Indian restaurant, but it’s close. It, too, is intoxicating.

“In Ireland, you go to someone’s house, and she asks you if you want a cup of tea. You say no, thank you, you’re really just fine. She asks if you’re sure. You say of course you’re sure, really, you don’t need a thing. Except they pronounce it ting. You don’t need a ting. Well, she says then, I was going to get myself some anyway, so it would be no trouble. Ah, you say, well, if you were going to get yourself some, I wouldn’t mind a spot of tea, at that, so long as it’s no trouble and I can give you a hand in the kitchen. Then you go through the whole thing all over again until you both end up in the kitchen drinking tea and chatting.

In America, someone asks you if you want a cup of tea, you say no, and then you don’t get any damned tea.

I liked the Irish way better.” ― C.E. Murphy, Urban Shaman

I close my eyes, raise the cup to my lips, and let the first sip perform its magic.

Now  I am awake. Now I am human. Now  you may speak.

A Lapse of Judgment

It was only a momentary lapse of judgment, but it might have had long-term implications. Fortunately, my habit saved the day.

I Woke Up Feeling Lazy

And that’s where it started. I have a few PG Tips teabags stashed in a sealed container. They’re there for emergencies, such as the rare occasion when I run out of leaf tea, which rarely happens.

But this morning I felt lazy when I got out of bed, and thought long and hard about using a couple of those lovely pyramid bags. No fannings there: PG Tips is quality tea.

Ultimately, I decided against them and headed downstairs to the kitchen.

More Temptation

When I opened the cupboard where we keep our tea, I was again tempted. This time the choice was between my beloved black Assam and two of Ed’s flavored teas. Yes, they were whole leaf teas from a quality vendor, but I wasn’t certain of the flavoring ingredients. After all, there’s no such thing as a Butter Caramel tea plant in nature, nor a Toffee Almond one for that matter.

So once again I brewed my standard cup: steaming hot black Assam tea with enough Masala spices to clear both my palate and my mind. Spiritual benefits may or may not have resulted, depending on one’s view of metaphysics.

Tea Tea

I don’t mean to sound pedantic (okay, maybe I do, just a little bit), but when you swing by your local Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts or Tim Horton’s or wherever it is that you go for your daily dose of Chai tea, you need to understand that the very word “Chai” means “tea.”

What you should be ordering—but not even the so-called experts at the drive-through window will understand—is Masala tea, or Masala chai. Masala, in this case, refers to the particular blend of spices that make this tea such a wonderfully comforting way to begin—or end—your day.

Masala Tea Spice?

tea masala2

This is what I buy. Here in Rochester, I get it at The Spice Bazaar on Jefferson Road, but I’m sure you can also find it elsewhere. It’s just that the Spice Bazaar is where I happen to shop. It’s inexpensive, and saves me thee trouble of having to buy the ingredients separately and mix them myself. Besides, who am I to think I can improve on people who have been blending spices since before my country was even born?

And, in the End, the Tea You Make…

…is equal to the tea you prefer.