I’m interrupting my weekday posts of Returning Home to talk about tea. Tea is an essential part of my day. It helps me think… and write!
First up, Pu’erh tea. Ever heard of it? I hadn’t until last summer. My education began when I walked into Tupelo Tea Company in Copperhill, Tennessee. I was looking for a tea with less acid. The tannin in teas can be harsh for me (maybe because I drink so much tea; go figure), so I asked the store clerk for help. She led me to a small section of her assorted teas, where I learned about pu’erh, a tea that is fermented in China. I’m a fan of fermented foods, like sauerkraut and kimchi, but the tea I bought, Chocolate Orange, was rather drab. Maybe I tried a mild flavor, or maybe pu’erh isn’t to my taste. Anyway, links are provided if you want to decide for yourself.
My second tea has been a home run for months now because it tastes like coffee! Okay, okay; don’t get too excited. I haven’t had real coffee in a long time, so my taste buds aren’t primed to the level of avid coffee drinkers. Further, I’ve shared Teeccino with a handful of my best buds, and the results are mixed. It doesn’t matter; I love this tea/coffee drink! I first heard about Teeccino from Dr. Berg on Youtube. I started with the sampler to–uh–sample this “miracle.” The one that made my eyes light up was the French Roast. In the months since my introduction to Teeccino, I’ve found two stores in my area that carry it. I buy it coffee bag-size now in the coffee section. Yes, I add cream. I’ve even been known to splurge with a little monkfruit sweetener on occasion.
My third and final lovely tea for your drool-reading enjoyment is a roasted grain that was more of a total experience than a taste test. So, I really, really like Korean foods. I mean, I crave them. Knowing this, Realm’s co-worker took us out to a restaurant which was supposed to be the best Korean food in town. I was game, and as I slurped my steaming Yukaejang soup, our host brought me a nice, fat mug of tea. (I love tea cups, but–let’s be real–they just don’t hold enough!) The flavor was so cozy and so roast-y. I was converted on the spot… to Roasted Barley tea and the restaurant. Yes, I bought a 2lb bag. I needed it. And during this time of quarantine-ishness, it is comforting and delicious. I make it and keep it warm in my coffee pot throughout the day.
Have any suggestions on what teas I should try next?
The trending tea for my palate this season is turmeric. Traditional Medicinals has the best blend, Organic Turmeric with Meadowsweet & Ginger. It has a mild, comforting fullness of flavor that never disappoints. Second best is Celestial Seasonings Teahouse Organic Ginger and Turmeric. CS’s blend is all about pep and spice to meet the day. Still, my go-to on chilly mornings remains peppermint tea, which warms my thoughts.
The other day, I pulled out some dried mint leaves from the freezer to steep. At some point, my eye started to itch. I rubbed it quickly, and the sensation became a troubling burn at the base of my eyeball. The burning gave off a fumy freshness, and my eye began to weep. I ran over to the sink, as any goofus would do when something’s burning, washed my hands, and doused my eye repeatedly with water to try to dispel the peppermint oil. You oil users know what happened; the burning spread from one side of my eye to the other. I could not pry my eye open. I couldn’t see out of the other eye, either, because it was wet with tears.
No one was home, so I dabbed at my good eye and, with concentrated Lamaze breathing, I searched for “pppermint pil in eye.” My browser had my back; it gave me a link to a wealth of advice on what a bad idea it is to put essential oils in your eyes. If I hadn’t been converted before, I was now. Still, the warning wasn’t as helpful—hee-hee-hoo—when I was hoping for a solution.
Dear reader, the solution was to soak my poor eye in carrier oil—as is always the method with potent essential oils. I made a pool of olive oil in a cloth and attempted to dunk my eye in it. There was immediate relief. I used at least a half cup of Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil to dunk my eye and dab the peppermint away—because my eye deserves only the best. I was so elated that I could still see after all that minty fire!
Did this bad experience with peppermint turn my stomach for the tea? Let me tell you, that tea was amazing.
We’re in that in-between Christmas and the 1st of January time. The year is fading into the past, the past is merging into the present, and the present is quickly dissolving into future. It’s my time to reflect on who I’ve been and consider who I am and who I will be.
My best thinking requires my pen and connecting to happy memories from my past. I choose a cuppa, and the scents and tastes become my guide.
The aromatic spice of Bigelow’s Constant Comment conjures images of my mother, who sits across from me and smiles with that special look that tells me she’s enjoying herself. We’re having one of our gabfests. She lifts the tea bag with the black and bright orange tag from the dark water in the cup. Her fingertips gingerly cinch up the wet string to keep the dripping bag from swinging as she removes it. She brings the lip of the cup to her mouth, all the while her eyes on my face, fully engrossed in what I’m trying to relay. I’m her eldest child, and we’ve become dear friends in the years and experiences we’ve shared together. She knows me, and she likes what she sees. That acceptance resonates with me as I take my first cinnamon-y sip.
The soothing flavor of Celestial Seasoning’s Honey Vanilla Camomile wends me to those nightly escapades when I had three children 5 and under. The house is finally still. The clack of the keyboard is my only noisy companion as the thoughts roll out and line themselves up before me in an order that eludes me during the busy day. The exhaustion seeps away as I enter the world of my crafting. I stop and take up my cup. The warm, clear liquid swims across my tongue while I review my work in satisfaction.
Pouring Orange Pekoe over milk in my teacup transports me to a time of cake and miniature dishes. The girls pick out the plates and the cups for the tea party; they arrange the crackers and cheese. Little heels flop out of my shoes as they clatter to the dining room, dressed in their finest play gowns. Two pairs of bright eyes watch for cues as to who we will be today while I settle into my chair. Are we rich ladies? Are we maids? Are we robots? Are we lost children today? They reach for the sugar cubes, and their little voices chatter over the orchestral music in the living room — because there will be a ball after tea is over. Soon they will ask me to tell them a story, a new story they haven’t heard yet. One about princesses… and maybe horses that fly. Imagination and discovery fill me, along with a bubbly sense of expectation. Where will my story take us today? I swallow the milky black tea with a satisfied gulp, just as eager to be introduced to my character in some gallant adventure.
The last drink of the Twining’s Lady Grey is stronger than the first because I leave the bag in. I like the gathering strength behind the subtle rendition of Earl-Grey-gone-feminine. I remember being mildly surprised I liked it the first time I tried Lady Grey. Now it’s my favorite. I offer it when drinking tea with a good friend. Rarely do they pick the Lady Grey, and those who do don’t often choose it as their favorite. It doesn’t stand out. It isn’t mild, like chamomile; it isn’t a spice tea; it isn’t sweet, like rooibus. It isn’t fruity or a dessert-type tea. It’s rather a quiet, unassuming brew that doesn’t require but a few sips for the drinker to know whether it’s to be approved or set aside. I like that: an independent tea with definite virtues, but not the sort to please everyone. Looking into the empty cup, I notice the dark stain lines along the porcelain rim. Lady Grey has left its mark. And so have I.