This morning I gave my coworkers boxes of divine, locally-blended, black teas from Steven Smith. We all steeped a cup, 5 minutes (no more, no less for this lovely black tea, called "Brahmin") and we took a collective sigh. We breathed in the good flavor and looked at each other and smiled. It was a rare moment in our day-to-day, " I'm so busy I can't talk right now" vibe. I thought, jeez, this connection just took one fabulous cup of tea . . . We should do this more often!
It made me think of all the unique and wonderful rituals surrounding tea D and I were a part of on our travels. From haggling the Cochin early-morning chai wallas down from 5 rupees, to the usual 4 to the old men sipping Lipton with sugar cubes stuck between their teeth as they navigated endless plates of baklava in Istanbul . . . In Vietnam, it was all green tea and it came in petite cups, which we were constantly refilling with a battered tin pot.
I look forward to my fancy loose-leaf teas every morning. It is this precise ritual of deciding which type (usually Assam, Earl Grey or some type of Rooibos), placing the leaves gingerly into my small strainer, boiling the kettle and steeping to perfection. Always with a large lump of brown sugar and splash of cream, occasionally with a few cardamom pods crushed into the life-affirming brew.
For me, tea is the act of slowing down, indulging a little, sharing secrets with friends and co-workers and celebrating sweetness. It is an absolute essential during our cold and gray NW winters.