|Jinny has been very ill and is currently undergoing rehabilitation in a Bangor facility so she will not be writing her article for awhile. She is making excellent progress and hopes to be able to return to writing her column in the near future... Adele.
I am a rabid tea drinker. Being a tea drinker in this country can be problematic; it is a coffee drinker's world and tea drinkers are often ignored or the victims of hot beverage discrimination. I can't tell you how many meetings, seminars, and training classes I have been to over the years where coffee is provided and tea is glaringly absent. While I know coffee drinkers who occasionally take tea, I don't know any dedicated tea drinkers who can substitute coffee. It just isn't done.
Both my parents drank coffee, but tea time was a tradition in our house when I was growing up passed down by my grandmother to my mother. When we came home from school my mother would have tea made in a big pot with china cups and always accompanied by cookies or hot crumpets or toast and jam. It was a ritual that we loved and we would discuss our individual daily events and talk and laugh. It was a wonderful time.
I confess to being somewhat of a snob about my tea. First of all, tea in ceramic mugs is like putting lovely flowers in a beer bottle. Tea is not like coffee; it is a delicate, civilized beverage that requires a china pot and cups. The flavor of tea is subtle and distinct, and putting it in mugs diminishes it's qualities. The only container that destroys the experience of tea more is a styrofoam cup. While tea bags are neat and convenient, tea is best when brewed with leaves and steeped in a good pot. Because I have the reputation of being a devotee of tea, people have often given me gifts of tea over the years in various forms. For some reason, they always believe that I will enjoy tea that is mixed up with something else for flavoring. Although peppermint tea is excellent for an upset stomach and Chamomile is just as good for relaxation and sleep, I don't drink them unless I need them and the only fruit I enjoy in my tea is citrus. To me, cherry tea tastes like cough medicine and raspberry tea tastes like something brewed in a scented candle. I am kind of a tea purist. I drink lots of green tea, for its many excellent properties, and I love Earl Grey, Lady Grey, and English Breakfast Tea. Adding a bunch of bizarre flavorings is completely unnecessary. Tea, like all truly elegant things, should not be subjected to a bunch of froo-froo.
I continued the ritual of tea time with my own kids and we had tea after school or in the evenings. They always looked forward to tea time and frequently brought their friends to enjoy it as well. Tea time often became a rather large affair. I had certain rules about tea time. Everyone sat still, kept voices to a moderate level of volume, and behaved with perfect manners. Conversation was pleasant and everyone was expected to participate. No one picked up a delicate cup by anything but the handle and saucers were expected to be used. No one gulped, slurped, clanked spoons, or got piggy with the tea time snack. Oddly, I rarely had to enforce these rules because for some reason, tea time made everyone more civilized. My kids always knew that I would have a cup of tea for them when they were sick or had a bad day. Tea was the great comforter and no one who was hurt, sad, cold, or upset ever went without a cup of tea.
Although Chuck and I are alone now, we still continue the tea time tradition. His friends are just as enthralled as his brother and sister's were with the ritual. One of his friends commented that his grandmother had a tea set in a cabinet that was never used. He had come to the conclusion that the lovely pot and cups were only for decoration. What a shame. He felt nervous about handling the delicate cups in which I serve tea because he had never seen them actually used before. I told him to relax and enjoy the tea time experience and now he loves to be at my house when tea is served. I sometimes tell stories or read something to them during tea time, something I did with with all my own and their friends. Because he doesn't have a sister living at home with him, all Chuck's friends are boys, of course, and it is remarkable how these big, clumsy, rowdy boys can be the picture of polite refinement at tea time. They handle the cups with great care, putting them down carefully on the table and saying please when they want more. They manage to nibble on cookies rather than wolfing them down, and they are happy to talk politely or listen to whatever I read them. It just goes to prove what I have always believed; tea is the most civilized beverage and tea time the most civilizing ritual in the world.