Month: July 2014

A Twelve Step Program for Tea Addiction

By Summer Kinard

Last weekend, we celebrated our Orthodox marriage ceremony and twins’ baptisms with a gorgeous tea party {which you can read about here}. I wrote this tongue-in-cheek essay in honor of the many years tea has been part of our family life – and in hopes for many years to come! Pour a cuppa and enjoy.

weddingcup

Step 1: Tea bags – the gateway leaves

When my future husband returned from a semester in the United Kingdom and brought me a stack of British tea bags, he set in motion a love affair as inevitable as our marriage. I pulled out a slightly worse for wear stoneware teapot that I had inherited from my great-grandmother (the least pretty of her collection), steeped the tea, and found out why my great-grandmother had so many teapots. Apparently, they were not merely for decoration. They were the means of producing a drink that, if not the elixir of life, at least made all other hot beverages seem brutish and wrong in comparison.

Step 2: The Tea Shop

My husband and I happily drank tea made from bags throughout our courtship and newlywed years. That is, until I wandered into the mall one day and met my friend Cathy, a tea mistress and proprietress of a small, snug tea shop. She lured me in with flavored black teas and demonstrations of tea best practices. Leaves, not bags; timers, not stewed; a spout that was higher than the top of the pot for best pouring, and only china cups if you wanted the full experience.

Step 3: What’s this? Tea contraptions take over the counter.

People who don’t drink tea think that tea balls are convenient. People sliding into tea addiction know better: what you want is a good strainer. Either a basket strainer if it won’t be practical to decant, or an over-the-cup strainer if you’re pouring the same amount you brewed. You’ll also need tea towels, because you will make a mess learning to make tea. And somehow you will acquire pots. And tins filled with tea that costs more per pound than anything else in your kitchen outside the spice rack.

Step 4: Everyone tries to humor you.

Once someone notices the tea counter in your home (and they WILL notice), you will begin to receive gifts that no tea drinker would dare use. Bizarre little teapots shaped like garden ornaments and vegetables (none of which meet the requirements of a good pot that you learned at the tea shop, much less would hold an adequate amount of water to steep a good cup) will appear from under your Christmas tree. Friends will bring you dinner party host gifts of ten-years-old generic tea bags that they received with a mug in a gift basket once and never cleared from the pantry. But you like tea, so you must like these things, yes? After suffering through a half cup of cardboard flavored water and dusting a tomato sized, tomato shaped “teapot” that is not food safe for the first time, you will realize that this gifting habit of your acquaintance must end. Now.

Step 5: Tea snobbery.

You’ve no choice but to let it be known that you are not a tea lover in the general sense, but an aficionado. You find opportunities to mention that herbal blends are actually tisanes. You tweet about the bouquet of the latest shipment of whole leaf Darjeeling that came in the mail. You don’t apologize when the tiny impractical decorative “teapots” are no longer on your shelves, though you don’t go so far as to mention that they found a new home at the thrift store. Instead, you mention how well you like a certain tea cozy pattern and express a preference for solid tea mugs, which you correctly suspect no one could mess up. Gradually, your dear ones slow the trickle of swill and clutter, and you embark upon the next phase.

Step 6: Tea evangelism

Dinner guests are offered a dessert option of two types of well-made tea (from whole leaves, of course!) or port with their rustic cheese tart. Or, if you deign to serve coffee, it’s clearly the inferior choice, and you smile a small, pitying smile at those who would rather have French pressed coffee than Mariage Frères. You find reasons to serve tea to friends. Jane Austen film marathon? Check. English cozy mystery book club? Check. A study group that just happens to meet at tea time? Check. Let’s make shortbread cookies! These are great. You know what would go wonderfully with these? Tea! You will have no shame. No one will be surprised when your jacket pockets and handbags overflow with silk tea sachets, just in case. You will hand these liberally to friends, knowing they’ll be back for more.

We even gave our guests tea at our wedding.

We even gave our guests tea at our wedding.

Step 7: Enabling

Your efforts will pay off, and you will acquire at least 5 or 6 friends who love tea and ask you how you acquire yours. (In bulk, online direct from blenders, of course.) They will send you emails when a new tea place opens up in the area. “In the area” will come to constitute anywhere in a two hour driving radius if the tea is good enough. You will sometimes think about managing your household expenses by purchasing inferior tea, but you will think of these friends and buy the good stuff. You would not wish to let them down. If they are sick, you give them a tin of premium leaves. If you come to visit, they nod toward the kitchen and pour you a cuppa from the pot of real tea, leaving the plebs in the main gathering to whatever it is your friend thought to pass off on them. These friends will become your secret list of most trusted persons. If jokes pass around about a zombie apocalypse team or 80’s movie survival team, you know you would secretly rather have your fellow tea snobs by your side than anyone with actual survival skills.

Step 8: Inheritance

You will teach your children to drink tea, to pour tea, to love tea, to respect tea. They will not know better, poor dears, and will assume every child can manage a porcelain tea set by the time he is two.

Hey, the tea isn't IN the baby bottle. Calm down.

Hey, the tea isn’t IN the baby bottle. Calm down.

Step 9: Bargaining

You will read a magazine article or a book that will advise you to cut your budget, simplify your life, declutter, or to end your addictions. You might try to apply this bit of presumed wisdom to your tea habit. You might even feel guilty for a moment or two when you decide that the advice was Not Meant for Tea. But you will recover and realize that the book writer must have been in jest; tea is necessary.

Step 10: A Higher Power

You will notice that the daily ritual of tea preparation is part of your religion. If you believe in God, you will find that said Deity joins you when you take tea. If you do not believe in a divinity, you will understand by analogy why someone might.

teareligion

Step 11: Home décor

You will seek out sophisticated references to tea in literature or in quotes by literati. These you will frame and place on your walls. If you quilt or knit or cross-stitch or paint, you will work teapots into your handcrafts. You will buy a tea table if you have space. There will be a drawer in your house filled with tea towels, a second stash of “good tea towels for guests.” These practices will seem normal to you.

Step 12: Acceptance

Your days will be patterned around the kettle. Leave taking and homecoming will call for tea, as will the consumption of any bread product. You no longer feel the need to evangelize about tea. It’s so much a part of your life that your contented confidence will speak for itself. People will come over to your house and smile when you hand them a perfect cup of tea. They will think it is quaint, and you will not feel defensive. You will sit across from them, sipping tea and nibbling the best tea biscuits from the cupboard, listening to their stories. You will both appreciate the rhythm of tea that makes speech so easy. You will stand by your husband in the last light left on at night, enjoying one last cup.

 

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Summer Kinard is a devoted tea lover and author of Can’t Buy Me Love, a USA TODAY Happy Ever After pick for women’s fiction. Her second novel, Tea and Crumples (coming in Fall 2014 with Light Messages Publishers), features tea as and instrument of healing.

Tea, Stationery, and Healing

This is the model for the sign that hangs outside Tea & Crumples, a fictional tea and stationery shop you can enter in Fall 2015!

This is the model for the sign that hangs outside Tea & Crumples, a fictional tea and stationery shop you can enter in Fall 2015!

Writing longhand and drinking tea have been part of my prayer life for decades. Next autumn, join me in a journey of healing with the release of Tea & Crumples from Light Messages Publishers. In the meantime, please sign up for my free monthly newsletter Finding Balance One Cup At a Time for tips on how to write each day. With simple steps and ideas hard-won through my life of motherhood, study, writing, and faith, I will offer you proven ways to heal your mind, soothe your soul, and know your heart in just minutes a day. Why am I offering this free newsletter? Because writing is not just my business; it’s my calling. I write to build up my fellow creatures, and I want to share with you some of the ideas that help me. Sign up today, and you’ll receive your first free newsletter within six weeks right in your inbox. I’ll also share with you when I’ll be in your area or release a new book so we can continue the conversation.

What little rituals build your prayer life? Join the conversation in the comments.

Tea for Tots

No need to clear the trains before the children pour for one another.

No need to clear the trains before the children pour for one another.

When we welcomed our first child into our tea-loving household, I had grand visions of teaching him to drink tea as soon as he could hold a cup. At his first birthday, I bought him a beautiful porcelain tea set. He took to it brilliantly.

Friends warned, of course, that our next child might not be so compatible with a tea set. They raised their eyebrows in surprise when they saw my son politely sipping Keemun (with lots of milk and sugar) or tasting our decaffeinated Earl Grey. But my daughter proved wrong their skeptical looks, joining her brother enthusiastically in preschool tea parties as soon as she could walk. They took turns pouring and serving biscuits, gathered round the living room tea table in my perfect vision of familial tea bliss.

The problem came when I had the bright idea of sharing our little tea tradition. We invited a couple of tea loving parents over for a tea party, thinking, “Hey, their children are about the same age. Their parents love tea. This should go great!”

We only lost two saucers and a cup before I realized that most toddlers think of porcelain tea sets as projectiles, not instruments of ceremony and joy. Enter the recycled plastic tea cups. Tea was poured. On the floor. And the couch.

Even with the general lack of tea conditioning among the preschool set, I refuse to give up my grand vision of drawing my children into the family tea culture. We welcomed twins in the spring, and what did I rush to add to the baby registry? An additional porcelain tea set, of course. A year from now, I expect we’ll be introducing Darjeeling to our newest little darlings.