Hold the Coffee, Please!

Somewhere around third or fourth grade I discovered I didn’t like coffee. My mother, who made us breakfast every morning before the school bus arrived, had a creative brainstorm. Instead of serving our usual hot chocolate, she poured coffee-cocoa into our cups. Of course, she didn’t tell my sister or I, so one large mouthful had us racing to spit it into the kitchen sink. From that moment on, I couldn’t stomach the stuff. Still can’t. Neither can my sister. (Or for that matter, my husband. So maybe it’s not the coffee-cocoa. Hmm.)

Tea and me
Tea, on the other hand, had me at hello.

There’s nothing like a warm cup of hot water steeping with my favorite cinnamon or vanilla tea (I prefer Bigelow, and no, they didn’t pay me for the free advertisement:), a couple of Stevia’s added (no payment there, either) and a bit of honey.

There’s only one flavor of tea I don’t like: peppermint, because c’mon, who wants to drink toothpaste?

My tea kettle and extra large tea mug waiting to be filled.
My tea kettle and extra large tea mug waiting to be filled.

As a child, tea was a staple at every meal in our house. The kettle was always brewing, and there was usually at least one used teabag, wound around a spoon, squeezed dry, when I did the dishes.

My first cup was none other than Lipton, sweetened with at least two lumps of sugar and served as sun tea in the summer. I drank it for years and never thought to try a different brand or flavor.

And then I left for college and went through a dry spell. Tea was not as cool as coffee and didn’t go as well with a cigarette either.

Chai tea love
But college was where I tried a chai tea latte for the first time. “It’s what they drink in India in place of hot chocolate,” the friend who introduced me to the brew said. After my first sip, I was gone, lost in a land of ginger and cardamom, two of the most prominent flavors, along with steamed milk. Yum.

One of my early jobs after graduation saw me enjoying copious amounts of green tea, which is said to contain antioxidants. I must confess my reasons for drinking it had less to do with its medicinal effects and more to do with budget, as it was offered free at the restaurant where I ate lunch daily.

Tea with sisters
There were tea parties over the years for showers or special occasions, and I’ve sat in dozens of tea rooms. One of my first managers took her department of all women to the Ritz as a holiday gift. That might be one of the first times I tried and overdosed on brewed tea. Although it takes a few minutes longer to make and is messier to clean up afterwards, brewed loose tea leaves provide exceptional flavor.

In grad school, I met an exotic, new friend from Russia. During study sessions at her house, she brewed loose tea from China. It might be my imagination, but I seemed to think clearer after a pot.

I invested in a special teapot to brew my loose tea after that.

Tea for two
And then I was pregnant and spent my time carrying a barf bag and holding my nose. That’s when I discovered vanilla tea or it discovered me. I don’t remember how I added vanilla to my favs, but it still tops the list today.

They say your body chemistry changes every ten years. I don’t know if that’s true or it’s just my taste buds, but right around forty I suddenly needed to kick it up a notch. Cinnamon, with its spicy, tongue-stinging flavor quickly moved up the top ten list becoming numero uno.

A friend recently made tea brewed from ginger root. She sliced a piece of fresh ginger and boiled it in a pot. She served it with honey and I must admit, I didn’t miss my normal two packets of Stevia.

I’m not alone in my love of tea. It’s the most popular drink the world over. As a writer, it pairs exceptionally well. Stephen King’s a tea drinker. So was Jane Austen and just about every other English writer. C.S. Lewis is quoted as saying, “You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.”

My sentiments exactly.

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4 thoughts on “Hold the Coffee, Please!”

  1. I’m with you, my fellow tea-lovin’ friend. Nothing says comfort more than a tall mug of tea and a good book. Hey, I think today is the perfect day for both.

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