Every month seems to be National Something Month anymore, but I was surprised to learn that January was National Hot Tea Month. Although never a coffee drinker, I have gradually become an aficionado of tea, almost any kind. Growing up I never thought of tea as a hot drink. My mother made ice tea in the summer, but not the Southern kind with a bag of sugar. She set her Lipton tea bags from the grocery store in a quart fruit jar, added boiling water, and covered the jar mouth with an upside down saucer until the brew was the right color for drinking. Then when “sun tea” became popular, she set a clear gallon jug out on our porch to bask in sunlight. Sun tea was never as good as that brewed in the fruit jar, however.
I was introduced to a cup of hot tea when I met my in-laws. They drank coffee but also consumed hot tea brewed in a green enamelware tea pot. I found I liked hot tea, and when DH and I married, Lipton’s tea was a staple in our kitchen. While on a business trip to Canada, the wife of a salesman invited us to her home where she served Red Rose. This was delicious tea and awakened me to the fact there were other brands besides Lipton. I began to experiment, read, and learn. I found I liked loose teas even better than bagged. I was intrigued by the “agony of the leaves”, the swirling in the body of the pot as boiling water made them unfurl like tiny flags.
Once I began to brew up so many hot teas, I thought I needed more tea pots…then tea cups. Pots and cups sprang up over the house like dandelions on a spring lawn. I like them colorful and useful. Friends often gave me cute pots or decorated pots, but I did not want to only look at pots. A tea pot had to be useful. I do have tea pots for the seasons and change them often so taking tea is a visual treat as well as a tasty one. The same is true for cups. I don’t use ones that match a set of dishes, but choose to use an assortment of cups varied in size and color. I do have a few mugs for taking to the deck in summer or for the hearty drinks of deep winter, but I favor a nice English bone china that tinkles a wee bit when a spoons stirs.
I have found some green teas I like, but I favor a hearty black tea especially first thing in the morning. I like some dessert teas, but I don’t like to drink them alone: chocolate and sweet dessert teas need friends to share the pot with around the table. Recent studies show that tea is not just tasty but healthy. Supposedly tea drinkers have fewer colds and flu sieges, fight cancer better, and maybe even loose weight more easily. I can not vouch for any of the claims, but I do feed my tea leaves to my plants, both indoors and out, and they respond well to the tea.
One thing I have not done is learn to read tea leaves in the bottom of a cup. I have always been too busy getting to the pot for the next cup of tea! Maybe I will take a look at tea leaf reading during this National Month of Hot Tea. Then again, maybe I will just go brew another pot of Tippy Yunnan and search out some short bread for tea time!