January 15, 2013

“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”   --Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady


I don’t remember a time when I haven’t loved tea.  Some of my earliest dinner memories are of my grandmother’s big white enamel bucket, used on Sundays to ladle up big glasses of iced ‘sweet tea’ after church.  I was always so excited when the Fuller Brush man visited our home; his displays of colorful tins of Constant Comment teas felt like an Arabian bazaar of exotic spices had arrived on our doorstep.  Tea and honey kept my throat from giving out during my high school debate career, and later on in college, tea and cinnamon/sugar toast were my trusty companions on all-night study marathons.  Sipping Tetley tea in the garden with our Scottish bed and breakfast host is a cherished memory.  And one of my all-time favorite memories is having a proper British tea with my mother and good friend Mary at the British Museum.  I've always enjoyed the "English connection"--drinking tea always makes me feel a little more British, a little more in touch with my English heritage.  

I have one cupboard in my kitchen devoted to different teas and some of my favorite cups.  All my children know that there is only ONE way to properly drink tea...in a china cup, not a mug!  I love to open the cabinet door and ponder the selections--what tea will capture my imagination?  Over the holidays I discovered a new tea blend that I have really been enjoying--Lady Jane Grey tea, produced by the 300-year-old tea company, Twinings, that also brings us Earl Grey tea. Captain Picard (Star Trek), Batman and Piglet all favor Earl Grey, which is a mixture of black tea and oil of bergamot (a citrus fruit that is kind of a cross between a lemon and an orange.)  I've discovered that I actually like the Lady Jane tea a little more, as the tea blends the oil of bergamot, which can be a little overpowering, with lemon and orange peel, thus creating a gentler, lighter flavor.  It makes a perfect afternoon tea, and yesterday at work I took a tea break to enjoy a cup of Lady Jane and one of my 'tea-bag' shortbread cookies. There's nothing like a taking a few minutes to rejuvenate yourself on a busy work day.

The first cup moistens my lips and throat.
The second shatters my loneliness.
The third causes the wrongs of life to fade gently from my recollection.
The fourth purifies my soul.
The fifth lifts me to the realms of the unwinking gods
    Chinese Mystic, Tang Dynasty

Of course, having five cups at work may not be the best idea, as it will probably lead to multiple restroom breaks!   I hope you have a good day, with time for the important things in life, which hopefully includes a break now and then for a simple, warming cup of tea (or coffee, if you insist!).

Peter Pan...


  1. You are my kind of girl! :-) Earl Gray is my favorite, but I like Lady Gray, and China Oolong and Irish Breakfast/ English Breakfast and Green teas as well. Currant tea is sweet, so it is nice for a treat now and then. I love taking a break in the afternoon for a cup of tea. Almost always in a china teacup, but I have been known to occasionally put it in a larger mug when I want to go sit on the couch and read and not get up to refill as often. I have lots of memories of my Mom hosting teas for the ladies at church, with all of her pretty teacups. She made a special little girls tea for my sisters and I to eat in the kitchen so we would not feel left out. We would have Cambric tea, which was warm milk and sugar with just a dollop of tea in it. And then we had peanut butter and banana sandwiches, cut into pretty shapes.

  2. Weren't childhood tea parties fun? I have a great picture of my grandmother and me holding a doll's tea party--an round oatmeal box was our little tabletop! I love English breakfast tea, and during the holidays I make "Russian tea". I've had the recipe for it since college, and it uses instant lemon tea, orange tang, cinnamon and cloves--delicious!