There is something definitely soothing, calming, and healthy about a cup of good tea served at the right temperature in the right moment. For years, tea has been my drug of choice and with my tea habit evolving to a level only other serious tea drinkers would understand. It’s not that I adhered to the Japanese Tea Ceremony (although I considered doing so several times), but more that I became selective in the tea I’d drink. Since most restaurants serve abysmal tea (Lipton Orange Pekoe may be dandy to make your garden grow but drinkable it’s not), I would carry my own selections in a small round tin, courtesy of Republic of Tea, which incidentally used to be my favorite leaf (Mighty Leaf is now my pulse, but mighty hard to find!). Traveling by car usually meant taking my own tea maker, since it’s sacrilegious to make tea in a mere coffee pot. Avowed tea drinkers can always tell if coffee’s been made in the apparatus before, especially hot water provided in air pots that formerly housed the evil brew known as coffee. Tainting the holy water of tea with even a hint of coffee was a treasonous offense, punishable by banning the perpetrator to a life of instant coffee.
Although I’ve always preferred the purifying benefits of water-soaked leaves over burnt beans, I’ve recently become a traitor to my own cause. I have become a coffee drinker almost to the rabidity of my former tea habit. It’s not that I’ve lost the tea taste, but grew tired of fighting the battle to have decent tea in places without dragging either my own tea or tea-making tools. Coffee is more the beverage of convenience, and I guess I should blame the Starbucks empire for getting me hooked on their over-roasted, over-priced, over-rated products. Around here they are the only coffee house, but I do enjoy the coffee-house ambiance for everything from reading to writing to all things online.
My first foray into coffee was interesting. I’d try coffee now and then over the years, loving the brewing odors but hating the oily, bitter taste. I began as newbies usually do my having a little coffee in my hazelnut-flavored cup of half and half, gradually increasing the coffee ratio until even a veteran coffee drinker could tell there was coffee in there. The first few cups gave me quite the buzz. Although tea has a good deal of caffeine in it, for whatever reason the caffeine in coffee affects me differently. I’ve heard from coffee purists that tea does that for them, so perhaps it’s just a subtle difference in the chemicals that causes the increase when switching.
Now coffee has become my drug of choice, and I tend to drink it early in the morning and as an after-work relaxer. I still drink tea, and it’s ironic that I now go through a ceremonial process of sort when making tea that I didn’t used to take time for. Maybe I feel guilty having changed allegiances and in some odd way I feel it necessary to pay homage to my old idol. Whatever the reason, I fill my tea kettle with filtered water and while it boils I fill the tea pot with hot-as-can water to prewarm it and keep the brew hotter, longer. After seeping the leaves, I use a tea cozy to keep the pot warm until I’ve exhausted its contents. The process feels good, and slows life down as preparing tea should. While I don’t add the pauses in the process for reflection as any good tea ceremony would have, I do notice that there’s a calming effect in the making of tea that adds to the enjoyment. Coffee seems to be a drink for people in a hurry, while I think of tea drinkers as those who choose to step off this crazily spinning planet for a few moments to reflect within while sipping tea. I guess each approach has its place in our lives and times when they both make sense. I’ll continue on my bad coffee habits as they seem needed at the moment, but will hope for a day when my pace of life will make slowing down to enjoy a fine cup of Mighty Leaf tea the better choice.