I have recently made the full conversion from coffee to tea. I have always had romantic notions about drinking tea. It is the same kind of feeling I get when I shop someplace like Whole Foods or Sprouts. I think I associate all these things with people who are more enlightened and educated than I view myself. Like suddenly I’ve gained entrance to an exclusive and very high brow club.
I know that may sound ridiculous but, hey, that’s how my brain works.
Coffee is tough, rugged and the drink of the ordinary working stiff. We tried to fancy it up with small batch roasted beans and perfected the brewing methods to extract the perfect flavor from the bean. But, in the end, it is coffee.
Tea is delicate. The water temperature and steep times are crucial to a properly crafted cup of tea. I am in love with the ritual as well as the end result. I am now on a quest for interesting blends and beautiful tools to enjoy my tea.
But, where did this fascination begin?
The Purple Rutabaga
When I was a senior in high school, 1975-1976, one of my best friends was named Pam. Pam and I met in ceramics class as juniors and our mutual quirky, artsy personalities clicked. I was new to the school as a junior and found it difficult to fit in. I had come from Texas to California and, well, I talked funny. I didn’t know how to embrace this and make friends, I just felt different and weird.
Pam grew up in a single parent household. Her mom, also a free spirited individual, divorced her father and moved to California from Oklahoma. I guess Pam knew something about being different too. Single parent households were not common back then, much less one with such a young, hip mom. She didn’t look nor act like anyone else’s mom we knew.
One night Pam took me to a place in Fullerton that she had discovered with her mom. All I can remember about the name is that Rutabaga is part of it. For some reason I thought it was called The Purple Rutabaga. And I could be right, so I went in search of it on “the googles,” and though nothing with that name showed up, I did find Rutabegorz.
Rutabegorz began in 1970 in Fullerton by former University of California at Fullerton students as a way to bring the coffee house culture of San Francisco to Orange County. The vision was a place where youthful intellectuals could gather over a warm beverage discussing the issues of the day. Board games, open mic folk singers and poetry readers were also encouraged. I have no recall of the outside of the building, it was dark. What I do remember is sitting in this hippie place where people were drinking their beverages, hushed conversation, and a young man leaning against a stool playing his guitar. I felt SO sophisticated. This was also the first time I had ever had a cup of Constant Comment Tea. I was recently reintroduced to it and all these memories came flooding back.
This is likely the origin of my elitist intellectual tea stereotype. The other stereotypes include stuffy British women drinking tea while seeming quite self important, and old ladies who drink tea from frilly little cups and gossip about their friends. But I don’t fit into those categories either. So, I’ll just make my own category: Quirky artist type who likes to drink tea and make yarn. I know my tribe is out there!
My Tea Bar
Like most things in my life, I land on a topic and I immediately become obsessed with it. I research. I ponder. I experiment. Very few things last beyond idle experimentation. Wool and yarn making survived. Crochet survived. Most everything else was cast aside as soon as the novelty wore off. This is how tea drinking has always been for me.
Some of the Sheryl fads make encore appearances, albeit many years apart. Tea is one of these fads, but I think I am all in this time.
Ignore the clutter on the bar, and focus instead on the lower level. I have turned the wet bar area – these were all the rage in the 1980s, mine has been a cat feeding station and general clutter gatherer – into a tea station. I have a scale so that I can weigh my loose leaf tea, my electric kettle (a temperature controlled kettle is on my Amazon wish list) along with all the other accoutrements for tea preparation. One day, when we bring the kitchen into the current century, I will design something special for tea prep. But for now, this works just fine.
Teaology – The Study of Tea
I found a great documentary on Acorn TV (a streaming network for British television – I’m a huge fan) called “A Nice Cup of Tea.” Victoria Woods is the host and travels to China and India providing us with very interesting background information on the British fanaticism with tea, how it started and the ramifications of their passion.
Britain’s passion for tea altered history, started wars, drove the British Empire and changed political alliances. A little leaf and bud transformed the world.
I will write more about this show and the interesting historical aspects of how tea first left China and then became the most consumed beverage in the world, after water that it is.
I am reading books and websites to learn as much as I can. I have a keen interest in growing plants for food, drink, and dyeing my wool. I think it is my way of connecting with the things that are really important and tossing out the rest.
There is a trend in my life. Solitude. Silence. Connecting with the earth and then people. Doing things that matter in a slow and deliberate way. Really thinking about not only how I spend my time but the outcome of that time. I think it is an aging thing. Days are fewer and we need to make them count. How do you make your days count? Something to think about. I’m going to start tagging my Instagram photos on this subject with #makedayscount. Won’t you join me? I’d love to see what you do to make a difference with your days.
Until Monday, keep looking up, embrace today and go have some fun!