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Ode to Tea

Tea is cultured. It is subtle and varied. It can come in a ton of varieties, and it is only possible because we have risen out of nature to be able to both warm water and put non-poisonous plants in that water to make it more delicious. In this way, it has a fusion of both being entirely a human thing and deeply natural. The tea plant itself is a rather unassuming bush, but so many varieties of tea can be generated from it. From black to green, oolong to pu-er, jasmine to herbal, fruit to white, tea has as many flavors as there are moods. The seeds of a tea plant can be used as dish soap. The health benefits of tea are certain, yet they can also take on the almost mythical: prolonging life and preventing cancer. It is a comfort to drink tea, which can be either invigorating or relaxing. There are entire ceremonies, restaurants, and rituals associated with the preparation and drinking of tea. This ancient tradition is so well developed, there is a specific order and number of seconds for the preparation of tea. The warming of a serving dish and teacup are of utmost importance as are the process of smelling the tea first, drinking, and then smelling the empty teacup when finished. The instruments of drinking tea are specific and exemplary: a teapot and teacup could hold any number of other things, but they hold these names. Having an appreciation for the subtleties and flavors of teas is a mark of good taste. Tea has been a driving force in history and a mark of aristocracy. The addition of sugar to tea in the British empire was simply to combine two hard to get substances. Still, tea is now widely available, and the addition of sugar enhances the flavor of many teas. The additions to tea can give a great variety to any kind you happen to be drinking beyond the myriad types. It can be hot, warm, iced, or chilled. There are sweeteners of all kinds from the simple sugar to honey and nectars or fruits. There are the various dairy concoctions and the ability to steam, froth, or simply mix them in. There can be no addition at all, which brings out the inherent flavors mixed in a teabag.

I currently have just over 50 varieties of tea in my house and that is one of the two main comments I receive about my house “Wow! That is a lot of tea.” It is almost hidden at the tops of the cupboards, so it takes a while for many people to notice. I like to drink tea in mornings and evenings. Mornings give a boost and a pleasure to waking up. Evenings give some warmth as the world turns cold, peace and comfort. Raspberry, mint, jasmine, and vanilla-caramel chai teas are currently my favorites. Raspberry is best with honey. Mint is sublime on its own, and chai can have all the add ins, even spices, and still taste good. The scent of jasmine tea alone is heavenly. Tea is one of the best things to drink when ill, and it is one of the few things that are always easy to stomach. It is a great excuse to be social. Tea briefly became the hallmark of my peer tutors, who help so much in teaching and aiding struggling students. I have made a tea party on the terrace one of my annual traditions. It is a pleasure to share a cup of tea with a friend or a few and catch up. It is a great excuse to make a baked good of some kind to accompany the tea. Each person can select their own preferential tea, and life can be enjoyed in the common activity and variety of individuality.