This is the new cover for my altered vintage record album: Exotic Tease. I want it to be both informative about teas and also offer the reader a little whimsey with her cuppa. I used a doll on pop dots made from the wonderful stamps of Catherine Moore. She has a silver teapot on her head and is dispensing a brown velvet rickrack stream of tea directly into her teacup. There is a little cutout phrase on her dress that reads "hoping to change my mood." Amen, sister!
I first became acquainted with tea as a ritual, instead of just a beverage, when I was about 15. A best friend owned an impressive collection of Twinnings tea tins (with tea leaves, not bags) and we would mull over and finally agree upon our selection of the day. She taught me to make tea the proper way: fresh cold water brought just to a boil and then poured over the leaves in a warmed china tea pot and covered in a tea towel or cosy for 3-5 minutes to brew. The boiling water assures "the agony of the leaves" and ensures the best taste possible. I cannot tell you how disappointed I am when I try out a new place that advertises itself a "tea room," only to be served a pot full of warmed water and a cup with a tea bag in it. There should be a law! I believe that they should be required by law to call themselves a deli or a sandwich shop, or even a restaurant, but no state attorney general should permit such deceptive trade practices as labeling such an establishment as a "tea room."
Puzzling, still, is how my friend acquired her impressive tea collection. (She also taught me how to shop at thrift stores, but that was years later) Her modest family home did not have an indoor bathroom. How could she have had access to the funds to purchase her impressive tea collection? I suspect that her older sister, who had already left home, exposed her to the teas. Perhaps I knew then, but have just forgotten. Anyway, here I am, all these years later, grateful for her early teachings.
Tea (the ritual and the drink) has continued to be an important part of my life. I have expanded my tea collection, always prefering tea leaves to teabags, but sometimes having to bend to availability. Now, with so many wonderful teas available through the internet, my favorite is Taylors of Harrogate (tea room blend). A few of my other favorites are Tazo (black), Twinnings Earl Grey and Jasmine, and Republic of Tea Ginger Peach and Blackberry Sage. If you have other suggestions, please leave me a comment because I would love to try your favorites, too.
I read somewhere recently that single people who go to dinner together reduce their stress by agreeing to share an appetizer. That the act of agreeing on one appetizer is a bonding experience that makes us know we are not alone and reduces our blood pressure. This is my experience in sharing a pot with a friend. We are not alone!
So, please, whereever you are right now, leave your screen for just a few minutes, and brew yourself a cup of the best tea you own(in your best china cup) and know that I, and many others around the world will be performing the exact same ritual (and if you have a little Walker shortbread available, I highly recommend you cosume it, too, as they are lovely together.)