Monthly Archives: January 2013

Will You Take A Cup of Tea

Image

Ahhh. A cup of tea. I have been musing on the great cup of tea, and all its incarnations, and its meanings. Even the word ‘tea’ for me has a great feel, and I don’t know if some of you people experience this, but certain words for me carry a shape-feeling and the shape of ‘tea’ is history, grace, drawing rooms, tradition, politeness, civilization, ceremonies. Before I sound too much like I want be to some blessed woman in an Austen parlour (aah, I have been reading Charlotte Brontë, that’s why) – I feel not only these connotations, but others of calm, peace, comfort, plenty. And of course, for the cup of tea situation is, universally, a moment of chill, rest, blissful relief from scurrying reality. A ‘pausa’.

When we were little living in India, the first thing to happen when visitors came was the preparation of tea (chai piyenge?) – ‘o good, another miniscule thimbleful of ridiculously sweet tea’ as my sis scathingly put it – but that didn’t matter, because it was the symbol of the welcoming of the guest, who must drink that tea whether they wanted it or not. And it’s the same here, and most places I guess, the way we put the kettle on (or boil up loads of creamy milk and shake in powdered tea if you’re in Delhi) when people come. Let’s av a cup of tea pet. And then we can sit and chat about anything, for a bit. Or muse on things, on what you’re doing, get an inspiration/distraction that leads you totally somewhere else than where you were pre-tea…

This idea of putting things in hot water to infuse is an old one, and the same principle that one of herbal medicines’ greatest preparations is based on. Pouring hot water on Chamomile flowers and covering the vessel means particular volatile components in the flowers are distilled out with the heat, and held in the water. That’s what goes into you and does some good stuff – different stuff than if you drink Chamomile tincture, or eat the flowers. Plus it’s warm and soothing. Many herbs have properties and actions that come out well in water, especially ones with those volatile parts – some superb ones are Lemon Balm, Peppermint, Rosemary, Thyme, Yarrow, Lavender, Rose, Elderflower, Fennel seed… o, many. Not forgetting the queenly Nettle. Susun Weed makes the distinction between a herb tea and an infusion (tea = flavour; infusion = much more herb, longer infused, for medicinal purposes) and talks about some good ones here. A traditional mix for flu fever times is Elderflower, Peppermint and Yarrow, taken hot – promoting circulation and sweating and offering some anti-infective action also.

At the moment I can’t stop drinking Rooibos tea, it makes me feel solid and connected with the ground. My theory is that in this flighty, excitement-filled London, I need grounding tasty nuttiness. I’m hooked on it. What’s your favourite tea? And tell me how you make it please! Shall we sit peacefully and have a cuppa…