There are lots of “reasons” to drink tea. Oh, you are trying to cut back on caffeine.
You think you look dignified bouncing a teabag up and down in your mug in the breakroom at work. You heard green tea will keep you from getting cancer despite the fact that your home is an asbestos garden.
But really now. The only reason we consume anything that isn’t Grape Nuts, aka human dog food, is for the sheer pleasure of it. Do Wine People drink wine to get trashed? Do you drop sixty dollars on a steak to get some protein? Of course not. So why is tea (and coffee!) regularly consumed so mindlessly? Why is there so little care taken in drinking a beverage that even at its most complex takes about five minutes to brew? Where is the interest in a multi-sensory experience when it comes to tea?
People seem to consume tea either to satisfy a caffeine addiction (no hate! I’ve got one too) or to take advantage of the vague pseudoscience linking some tea to better health. It’s like medicine, taken in doses. For one thing those claims aren’t definitive and you’re probably better off taking Vitamin D (apparently there are a lot of unhappy people that just have Vitamin D deficiencies). Tea used to be medicine, but that was way back when it tasted awful and even then knowledge of good sanitary practices would have probably been better for all those tea drinkers sharing cups.
For another thing, tea does not need to be necessary to be beloved.
Now, it’s a luxury if you want it to be, and a cheap one too, so find a teahouse and ask what they recommend. Better yet, go to the store yourself and buy two ounces of whatever loose tea you think sounds good. Put enough into a mug to cover the bottom of the mug. Pour boiling water in. Wait two minutes. While you are waiting, do not check your email. Set a timer if you’re a bad counter and watch the tea brew for two whole minutes. Now for the good part.
Admire the leaves, which will have gently unfurled at the coaxing of the heat and now sit exuding their flavors both obvious and subtle (a good tea always has a lot going on). Admire the liquor, the essence of the tea transforming the liquid into something translucent and comforting. Smell the tea. It smells like the ground it was grown in and the flowers that grew up with it and the smoke and fire it was dried with, if it was dried that way. Now taste it, assuming you’ve spent enough time looking at it that it won’t burn your tongue and ruin your day. Don’t worry about swallowing leaves (although, you know, don’t try to swallow the leaves). Just take a sip. The taste of the tea is a reward for your patience, your cautiousness, your willingness to wait while processes occurred that are strictly between the leaves and the water. It is the payoff for your moment of silence, if there isn’t enough payoff in the sight of something small and pure and good happening in the bottom of a mug, seen by no other person in the world except for you.
Can you believe that that was water?
Extra Credit: Cut open one of your tea bags and compare what’s inside to the leaves you just bought. Think about THAT, why don’t you.