While I sit at my desk working on my computer, I like to have a little something to sip on. I always have water here, and in the morning a cup of coffee. But today, since I’ve been battling colds and coughs off and on for the past several months (one of the perils of sending a child to daycare, even if only on a part-time basis like we do), I’m enjoying a cup of tea. Or “cuppa,” as the Brits like to say.
See, I grew up in Canada, so we got the coffee influence from the U.S. and the tea influence from the U.K. Almost everything in Canada — the words we say, the way we pronounce and spell them, the culture, the entertainment, the media, the politics — is pretty much straddled halfway between the way they do it in America, and the way they do it in Britain.
Given a choice, I generally pick coffee over tea, but my parents always followed their own hybrid tradition of having coffee in the morning, and tea at “tea time,” which is about as close to 4:00 p.m. on the nose as they can get. Then, after dinner, it’s coffee again.
And now I’m married to an American tea drinker who used to hate coffee, but has been influenced by me to actually enjoy a cup of joe now and then. In return, he has gotten me drinking more tea, which is almost required since we live in what seems to be the Tea Capital of the U.S.A. — Oregon.
When you go to the grocery store here, the shelves are stocked with local tea brands: EcoTeas from Ashland, Strand Tea from Sandy, Stash Tea from Tigard, Tazo Tea from Portland, and my favorite, Yogi Tea from Eugene.
The tea I’m sipping on right now is Yogi’s Echinacea Immune Support. They have a variety of herbals and green teas for almost any purpose, and emphasize choosing teas based on the mood you want to be in, as well as the health benefits you want to achieve. So if you want to feel revitalized, rejuvenated, energized, sharp, calm, comforted, nurtured, or even intrigued, there’s a Yogi Tea for you.
Beyond that, I love the little sayings printed on the tea bag tags — kind of like the beverage version of fortune cookies. While brewing your tea, you might be told “The beauty of life is to experience yourself,” “Your greatness is not what you have, it’s what you give,” “When you know that all is light, you are enlightened,” or “Meditation is the medicine of the mind.”
If you’d like to capture some of that tradition, the non-profit Deer Park Monastery in California recommends enjoying tea with a friend while you both relax and share joy together. You can play an instrument, focus in silence on your breath and inhaling the tea’s warmth, or use this mantra: This cup of tea in my two hands, mindfulness held perfectly. My mind and body dwell in the very here and now.
And while you may think that some types of teas are better than others, it’s really just a preference. For instance, I just learned on the Tazo Tea website that “Black, green, oolong and white teas all come from the same plant (the Camellia sinensis). The difference between them lies in the manner in which the harvested leaves are processed.” For example, they’re steamed, rolled and fired for green tea, but dried and crushed for black tea, and semi-fermented for oolong tea. White tea is made mostly from the buds rather than the leaves.
And of course, this means that herb teas technically aren’t teas at all, because they don’t contain the all-important tea plant; they’re simply herbal infusions of various leaves, flowers, bark, roots, fruits, spices, or whatever other parts of plants people have decided to put in hot water.
That doesn’t make them any less valuable, however, and herbal infusions have been the center of folk medicine for centuries. If you make your own from bulk herbs, you may find some of them taste bitter, but a little honey certainly helps.
On the other hand, most of the boxed and bagged teas you can buy tend to follow one of Yogi Tea’s “Yogi Principles,” which are printed on every box: “If what we make doesn’t taste great and leave you feeling great, we won’t make it.”
Aahhh… now it’s time to relax, be mindful, and enjoy another cup of tea.
Photo Title: “Each cup of tea represents an imaginary voyage” © Katerha
Photo Title: “A Morning Cup of Green Tea” © Kanko