Playing mother with Mr. Twinings

Today, like many days, I am fortifying myself with a traditional Irish beverage. I celebrate my Celtic heritage while I slake my thirst. Ahh—I long for the Emerald Isle I have not yet seen in person. Another sip and I am crying with joy. What is this magic liquid? Not Guinness, although that’s another favorite I learned to sip during aborted Gaelic lessons. This miracle fluid is tea. How bracing! How soothing! How downright splendiferous! I have been in love with Earl Grey ever since my mother introduced us—a most charming fellow when steeped and sipped.

I love everything about tea—the rituals, the preparation and the paraphernalia involved. I’ve got a cast iron Japanese teapot with dragonflies on the side, and many different strainers and cups. Sometimes I use a clear pot and sit witness to the agony of the leaves. This is the moment when boiling water inspires tea to dance around the pot, unfurling into its full flavor. Ah, how wonderful to watch my cuppa being born!

It’s not all about the stuff, either. Tea is delicious, and each kind brings a little story with it. I adore Russian Caravan, supposedly named for the smoky flavor infused into the tea whilst it was on a long trek with silk-laden camels. Gunpowder green has a subtle maple flavor. It doesn’t explode, but the tea leaves are wrapped into little pellets that look like buckshot. These pellets burst open during the steeping process. Ah, the glory of the agony! And Moroccan Mint blends that taste with a refreshing hint of peppermint. Can’t you just taste the bazaar?

I’m finding that Seattle is a most fruitful place to follow the way of tea. The Crumpet Shop in the Pike Place market has overflowing pots and hearty sandwiches. Floating Leaves in Ballard focuses on Asian contemplation and preparation. The fascinating Japanese supermarket Uwajimaya offers undreamed of varieties. Those are just a few of the local resources and the grand prize of Victoria awaits me—I can’t wait to take the clipper up to Canada to experience their high tea, which is the utmost in British elegance. Hold on finger sandwiches—I’m coming!

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

33. Treat yourself to a type of tea you haven’t had before. Going out for tea is lovely, but in the alternative buy yourself a sampler and have at it with the boiling water. This is an exercise that is especially lovely when shared. Tea tastes best with company. Enjoy!

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