My Obsession with Tea

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tea_with_mint1.jpgFor as long as I can remember, I've been a tea fanatic.

My earliest tea memories go back to early childhood. My mother first introduced me to it, I'm sure, because I don't remember my father ever being much of a tea-drinker. Of course, Mom had her own way of making tea. She'd brew a plain tea bag (Lipton, or, being of the thrifty sort, probably generic-brands) in a single cup and then she'd pour about a half-inch of so of orange juice into it. No milk, no sugar - just orange juice. This never ceased to boggle my father, but she loved it, and growing up, I came to love it too. Some of my earliest memories involve those cups of tea; deliciously tangy, and with little squiggles of orange pulp swimming lazily around the bottom.

My other fond childhood tea-memory involved my grandmother, who would come to stay with us for a few months out of every year while I was growing up. She'd carefully rinse out plastic gallon milk bottles and fill them to the brim with her homemade iced tea. Being a Southerner, it was generally more sugar than liquid, but I was still a kid then and it suited my sweet tooth just fine. On hot school days, without fail, she'd have a fresh gallon of ice-cold tea ready for me when I got home. Sometimes I'd take the entire gallon with me into the living room, drinking straight from the jug, and we'd watch tv together until my parents got back from work.

As I got older I never really made the switch to coffee, as most of my friends had done. My teen years in the early and mid-90s coincided with the sheer explosion of coffee houses (i.e. Starbucks), and ordering cappucinos and venti lattes made most teenagers feel adult and somehow important. I didn't mind coffee; in fact, I very much like coffee, though generally only when paired with a sweet (preferably chocolate) desert. But it never provided me with the refreshment or the nostalgia or even just the warm, comforting feeling that I'd come to associate with a hot cuppa tea.

Now, in my late twenties, I regularly drink between five and seven cups of tea a day. Its the first thing I drink in the morning, and the last thing I drink before I go to bed - without fail. My favorite blend has long been Earl Grey, but I count English Breakfast, Darjeeling, Ceylon and Oolong as close seconds. I've recently started delving into green teas, with limited success, and occasionally I'll dabble with Chai or herbal blends. Flavor-wise, anything citrus-flavored tends to agree with me, and there are times when I would kill for a perfectly-blended mint tea.

I no longer mix orange juice with my tea - in fact, I almost never put anything in it. Never milk, and never sugar (I think my grandmother's iced tea gave me all the sugar I need for one lifetime). On rare occasions I'll mix some honey in, but I suppose I'm a purist. I drink my tea straight up, water only.

There are very few teas which I absolutely can't stand - in fact the only one that immediately springs to mind is Yerba Mate, if only because that's a tea that absolutely must be drunk with loads of sugar, and I just don't swing that way. I'm not a huge fan of most "traditional" Asian teas which on the whole taste like tea bark, though when paired with sushi or certain other dishes I'll make an exception.

For me, it is simply the perfect drink. It quenches my thirst, it warms me up, it cools me off, it wakes me up, it calms me down. More than any other single food or beverage, tea is quite literally the fuel I run on.
Teaviews Member: Stephen Stephen
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