“Want to stop in?” my husband asked, looking at the restaurant/bar on the corner near the townhouse we were renting for the week. The Take-Away window was hopping with busy young professionals busily taking away espressos.
I hesitated to go inside because we weren’t exactly dressed for it. We’d been walking around town like the tourists we were, and although it was still early, it was June in the South so I was rather warm (which is to say, sweaty). A glass of water and blast of air conditioning did sound pretty refreshing, though.
When we walked in, a man-bunned barista gave a friendly greeting and told us to sit anywhere. “We aren’t serving breakfast today," he said. "Just coffee and booze.” I gave a short laugh, surprised that booze might be considered an option this early, and slid into a cushy booth with a great view of the street corner out the window.
The barista came over with an extensive menu of options. Mart chose a spiced mocha espresso, and I ordered a pot of English Breakfast tea, as though I did such a thing every day.
I confess I’ve never been much of a hot drink drinker. I hate the taste of coffee, and I love my tea iced, not hot (except for a $4 sweet chai latte on only the coldest winter day). Through the years, several lovely friends--Laurie, Lorri, Cindy, Wendy, and Catherine--have tried to convert me to hot tea. Their efforts have not proved fruitless: with each cup, I’ve disliked it less.
But we’d had hot tea on vacation a few weeks before, and it was the best I’d ever had. So I was now determined. I would like hot tea. I would.
“Here you are,” the barista said, setting a petite porcelain pot in front of me, along with all the accoutrements: cup and saucer, spoon, timer, sugar and creamer.
I've always loved the idea of hot tea, particularly the English way, with loose tea, sugar, and cream. The ritual of it appeals to me—slowing down, taking a deep breath, savoring something good.
Mart took a sip of his mocha, and I lifted the lid of the teapot. What to do with the infuser? I could leave it in the pot, but I don’t like tea that’s been steeped to oblivion so I took it out, spilling teadrops on the table.
Hmmm. Probably not part of the English tea ritual.
I sprinkled half a sugar packet into the cup and enough cream to make a cloud, which reminded me of fabric billowing in the wind.
I’ve always liked the beauty of teacups, whether a simple white cup like the one before me that morning or the delicate china ones in my cabinet at home.
My china pattern, Noritake Azalea, is a reproduction of the pattern my grandmother had that now sits on my mother’s hutch. I’ve always been drawn to it: one of my favorite flowers, handpainted in a gorgeous pink, edged in gold.
In my 20s, I got my entire set of Azalea on clearance at Rich’s department store. I still feel a sense of glee over that find. But since I wasn’t a tea drinker, the only thing in those lovely cups was dust.
When I took my first tentative sip, I was surprised at how good it tasted. Fresh and flavorful. Bold but not bitter.
A few sips later and I grinned at Mart. “You know, I think this hot tea thing might catch on.”
Now every morning, I fill my new infuser of my new two-cup teapot with Harney & Sons English Breakfast and set a timer for four minutes. The tea goes into an Azalea cup followed by one small lump of sugar and a billowing cloud of cream. One more minute to cool and…
Voila! The fresh taste of hot tea, delivered in a cup of beauty, followed by a deep breath. Ahhh.
What sort of rituals do you enjoy? Where do you find beauty in your everyday routines? Have you started something new lately that brings you joy? Tell me about it! I love hearing from readers. Comment below or on Facebook or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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