Taking a timeout for tea time

Published on Wednesday, 25 December 2013 21:20 - Written by By Debbie Lee Townsend Guest Columnist

Recently, my nephew gave me a beautiful collection of teas for an early Christmas present. I was excited to try them, especially since I am generally a coffee drinker. It’s been years since I took the time to enjoy a good cup of tea.

As I opened the first decorative tin, English Breakfast, anxiety overwhelmed me as I heard the little English lady I used to live with yell from the recesses of my memory, “You Americans don’t know how to make a proper cup of tea.”

I stood there a moment trying to come up with a plan to make sure I didn’t disappoint the beautiful soul who taught me so much during the few months I spent with her.

The truth is my English friend was correct in her accusation of our ineptness for tea making in most of America. (I am allowing for the possibility there are some who retain this skill.) I decided the best place to start was the Internet, hoping it would remind me what she taught me.

As I read through the directions, which included boiling water, I couldn’t help but relive my first lesson at proper tea making.

My friend was in the garden tending her hollyhocks when I heard the kettle scream. I ran to the kitchen and removed the kettle from the burner.

Through the door stormed the tiny homeowner with a booming voice, “Why did you remove the kettle from the heat?”

I explained that it whistled and I thought that meant it was ready. The water must be boiling when poured over the tea, she explained.

“Never remove the kettle when it starts to boil. That is why you Americans have bitter tea with that nasty film on top.”

Ah yes, I would not have needed direction to boil the water and make sure it was boiling when it met the tea. However, I couldn’t remember the instructions for steeping. Steeping was the next critical lesson I learned. There is a perfect length of time for each different kind of tea. If steeped too short a time, it will be weak. If steeped too long it will be dark and bitter. It must be steeped for just the right amount of time and then the leaves removed.

As I went about making a proper cup of tea my English friend would be proud of, I couldn’t help but think how much easier it is to make a pot of coffee. Throw in grounds. Pour in water. Push a button. Voila … coffee! It occurred to me this is probably why most Americans who start their day with a hot caffeinated beverage choose coffee over tea. We don’t have — or don’t want to make — time for tea. It is a labor of love that makes a big difference with each cup made.

As I sat sipping my proper cup of tea, it struck me that I really enjoy hot tea. In fact, I was reminded of many things I enjoy but don’t make time for these days. Unfortunately, the pace of our lives cheats us — and those around us — of many things we enjoy. I vowed to make time to take time for tea more often. What are you and those you love missing out on because you don’t make time? I hope you will make a commitment to take time to invest the labor of love in more things you and yours enjoy. The tea maker in me honors the tea maker in you. Namaste’