One of my earliest childhood memories is the sound of a whistling teapot and the smell of black Lipton tea wafting through my kitchen. I remember watching my mom put the kettle on to boil each morning, filling the bottom of a pale green mug with honey, and grabbing a tea bag from one of three little blue canisters that sat at the back of our countertop. She would sit there every morning, listening to me prattle on about my latest art project in school or some playground nonsense that was at the forefront of my mind at that age, sipping her tea and adding an “mmhmm” or a “that’s nice” when appropriate. At the time, these little tea talks just seemed apart of a morning ritual, something trivial, unimportant. I don’t think I ever took the time to appreciate my mom waking up early each morning just so she could see me for a brief portion of time before I caught the bus.
These early memories with my mom are some of the fondest ones I have now, looking back. At that time in my life, my mom worked long hours, making these breakfast conversations one of the few moments I got to spend with her one on one during the week. I would wake up each morning (after several bellowings of “Samantha Elizabeth if you miss the bus so help me god”; I was not, and am not to this day, a morning person) and look forward to these little breakfast chats, my mom with her tea and I with my chocolate milk.
I think that that’s where my love of tea stems from. I associate tea with those sleepy smiles and drowsy morning chats, their inconsequential nature giving them half of their charm. As I got older, I began recreating these tea talks without really realizing it. I would invite my friends over and just sit in the kitchen with cups of tea in our hands, talking about every topic under the sun. I’m smiling as I write this, homesick in my dorm, thinking about drinking tea with two of my best friends, huddled together in my basement, laughing about something that was probably completely asinine. When I sip my tea (I have an obnoxious amount each day, seriously it’s probably unhealthy at this point), I remember those moments of laughter, that distinctive brand of laughter that puts a warm feeling in your belly and causes tears to form in the corner of your eyes, threatening to fall at any second. I remember every smile, every silly moment, and it makes me feel a sense of home.
As such, when I moved 150 miles away from home, I (in Sam Harris fashion) went a little overboard in bringing that piece of home to school with me. My dorm room is lined with tea of varying kinds, from black to roiboos to oolong, you name it, and I probably have it. When my friends are sick or sad or just need a little pick-me-up, I can frequently be found turning on the electric kettle that sits in the corner of my room, the one that makes me long for that familiar whistling sound of home (seriously it makes this obnoxious roaring sound until the tea is ready that kind of makes me question its safety). From there I fill two mugs to the brim with piping hot water, tea bags delicately tied around the handles, if its appropriate I’ll mix in a little bit of honey, and then we sit and talk, sipping our tea as we do it.
I’d like to think my love for tea and this (rather poorly explained) rationalization of it isn’t too crazy. In the Middle East, getting together for a cup of tea is all about hospitality, gathering around a table with friends, enjoying one another’s company. The Arabic word for tea is شاي (pronounced “shaii”), and in many Middle Eastern countries, strangers and friends alike are served tea as a method of socialization. The tea is poured and people will “drink the day away” sipping tea and talking about life, getting to know one another. I like the idea of this, and I also like the fact that this cultural norm provides some validation for my love of tea and the significance I attach to it. I suppose that’s all I really have to say on the subject, however the fact that I was able to write over 800 words just about my love of tea is a little bit concerning. As I write this, I am currently sipping Tazo “berry trifle” out of my Toms mug, eagerly awaiting a FaceTime scheduled with one of my best friends so we can carry on our little tradition. For me, drinking tea is more than just enjoying a hot beverage on a cold night, it’s about friendship and love and all that gushy nonsense. I love tea, and I love the people I share it with, so I suppose I’ll end this post by saying if you’re one of those lucky human beings, thanks for the laughs and all the memories, I look forward to many more.