Monday, September 7, 2009


A scene from A Bridge Too Far (1977):

Corporal Hancock: Sir. (He offers Urquhart a mug of tea.)

Major General Urquhart: Hancock. I've got lunatics laughing at me from the woods. My original plan has been scuppered now that the jeeps haven't arrived. My communications are completely broken down. Do you really believe any of that can be helped by a cup of tea?

Corporal Hancock: Couldn't hurt, sir. (Urquhart accepts his mug of tea.)

Other than water, tea is the most widely consumed drink on the planet. Most cultures have traditions of the steeped beverage. No matter where you are, no matter your lifestyle, there is a custom of tea in your little corner of the world. Why is this?

There is something magical about waiting for the water to boil, pouring it slowly over the leaves, pausing long enough for the tea to brew, and sitting down to sip its fragrant offering. We've enjoyed tea over the years. We've woven it through our days, turned to it for comfort and atmosphere, and hugged it close when we were sick. The plain truth is, there are days when tea makes life good again.

This week we'll be talking about tea -- but more than that, I'll be reminding you to pause, to savor, to take care of your soul, even in the midst of busy schedules and pressing demands.

If you are muttering under your breath because you've got lunatics laughing at you, your original plans have been scuppered, and all communications have completely broken down, it may be that tea has nothing to offer you. But I say to you: it couldn't hurt. Just take a break. Have tea. It won't change the world. But it may change you. And that can make all the difference.

Tea has been a soother of nerves, a lifter of spirits, and a diluter of stress for centuries. If you have never tried it, then you are in for a surprise. The first thing to do is to find a tea that you like. The options are numerous -- light or dark, fruity or nutty, astringent or sweet. Serving choices are almost as varied: milk and sugar like a latte; sweetened with honey; plain with lemon; iced or hot.

Here's a run-down of the types of tea that are widely available:

  • Black Tea: called "black" because it's made from leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant which have been dried and oxidized until they are black. This is the tea most people know, the tea that is used as an iced beverage. In Britain and Canada, black tea is traditionally served with milk and sugar. Popular varieties include: Constant Comment, Earl Gray, English Breakfast, Darjeeling, and Irish Breakfast.
  • Green Tea: known for it's healthy antioxidants, this tea is made from Camellia sinensis leaves that have been dried and gently oxidized, but are still green in appearance. Its golden liquor is usually served plain or lightly sweetened. It's low in caffeine.
  • Oolong Tea: this is the tea usually served in Chinese restaurants. It's actually made from a blend of black and green teas. It has half the caffeine of black teas and the brew is reddish brown. It's excellent with a teaspoon of sugar, or simply plain and piping hot, as a companion to rice and vegetable dishes.
  • White Tea: its silvery leaves have not been cured or oxidized. This Camellia sinensis tea is made from young leaves and buds. It's rarer and more expensive. It has more caffeine than green tea, and a very unique flavor.
  • Herbal Tea: this is a broad category. Any teas not made from the leaves of Camellia sinensis plant fall into this group. Popular ingredients are: peppermint, camomile, lemongrass, dried fruits and fruit peels, rose hips, chicory, spices, and carob.
  • Red Tea: this special kind of tea looks and tastes like a mild black tea when brewed, but it's actually an herbal tea made from the African "red bush". Also called "rooibos tea", red tea is packed with nutrients and antioxidants and has it has no caffeine. Many people enjoy it with milk and sugar, or sweetened with honey.

Experiment. Try something new this week. If the first tea you select doesn't delight you, don't be discouraged. There are teas to please every palate.


What types of tea do you enjoy? Any favorites?


  1. Oh, I love, love, love tea! (There's a whole category on my blog dedicated to "tea time"!)
    My faves are Japanese greens, and occasionally a good black tea, like and English breakfast tea. I have to be in the right mood for oolong. And I have not developed a fondness for rooibos, but my husband loves it.

  2. As a firm adherent to tea drinking, I just finished my third cup of the day, most days I have only two, one in the morning and one after dinner.
    I drink mostly black teas with organic cane sugar and milk. I have small assortment of Stash tea flavors and also like Republic of Tea's Spring Cherry which is a green tea.
    I'm not a big fan of most herbal or fruit flavored teas.
    I love my tea time.

  3. Tea time is an age old tradition in our family as well. We drink it after each meal, as a snack or a refreshment. I love it. One of my favorite things in life. :)


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