Welcome to For Your Consideration, a new series about things we love and love to do — and we’d like to give you permission to embrace your authentic self and love them too.
Most of us can probably agree that tea is good (and if you don’t, this probably isn’t the For Your Consideration for you, and also, you’re wrong). It comforts and heals. It warms or cools. It energizes or relaxes. What would we do without tea! I, surely, would perish. Because there are days where I settle in for bed with a warm cup of chamomile tea and think “oh shit, is this my seventh cup of tea today?”
And folks, sometimes it is. Health experts are divided on whether 5-10 cups of tea is advisable. Just kidding. I have no idea what constitutes an appropriate amount of tea health-wise, because I did not look into the matter, and I shall not, and I will reject any attempts to link me to evidence that the benefits of tea are regressive. Sometimes, you just gotta down an unusual amount of tea because, like face masks and ABBA songs, it’s one of the cheapest, easiest, fleeting but immediate forms of relief from crushing existential dread. Am I saying I self-medicate with tea? Absolutely.
My sister, father, and I are always chasing the perfect cup of masala chai. In India, we drank several cups of perfect masala chai daily, inside small tea houses where a man stands over a bubbling vat of milky, sugary chai and portions it out in clay or styrofoam cups. You can’t get it that way in the States. Even the most authentic Indian restaurants that claim to offer Indian-style masala chai often can’t pass our very simple test: Is the milk boiled with the tea or added after? If it’s the latter, we pass.
(Chai, as a reminder, means tea, so please retire the phrase “chai tea.”)
(On that note, I would like to go on the record as actually liking chai lattes from Starbucks, even though they are a monstrous derivative of masala chai and are barely tea! But I drank a lot of them while writing papers in college, and you know what, sometimes liquid dessert that tastes like it was made in a lab actually hits the spot. I said what I said!)
It’s customary to have safely guarded family chai recipes in India. In my family, there are several, my sister, father, and I each adding our own signature touches to my father’s mother’s very simple base recipe, which she serves to us in mismatched mugs every time we’re home even if we politely decline.
I make my chai with Lipton tea bags, milk, brown sugar, flecks of vanilla bean stripped from their pod, whole star anise that pinwheel in the tea as it cooks, cracked cardamom pods, a whole lot of sliced fresh ginger, cinnamon sticks, cloves, trace amounts of black pepper. It makes the whole apartment smell divine. Probably the best part of dating me is my homebrewed masala chai.
Do you ever think about Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Ramona Flowers rattling off a tongue twister of tea types on a loop?
An Unofficial Guide to What Tea to Drink Based On Your Symptoms That Is 100% Made Up by Me and Not Endorsed by Any Medical Professionals Whatsoever:
Headache – one bag of lemon ginger tea and one bag of ginger tea
Stomachache – brew cardamom pods and fresh ginger with any loose leaf tea
Hangover – iced black tea with fresh ginger juice and lemon
Stress – lavender tea
Distracted – peppermint tea (optional: mix it with green tea)
Thinking About Texting Your Ex – white tea
Heartburn – chamomile tea
Heartbreak – rosemary tea
Loneliness – matcha
Thinking About Texting Your Ex Again – scalding hot tea
Uncontrollable Crying – a large iced McDonald’s sweet tea
Yes, I was obviously the type of gay kid who had tea parties with her imaginary friends!!! DO YOU EVEN HAVE TO ASK?
I quit caffeine cold turkey this summer for an unimpressive amount of time — maybe two weeks? I did so at the behest of my acupuncturist, who I’d started seeing because I was only sleeping four-ish hours a night, but now that I’m thinking about it, I’m pretty sure she specifically said don’t quit cold turkey. “Drink less coffee, more tea” was her directive. I quit cold turkey just to prove I could do it, the same ambitious-to-the-point-of-self-destructive streak that led me to believe I could read 150 books in one year and then made me feel like a failure when I couldn’t achieve that TRULY PREPOSTEROUS goal.
As with the reading goal, quitting caffeine backfired spectacularly. Not only did I follow up those two weeks drinking an absurd amount of coffee, but caffeine’s effect on me multiplied exponentially. It doesn’t cause anxiety per se, but if I’m feeling even the tiniest bit anxious before consuming it, caffeine acts like lighter fluid to those little licks of nervous fire.
Drink less coffee, more tea. Now that’s something I can do. More tea, more tea, more tea. It isn’t just the drinking part that satisfies; it’s the whole process. Moving to the kitchen to click on the kettle briefly vitally breaks up the stasis it’s easy to fall into when writing. Believe it or not, I’ve tea-drank my way out of writer’s block.
I’ve tea-drank my way out of stress, restlessness, fatigue, melancholy, dissociation. How many cups of tea does it take to get to the center of what’s really wrong? A lot.