We Love Tea: A Feelings Atrium

It is a universal truth that tea makes everything better. We’re holding another round of high tea festivities on the mountain this camp session, and we wish you could all be there to join us as we lounge under beautiful garlands made by darling Laneia and sip teas of all different flavors. In lieu of a giant revolutionary queer grrrl tea party (that we truly do hope will happen one day), we’ve decided to put together a tiny tea round table for you reading along at home, so you can learn exactly how each member of Team Tea became acquainted and fell in love with the most perfect of beverages. So brew a pot of your favorite tea, grab some biscuits, put on your fancy hat and gloves, and when you’re done reading about our feelings, tell us about your own tea love stories in the comments!


I started drinking and enjoying tea in the fall of 2006, when I arrived in New York City to begin university and the beginning of the rest of my life. That is how I thought of that particular September, and I am both embarrassed and proud of my tiny 17-year-old self when I think about her now. I was young and naive but determined, and I wanted to say yes to every single thing my new home had to offer. One of the things New York offers in excess is coffee shops, but you see, I don’t like coffee. I will not drink it, ever. I used to order steamed milk, or even just plain old cold milk, when I met high school friends at the local Starbucks in Newton Center, but the idea of ordering milk as an actual beverage in a Greenwich Village coffee shop just did not seem like a thing I could do. And so I slowly dipped my toe in the boiling waters of tea. And, like I did with so many other things and people and places that autumn — Ali, Katlyn, Matt, John, Dara, 4 am, independence, kissing strangers and of course New York City itself — I fell in love. Now, seven years later, I’ve lost touch with most of my best friends from freshman year, 4 am no longer seems new or particularly charming, I haven’t kissed a stranger in the longest time, I gave up my independence and left New York to move back home with my parents in the suburbs… but my love affair with tea is still going strong.


My parents are South African, and while the stereotype about British people worshipping at the alter of the afternoon tea goddesses may or may not be true, I can say with absolute certainty that my South African mother loves tea. She was forever disappointed by my disdain for the beverage while growing up, as she truly believed in its ability to cure all ailments, both physical and psychological — perhaps especially psychological. When I returned from my first semester at NYU and announced that I now adored tea the same way she did, she was overjoyed. Our relationship wasn’t complicated yet — I didn’t know I liked girls yet — and she took great pleasure in offering me a cup of tea and then sitting down to chat for hours. She’d boil the kettle, steep the tea bags (Five Roses, always, imported from South Africa or the store in Canada that stocks South African goods or, finally, the store down the street that now stocks South African goods because my mom bothered him about it so frequently that he finally gave in), add a bit of milk (yes I take my tea with milk, also always), remove the tea bag, and place a steaming mug in front of me at the kitchen table. We’d sit in our spots — the same ones, always, of course… we are nothing if not a family of habit — and we’d talk. Our relationship is more complicated now, but a cup of tea can still connect us. It is a friendship bracelet, a peace offering, a salve, a gift. It is something we continue to have in common, even as other bits and pieces fall away and apart.


My favorite tea shop is, appropriately, the Tea Spot in Greenwich Village, a tiny space boasting more than seventy flavors, located just a few doors down from the first coffee shop where I ever tried tea, which has since closed. My favorite everyday tea — as in, I drink at least one cup a day, often closer to three or four — is Five Roses, but my favorite special occasion tea is Almond Cookie, which is expensive and feels luxurious and as far as I know can only be purchased from the Tea Spot. My favorite tea pot is the ceramic one I hand-painted on a spontaneous date with my ex-girlfriend at a pottery shop in Brooklyn; it took me hours to get it just right and it reminds me of something fancy that might get sold for too much money at Anthropologie. My favorite time to drink tea is all the time: I’ve warded off colds and the flu by guzzling cup after cup, I’ve kept myself awake through boring lectures and long days at work (remember, I don’t drink coffee), I’ve wiled away whole afternoons and evenings with friends and my mother. I take tea bags with me when I travel — both overseas and overnight — and I get cranky if I can’t enjoy a cup as soon as I wake up and roll out of bed.
v-tea-2Now it’s the fall of 2013, and almost everything is different than it was in the fall of 2006. But my love of tea and my desire to say yes to everything life sends my way is still strong.


There are moments in life that show us who we really are, and I’m pretty sure that the time I tap danced around a school lobby at 4:30 a.m., higher than I’d ever been in my life on caffeine and sugar alone (a shot of espresso, a caramel macchiato and two cans of espresso beans later) was pretty revealing for me. It revealed that maybe I should start drinking tea.

For most of the time I was a hard-core coffee drinker, I wasn’t very good at it. I came to coffee from the land of triple-doubles (three cream, two sugar) and office vending machine mochas, and when I went to university I fell in with the type of crowd that requires three lattes or macchiatos or other gross often-dubious dessert coffees a day. Habit reform was low in my priorities.

Then I worked for a newspaper and fell in with the type of crowd that drinks coffee hot, black and seven times a day, and my tolerance became a point of pride. “I drink coffee to help me fall asleep,” I would say, jittering wildly, to non-newspaper friends who would look on with concern. I was still putting pretty obscene amounts of cream in my coffee — and still do sometimes, dairy intolerance be damned — but otherwise I wasn’t the least bit picky. Instant, Tim Hortons, French press and Starbucks were all equal. It was gross.

I eventually switched to tea because I became vegan and have never had a taste for black coffee, and even though I haven’t been vegan in a while my love of tea has stuck.

For me, one of the points of hot beverages is not necessarily the kind of caffeine — it’s being able to drink cup after cup all day without risking some sort of heart failure. When I was drinking coffee, I drank about four cups a day, unless I’d made a pot, in which case I’d drink the entire pot and then make another because I’d need to do something to help calm myself down. Now, I drink on average six cups of tea a day — some green, some black, some weirdly delicious combinations of herbs and things like sprinkles or liquorice and some straight up herbal. Sometimes I drink too many cups of something super caffeinated too quickly and feel a little nauseated, but it’s “once a month,” not “every day before 10 am.”

Also with tea for me, it’s not just about the consumption, it’s about the ritual. Steeping tea is an exercise in patience, especially with the type of tea that needs to be steeped at a certain temperature, and drinking it is often an exercise in deliciousness. It can be fancy or not-fancy. I can add almond milk or sugar or agave or honey or ginger or nothing and the experience is just as good. Which is pretty great.

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Vanessa is a writer, a teacher, and the community editor at Autostraddle. Very hot, very fun, very weird. Find her on twitter and instagram.

Vanessa has written 404 articles for us.


  1. Tea feelings! Tea is my only vice and also my default response to pretty much any problem I encounter. I was given a special tea wallet as a gift a couple of years ago and have frequently used it to carry teabags on my person when I am at work/on holiday. Most people seem to react to this with a mixture of bafflement and admiration, but I like to think they secretly wish they could carry a personal stash of tea too.

  2. thanks for the lovely post! I love tea feelings! My mom and brother are really into tea; they both drink it like water. I work at a fancy coffee and tea supplier and I always bring them both tea (my brother likes loose and my mom likes tea bags) and I put them in nice containers. It’s a nice way to bond with them. one of the favorite gifts I ever gave my brother was a frankenstein mug and a robot tea infuser.

  3. ahhh I have so many feelings about tea! I used to drink Lemon Zinger to calm my nerves and wake me up during my long commute from staten island to the upper east side. The staten island ferry only runs every half hour and missing it could be very exhausting and frustrating, but I’d get a cup of lemon zinger and I would feel more ready for my commute.

  4. Oooh, this is a fun post! Milk in the morning gives me migraines so I started drinking only tea sometime in high school, cause I don’t like black coffee. So five roses all day, every day.

    And vanilla rooibos in the evenings before bed – a somewhat compulsive habit I have left over from living in res at uni. Our group of friends would gather for a quick catchup over tea most evenings just before bed. So pretty much post-midnight tea time. It was nice/familiar/routine. We used to have drunken tea times while re-hashing our nights out too at 4, 5AM. Those could get very rowdy – I had to pay substantial ‘noise fines’ for a few of those. Now I keep drinking the vanilla rooibos (at a working-person-with-a-job time) to put me to sleep.

  5. Ah, this is perfect. I only just started drinking tea this summer and have been in love ever since.I drink earl grey, passion and green tea, and I am really loving vanilla rooibos right now. And I drink 2-3 cups a day.

    My question is – does anyone have iced tea feelings?

    • My mother is an avid iced tea drinker. She does not drink soda or coffee. We were raised to drink only brewed unsweetened black iced tea. To this day, I cannot drink sweetened or flavored iced tea. Don’t get me started on instant or powdered tea. There isn’t much that is more refreshing than a glass of iced tea on a hot summer day. I prefer tazo.

  6. Being Irish, it is so weird to me that anyone could remember the first time they drank tea, some people here give it to toddlers in a bottle or tippy cup.

    • I know right! I was a complete weirdo because I stopped drinking tea at age 4, and didn’t start drinking it again until I was about 20. I used to constantly get handed cups when visiting relatives cos they would just assume that mine had been the usual, Irish style “refuse the first time you’re offered refreshments of any kind” rule and that I was in fact dying for a cup. When I go to Australia next year, I fully intend to bring several boxes of Barry’s Gold Blend with me, partly for that home taste and partly to barter with Irish people!

      • I don’t trust people who don’t drink tea, it’s just weird and wrong.

        We’re Lyons drinkers in our house and when I was younger I could really taste the difference between that and Barry’s, but I have to say not so much, now!

        • I don’t notice the difference but I know loads of people are adamant about one or the other. The most hilarious reasons I’ve heard on either side for refusing are:
          LYONS: “I didn’t take the soup and I’m not taking the protestant tea either”
          BARRYS: “You can feck off with your Fine Gael tea”

    • They do that in Jordan, too. Give babies lots of tea. But here it’s Lipton’s Yellow Label with sage or mint and ridiculous amounts of sugar.

      • Cos nothing says baby nutrition like shitloads of sugar and caffeine! I’m glad it’s not just my country failing at child nutrition!

        • Oh, definitely not. Jordan’s pretty bad. And then, of course, there’s the US (where I’m from), where something like 25% of kids go hungry and a huge proportion of kids are overweight and obese. Le sigh.

  7. Vanessa, I’m South African born and bred (and never been out of Johannesburg for long) and Five Roses is amazeballs. If you can, see if you can get the “African Blend”, it is delicious.

    On another note, I like tea and drink it daily, but it is my fiancée who absolutely loves tea. She drinks about 25 cups a day, and I think if she were made to choose between me or the tea, she’d choose the tea!

  8. Though I always avoided tea of the non-chai latte variety, my gf made me a cup of English breakfast tea last month with milk and sugar and I haven’t looked back.

  9. Tea feelings!
    I am having a cup of earl grey tea with a slice of orange olive oil pound cake right now!

  10. I can related to Vanessa as my mom was the same way when I was younger. I too now am a bonafide tea lover. But my family is from Iran, so tea is always served even if you have just came over to drop something off.

  11. Ooh Rachel, your feelings about intentional alone time rings so true. I feel like I have a friend cloaking me with my favorite blanket when I drink Stash Tea’s “Christmas Eve”, a friend that also enjoys the silence.

  12. i have so many tea feelings. most especially that vanessa once coerced me to go to a-camp with the promise of almond cookie tea and the tea was amazing and camp changed my life.

    there’s something just so comforting about a cup of tea. and i loved what rachel said about it being a way to be alone.

  13. I was just going to enjoy this…but nope…had to come out of comment hibernation so I could say that I love this post. A lot.

    My grandma is who introduced me to tea. When I was younger my grandma would take me to the garden to pick mint sprigs so we could make tea before bed.

    Though I enjoy some coffee now and again tea is pretty much my go to.

  14. When I offer someone tea and they just say “green” … do they want genmaicha, a jasmine blend, matcha?!

    Why can’t everyone know good tea?

  15. Loved reading about all ya’ll mo’s and your tea! I’m a big lurker and this coaxed me out of my internet shroud to finally comment.
    Drinking tea is like taking a bath anywhere you want in a tiny tub of feelings. I drink tea to decompress and to get hyped and any old time. I have a drawer designated for my tea, with a ton of boxed teabags and a tin of loose tea ingredients I got from the bulk section of whole foods where I pretended it was all stinging nettle because I’m too poor to support this habit. I use this for when i want to mix something up that’s just right for the occasion, and tea is just right for every occasion. I’m about that ten cup a day life. Dandelion root is my current favorite.

  16. also, I find it so funny that tea is a “thing” in America… its like milk, bread, air here… its just a part of daily life! We also did the tea in sippy cups when we were kids.. and Guiness… but that’s a different thing again!

  17. Tea is amazing — meditative, energizing, or calming, depending on the tea and the mood you already have. I’m snooty about my tea — it’s gotta be black and plain, otherwise it’s some pleasant tea-like beverage.

    My favorite place in the world are the tea estates in the country where my family is from — you step outside and it’s lush green, misty, and smells like tea everywhere. Every cup of black tea I drink brings me back to that moment one way or another.

    Loose-leaf is the way to go if you have the time, though. They told us at the tea factory that the bagged tea was made with scraps that weren’t worthy of being sold loose leaf.

  18. Ah tea. I am predicting consuming a lot of it this winter as my roommates and I attempt to see how low we can turn down our thermostat.

    My one regret is that I still have not remembered to retrieve my kettle from my parents’ house, because I am still convinced that water heated in a microwave does not stay warm as long as water heated in a kettle does. My girlfriend thinks I am completely wrong, but still…

    • In the microwave??? This is baffling to me. How do people survive without a kettle? I honestly couldn’t last a day without one. Not just for tea but a million and one other things.

      This is definitely not the first time I’ve heard this though. Maybe Ireland and the UK are unusual in that every kitchen, cafeteria, break room etc etc has a kettle in it. Are we the strange ones? #mindblown

      • I was staying with my friend in the states this summer and she’d never heard of an electric kettle, the mind boggles. She had one of them ones you put on the stove that whistle and its a bit stressful when they start screaming at you, the opposite of tea.

    • Audrey, you’re a genius.
      Though I’d be too socially awkward and probably just stare at everyone through a computer and make zero conversation attempts.

  19. Tea Feelings!! I didn’t know people talk about their tea feelings. I didn’t even know I had tea feelings until this post happened, lol. It’s very true, though, and now that I’m thinking of it, I don’t know if I could go without it. I live in Japan which has a serious tea culture. They have special ceremonies dedicated to the art of making and serving tea- it’s intense. Bottles of cold, straight, sugar-free tea fill the beverage aisles of every convenience store, and tea-flavored candy/chocolate (matcha chocolate!!!!!!!!) is everywhere. Green tea has seriously become my drug of choice, although I also really love oolong tea as a substitute for black tea (which can be a bit strong if you’re looking for something refreshing).

    So has anyone ever tried blooming tea? And has anyone ever heard of tea pets? These are my latest obsessions..

    • MATCHA CHOCOLATE?! Whoa. I have had green tea chocolate, but matcha chocolate sounds like some next level amazingness.

  20. Tea feelings. I have so many. <3 When I started my year's study abroad placement a few weeks ago I got crippling caffeine withdrawal headaches because it's thus far proven impossible to find caffeinated tea here that I can brew with milk without it going a weird, dishwater grey :(
    Lapsang souchong is my favourite 'autumn and winter' tea because it tastes like bonfires; during spring and summer it's rose or cherry blossom all the way. Teapigs' jasmine dragon pearls blend is also a strong contender and the closest I've encountered to blooming tea (which looks stunning!).

  21. Oh man, tea is wonderful.

    I remember last time I had a doctor’s appointment she asked a bunch of basic questions about my general health, including how much caffeine I consume. I said I drink tea and some of my teas are caffeinated. “And how many cups a day?” I think all I said was “uh, a lot.”

  22. The way I feel about tea is akin to how I feel about being queer. I remember EXACTLY which tea it was that made me realize I was *totally* a tea person, and it absolutely changed my life.

    This post gives me so many feelings.

  23. First of all, Rachel, “When I had a cup of tea to sit with, somehow being alone seemed purposeful,” I never thought of it like that, but that is EXACTLY it. Love.

    Tea is amazing. My girlfriend and I live on a farm in Puerto Rico where we grow coffee (among many other things), and she has been avidly trying to get me to switch to coffee but I refuse (however, I do indulge because I pick and process the coffee myself… who can say no to that?!)

    Anyway, my favorites include: jasmine, earl grey, darjeeling, yerba mate, and green tea with dried papaya pieces.

    My gf and I are starting a life journey into homesteading/permaculture and our favorite discovery has been to make a tea out of ginger leaves & lemon grass from our garden. It takes away menstrual pain. Can you believe that!?

    Do you guys find a difference between loose leaf and tea bags? I prefer loose leaf on all occasions.

    Also! I’ve been in Puerto Rico for a little over a year now and I JUST found a tea spot in Ponce called “Relax Tea” and she has the most amazing blends of loose leaf teas that she serves with agave. I feel like I have found a bit of home here because of the tea, is that weird? (I’m from Chicago, originally).

    As you can tell… I have so many tea feelings. I’ll stop here. :3

  24. Oh how I love Tea.
    I have an entirely separate cabinet that I had to put in the living room because I didn’t have room for it all in the kitchen! It’s my very own Tea station, mostly stocked with Adagio fandom blends :>

  25. Late to the tea party but I just had to join in. I’m from the UK so tea = regular tea (maybe English breakfast…does regular tea have a name?) with milk. The first cup of tea back in the UK after a European holiday is heaven. Why does nowhere else understand about milk in tea??? The mind boggles.

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