We Love Tea: A Feelings Atrium

Rachel

When I was early in high school and just awkward as all get out (bless your heart, baby Rachel), I did not drink tea. I did write, though, much like I do now, except worse. A friend of mine somehow found out about a conference/retreat for young writers that was held way out in a rural campus and featured a lot of cranes and woodland creatures on its sanctuary, and convinced me to apply. When I was accepted, I felt thrilled and excited about the writing part. But I was terrified of the part where I would have to talk to dozens of strangers and live amongst them for a whole week. I had never been to sleepaway camp, and the idea of having to interact with people I didn’t know, and who would probably think I was a dork, 24/7 was new and scary.

tea1

When I got there, my predictions proved largely true. A real writing workshop, when I had been the only writing nerd I knew for my whole life, was amazing. It became a lot easier to talk to strangers when it was about metaphors and characters than about, I don’t know, Grey’s Anatomy or whatever. But it still wasn’t all that easy. Much like high school back at home, the worst was mealtimes. I still had to walk into a big eating space, where everyone else was already seated and talking and I would have to insert myself in somewhere. At lunch or dinner, I could usually trail along with someone from an activity I was just in. But at breakfast, I had to figure it out on my own.

616EXTDT4ZLSo that’s when I started drinking tea. In order to put off the heartstopping decision of choosing someone to sit next to, I would walk over to the tea and coffee station and ceremoniously pick out a teabag (Lemon Zinger), unwrap it slowly, and pour hot water over it. By then, I would have had time to formulate a plan — and often, by the time I got a hot, fragrant cup of tea, my plan would be that I was okay with sitting by myself. I could find a quiet corner with nice light, sit with my cup of tea, and sip it slowly while I ate my breakfast. When I had a cup of tea to sit with, somehow being alone seemed purposeful.

When I came back home from the retreat, I kept drinking tea. For my mom, the difference was sudden and noticeable — I went from no tea or coffee whatsoever to several cups of tea a day, which is still true today. I don’t usually drink Lemon Zinger anymore, but it’s still true that having a cup of tea makes the difference between being by yourself and being alone intentionally, with something to keep yourself warm.

Liz C.

So I’m not sure what the formal criteria for tea-addiction are, but I have a feeling I might be considered a teaholic. I average between 5-10 cups/day and have transformed the largest cupboard in my kitchen into a tea shrine, which last time I counted housed over 75 different teas.

Even as a kid, tea was an important part of my life. I remember picking Pennyroyal Tea every summer with my little brother and being too impatient to wait for it to steep all the way and scalding our tongues on barely flavored hot water. We’d visit my grandmother in Kentucky where I went to proper southern tea parties for proper little girls (at least until I snuck off on my own and ate 26 pats of butter from the table before anyone caught me). Needless to say my grandmother was mortified and we were not invited back. I even saved up my allowance for years and decided the very first thing that was finally worth spending my own money on was going to a fancy high tea with my mom – which is still one of my favorite childhood memories.

This kitten also wants to go to high tea with Liz

This kitten also wants to go to high tea with Liz

As an adult, I have maintained a child-like enthusiasm for tea, but have developed a more nuanced understanding of our relationship. I believe there is a tea for every mood and I have formed a deep appreciation for the ritual of choosing and preparing the appropriate tea. This process forces me to honor the present moment by focusing my (usually scattered) attention on how I feel so I can consider which tea would best compliment my present experience. I love how tea punctuates my life, it reminds me of a choose your own adventure novel because it brings awareness to how we can shape our own experiences by offering a small measure of control in life’s largely unpredictable storyline.

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Vanessa is a writer, a teacher, and the community editor at Autostraddle. She used to be hot and fun but now she’s mostly hot and sad. Find her on twitter and instagram.

Vanessa has written 353 articles for us.

54 Comments

  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.

    • 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”

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.
    SO MANY FEELZ.

  12. 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!

  13. 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.

  14. 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

  15. 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..

  16. 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!).

  17. 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.”

  18. 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.

  19. 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

  20. 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 :>

  21. 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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