The Tea is Forever Made

Well, look at this.

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I trotted off to church last night for choir practice–three of my offspring are in the front row of the choir and are desperately trying to get ready for Lessons and Carols in a week–and there in the office was a big box and inside was this cunning Teasmade. I mean, what a delight! What a gift! (Literally) What an extraordinary device!

What you do is, you plug it in, uncork the little stopper at the top, pour water into the belly of the thing, screw the little lid back on, make sure the pot is mashed up against the sensor, and then program it to wake you up with the whoosh of water boiling and flinging itself into the pot. Then you just drink the tea. Two whole cups worth. It’s enthralling.

I mean, it didn’t make sense that over the last century that while one portion of the world was making coffee as instant and immediate an experience as possible–shaving off valuable soul crushing seconds from the moment you grasped your cup to the moment you felt the first swirl of life overtake your heart and brain–the other side of the world was not engaged in a similarly life saving quest. It’s just that I didn’t know about it. And the revelation is undoubtedly going to change mine.

I mean, I understand that coffee and tea are the necessary cultural markers of one’s national allegiance. Americans have to drink coffee because of having pitched all the available tea into the ocean all those years ago. And most of them never looked back. It’s coffee if you’re a good person. You suck the stuff down in bucketfuls, whether from a classic coffee maker huddled in your kitchen, or handed over a counter to you by a bright young uptalking barista, or carefully and lovingly made by yourself through the laborious religious ritual of grinding beans and fretting over the temperature and filtration of the water, or even from the absurdity of those machines that squirt tepid brown liquid through the plastic and into your cup. It’s got to be coffee or you’re not a true blue patriot.

The way to know you’re a stranger in a foreign land is to go to a restaurant and try to order something besides coffee. Or to have someone over to your house and offer tea and observe the furtive expression fluttering over the face as the person realizes there’s no selection of bags and the offer of bringing the tea kettle on the stove up a couple of degrees–not to a boil, because why would you want that? You lovingly place a whole pot of dark, steaming but not remotely fruity, caffeinated tea, coffined in its cozy, on the table and see that the heart has sunk. Your own friend is stealing herself to drink something she really doesn’t like. The men just smile and pour out more coffee.

The trouble is, not being from here, I myself can’t stomach the sharp bitterness of coffee, even with buckets of sugar and cream. It assaults my whole system, like a grotesque Hollywood producer about to do something unspeakable. I require the gentle and long lasting lift of dark black strong tea with a dollop of milk–not cream, but whole milk.

Whatever tragedy has befallen me, whatever manner of anxiety presses in, whatever conundrum besets me, whatever fatigue overtakes my eyes, the clearest and best remedy is to go turn on the kettle, or have a child do it. Not turning on the stove and waiting an impossibly long time, but switching on the electric one and waiting barely at all to swish the boiling water around and then make the tea. If I’ve written any word ever, if I’ve even managed to find matching shoes in the morning, it’s because of the magic of tea.

And it’s true. My poor husband labors up and down the steps every morning to bring it to me. This is one reason he can’t travel. He cannot go away. Otherwise I can’t get out of bed in the morning. He endures the horrible pod coffee and then brings me a perfectly brewed pot of Yorkshire Gold. It’s part of our marriage covenant.

So his eyes, if you must know, rather lit up last night as we discovered this thing could squat on the table beside my bed, brooding and waiting until just the right moment, and then blasting out water that would actually steep tea. How extraordinary. How clever. How easy his life will be now.

And mine. To whoever sent me this treasure I offer my utmost and deepest and most heartfelt thanks. May God bless you with every possible material and spiritual blessing.

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