I was not always a tea lover... there Iʼve said it. Don’t get me wrong, itʼs not that I didnʼt like tea, I just liked coffee better. Tea was something my mom drank every morning… and as with most teenagers no form of rebellion was too small. Sitting at the breakfast table in her robe, with a plate of cottage cheese, a mug of black tea and a tray of vitamins, my mother is regimented and always on a quest for optimal health. I love my mom. She’s amazingly cool. But as an angsty teen with little noncompliance in me, my uprising would be a small one. And so, in a negligible show of defiance, I began drinking coffee. Even if I had been willing to give tea a shot, the market in our little suburban town (circa mid 1980’s) didn’t afford us a lot of options. Most teas on offer were bland and tasteless. Quite frankly I thought all tea came in a bag. With no viable options I stuck with coffee. Hot or cold, flavored or plain, it didn’t matter... I loved coffee and I openly declared my adoration, telling everyone that coffee and I would be together forever.
A decade or so into my love affair, I fell victim to a fad diet, in search of those rock hard abs I had always heard so much about but had no personal experience with. This diet was different, promising all the bacon and pork rinds I could put down... but no sugar. No sugar? Uh oh. I drank my coffee light and sweet, really sweet… no... nauseatingly sweet. Sure, the ‘meat heavy’ diet seemed to make sense at the time (not really) but once I finally took the roast beef colored glasses off, I realized that the only thing getting hard after polishing off a half dozen bunless hotdogs, were my arteries. Although this was a mostly failed experiment, I was able to make a few changes that would prove to be worthy in the long run. I cut my sugar intake dramatically and I gave it up in my coffee altogether. Once the sugar was off my plate and out of my cup, new flavors seemed to come alive… my tastebuds were no longer being hijacked.
I suppose it was inevitable, now that my tastes had changed I wanted to explore my options. Sure coffee was great, we went everywhere together and it was a blast. I guess I’d gotten pretty serious with coffee over the years, but maybe I had outgrown it... maybe it was time for me to move on. Could I possibly give up on coffee? Was there a more inspiring and captivating substance than the one that I held so dear? I had to find out.
Indiscriminately tasting all the hot beverages I could get my hands on, I was amazed by what I had been missing out on. Still, nothing I tried made my heart flutter the way coffee used to. Regrettably, I went back to coffee but our relationship had changed, I had become sensitive and coffee was so strong it made me shake. Bold and stimulating... the things I had found so seductive about coffee were coming back to bite me. But I held on, hoping the magic would return.
Much to my dismay, I realized that my husband John had also become deeply involved with coffee. Obsessed with finding the most desirable roast, he brought all of them home... French, Italian, Columbian… he liked them rich, dark and exotic. His fixation was keeping him awake at night. Coffee had its claws into him and it wasn’t going away without a fight. This wasn’t a crush… it was an addiction. It was time to break it off, time to forge a healthier relationship. Seeking the best balance between flavor and health benefits, John would not rest until he found a suitable replacement for his beloved. He researched a host of brews ad nauseam but one kept rising to the top of the list… tea. Small tins of tea started to show up at our home, only a few at first and then they took over a shelf in our food pantry, and then two shelves and then… well, then we had a tea pantry. Strainers, steepers, books about tea, tea pots, tea cups, and a myriad of tea gadgetry had found a new home. Tea was here to stay and it brought an entourage.
John’s enthusiasm for tea was infectious. I wanted to follow him on his journey exploring the world of loose leaf tea, but I still had an image in my head of my mother - robe on, tea in hand, sitting at the breakfast table… no way was I ready for that. Nevertheless, John was happily entertaining new teas on a daily basis and still, there were countless varieties he had yet to get his hands on. With all of the attention tea was getting, I was getting jealous. Sure, I still had coffee but I was really just using it now. And then one morning it was gone, my coffee maker gave up the ghost. It was a sign. A chance to escape from its clutches. Time to give coffee the old heave-ho... this time for good.
I knew now that coffee was gone, I couldn’t go it alone. I was weak, I needed support… a reason to wake up in the morning. With my new found motivation, I started working my way through John’s vast collection of loose leaf teas. Teas from the far corners of the world, all with an epic tale of how they came to be. The flavors and aromas were like nothing I had experienced before, it was captivating. Without the overwhelming sweetness of sugar in the way, the nuances of each tea emerged. Their depth and complexity were irresistible.
Tea was wooing me. Promising to help me up without strong-arming me they way coffee used to. Promising me a clearer head and less anxiety. Indulging my curiosity, I opened my heart (and my mouth) to tea and I have not been disappointed.
Yeah, I still see coffee around, but I don’t miss it. I have tea now, so smart and worldly, it has so much more to offer me than coffee ever did. I love tea.
Tea completes me.