Monday, December 22, 2014

SpecialTea




‘Twas the night before Christmas
And I stumbled off to pee
Since just before sleep
I drank an entire pot of tea.

Heading back to bed
With a ridiculous yawn
I thought I heard something strange
Coming from my back lawn.

Peering out my window curtains
I quickly shut my eyes tight
Then opened then again
To a very strange sight.

I haven’t looked for Santa
In many years, let’s just say
And I certainly didn’t expect
To see a teapot-shaped sleigh.

But there it sat on the snow
With a handle and a spout
Just like that song
Little kids like to shout

Perhaps not a sleigh
No animals attached to it
Instead headlamps and a tailpipe
And a dashboard all lit.

I asked in confusion,
“Who the heck drives a teapot?”
“I do,” said a steamy voice
coming from my corner spot

Standing by my favorite chair
(The one with cushions all bunched)
Was a woman so tall,
By the ceiling she hunched.

With button boots to her knees,
A fine red plaid dress,
Burgundy, almond-shaped eyes,
Big blue curls: a glorious mess.

“I’m the Spirit of Tea
In case my transport wasn’t a clue.
I need help with a gift.
And was told to come to you.”

“There’s a Christmas party being hosted
By the elders of the Fae.
I need the perfect cup of tea!”
She plopped in my chair with dismay.

At this point I knew
Whether dreaming or awake
The challenge of tea
Was one I would take!

“You’ve come to the right place.”
I smiled and opened the door
To a cabinet full of boxes and bags:
Teas! Teas galore!

I boiled the water
And got the cups ready.
She picked out the leaves,
And I poured the tea steady.

Blacks, greens and yellows,
Whites, pur-erhs all fermented,
Herbals, twigs, and blossoms,
Flavored, infused, and scented.

She sipped and tasted
Through my extensive collection,
But still couldn’t find
The perfect selection.

“What’s this one?” She pulled out
A tiny box trying to hide.
I laughed when she found

It was empty inside.

“That’s ‘SpecialTea’: a little game
I played with a very young child.”
“Make me some!” She demanded,
Her eyes desperate and wild.

I took her cup gently
And heated water once more.
Then thought about what was needed
As I began to pour.

The ‘SpecialTea’ scoops
Might look like nothing on a spoon,
But my intentions for the drinker
Were what they would taste soon.

I added a dollop of honey
And handed the Spirit of Tea
My cup of ‘comfort’ and ‘joy’:
What Christmas means to me.

She sniffed and her shoulders relaxed.
“Smells like home-tree inside.”
She sipped and widely grinned.
“Tastes like my first teapot ride!”

“It’s perfect! I’ll take it!”
She declared and stood up tall.
I held on to my box for a moment.
Next to her we were both so small.

My ‘SpecialTea’ had memories
I didn’t want to have to part,
But I could always store them
In a box within my heart.

So I handed it to my strange visitor
But she shook her head with glee,
“Oh, I can’t do your magic.
You are coming along with me!”

“But it’s almost Christmas morning!”
I protested. She pulled me to the lawn.

“Time with the fae is different.
“You’ll still be back by dawn.”

We jumped in her puttering teapot.
Then raced into the starry skies.
I held my ‘SpecialTea’ close
And looked out with wide-eyes.

Curled up in my lumpy chair,
Christmas morn’ I woke groggily.
The tiny box still in my hand.
My kitchen an explosion of tea.

If you ask about my fae adventure
Well, some things I just can’t share.
If you say it must have been a dream.
I’ll reply, “I really don’t care.”

The Spirit of Tea is real
In every cup made to brew.
It’s not the leaves that make it special,

But the love that steeps from you. 






Rise unfettered.
Move with intention.
Be grand.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Almond Milk Chai Latte: Hudson River Coffee House



The foam is frothy, the lighting mellow, and I've got hours at a cafe waiting for my car to get fixed. The walk from the shop was crispy underfoot with ice around the city park. I stood for a moment with my mug from home, sipping and keeping my insides warm, while gazing at the solid pond, graceful metal bridge, and winding paths of evergreens. Turning away to continue my journey, I almost stepped in dogcrap.

And like the moment when you lift your head to the night sky, letting your eyes adjust to the darkness, seeing only a few stars, then dozens, hundreds, gazillions! - I noticed how much dogcrap was scattered all over the place. This is a college rental area, and the twenty-somethings that can barely remember to wash their hands decide getting a dog mid-semester is a great idea. And proceed to be crappy neighbors (literally). 

I finished my tea from home, picking my way carefully towards the cafe. My chai latte was ordered and taken to an empty table in the cafe that is housed in a brick building that used to be the old phone company. The first thing I noticed as I sat down was a spot on the wall that looked like an elephant. I gazed into my red mug, wondering if any visions would materialize from the foam. Alas, it was just a bunch of tiny bubbles, randomly bursting, hiding the darker spicy drink underneath. Sometimes tea does not evoke a metaphor.

(I brought a Christmas craft with me to pass the time and be productive. That should take awhile, I hope. I also have the book "Quiet" to read. With no portable computer or hand-held device, I am usually one of the odd people in cafes reading or writing. Some day I will be able to buy a laptop, and then I'll blend in with the crowd. But for now I shall be folding large sheets of shiny paper into origami boxes.)

As I continued to stare into my tea, recent life events bubbled up in my mind. It has been a rough few weeks, and yet I continue to get up in the morning, drink tea, then cross off and update the to-do list throughout the day. I try not to compare my stresses with the current events in the news- everything is about context, but I am reminded to keep it all in perspective.

My daughter is finishing her first traditional drawing class at college this semester, and for her perspective assignment, she chose to do it in pen and ink. This was a challenge to herself, a type A personality, to go with the flow (literally). If the ink flowed incorrectly, she had to figure out how to incorporate it into the finished art piece. The outcome was better than she had originally planned. 

Perspective and dogcrap. I'm sure the bubbles in my tea explain it somehow (figuratively).






Rise unfettered.
Move with intention.
Be grand.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Carrot Cake a la Mode: Short and Stout



My last post was about stuffing everything together, but this week I'm struggling with taking things apart. Snap judgements of taste can be practical. I didn't like Oprah's chai at Starbucks- I won't order it again. But what a talent to understand why. To be able to discern it was too much cardamom, instead of thinking "meh. nah." 

Flavored teas are a base with visible add-ins or have been scented with an essential oil. Earl Gray is an easy one to take apart because bergamot is the only flavor added. But chai is difficult: so many spices! Plus, like a pasta sauce or chili, everyone has a unique recipe. I often group spices together in the kitchen: oregano goes with basil! But does that limit me? Can each taste stand on its own? Bergamot in black tea is all that is needed for that distinctive experience. 

Some flavors blend so well. Take apples and cinnamon: one from northern Europe, the other from southern Asia, and together they are perfect. People compliment each other too. When I am with my sister and friend, I am at my silliest. Everything can be made funny,  and ridiculous ideas pop out of my brain constantly. That energy would be great to call at will, but I am an apple all alone: very nice, but no spice.

(My son and I went into our local tea shop Short and Stout, and while waiting for our brews, checked out their selection of teas to sniff. We both loved the Carrot Cake a la Mode. Making it at home with some cream and honey- delish!)

The best way to grow a skill is practice. I am making my own tea blends, learning the art of discernment. It's all personal anyway. Every scent depends on the nose and brain, both the chemical reactions and the memories attached. How can I possibly understand another's preferences if I don't even know my own? 

At least once in everyone's life they will be forced to examine life's big questions: usually because of a tragic event. That's really not the best emotional state to take your first plunge into deep existential thoughts. My philosophy club students and I are trying them out now: weekly examining of what we think of this or that. Even if later in life we completely change our minds due to events outside our control, at least we have practice steeping with our own thoughts. The mind can be a scary place if you haven't lit the tunnels along the way.

I wish my world was like a simple Earl Gray, but it's not. Events are poured, emotions brew, and it can be impossible to distinguish what comes from memories, the present, thoughts for the future...or a blending of all three until there's just the flavor of life. 






Rise unfettered.
Move with intention.
Be grand.


Friday, December 5, 2014

Apple Cider with "Hot Apple Cider Tea": Republic of Tea



I've always liked pizza with everything on it, ice-cream with crazy toppings, and cooking a curry with twenty or so ingredients. Pile it on! Stuff it in! The more the merrier!

One of my favorite Christmas memories is decorating the tree outside my father's house in Brooklyn. He had one tree in the teeny yard, but enough lights to flame a forest. My sister, he, and I strung those lights round and round. After each new string we would stand half way down the block to admire the effect. My sister and I would say, "That's great!" and my dad would cackle, "MORE LIGHTS!" And so we put more lights on until you couldn't even tell it was a tree anymore- just a shining beacon of over-the-top hilarity.

When I'm excited about something, I tend to go a bit overboard. I like tea, so I drink it, eat it, share it, knit it, read and write about it, pour it on my hair, spray it on my face- ahem. I am a tea geek. You can read all about it in my post on GeekMom.

(Oh, the decorations! We have a big Lego Christmas display all around our living room my son just finished. You can see pictures from last year here.)

'Tis the season of hot cocoa, eggnog, and cider, so I put tea in them. Chai goes especially well with all, but there are so many kinds of tea for experimentation. Hot cocoa especially is happy to swim with different flavors. I made hot buttered rum a couple of years ago and thought it was ok. Probably needed tea in it.

This line of thought reminds me of when I first started getting interested in tea. It was a unit study when my children were young. I knew the history and culture of tea would be worldwide, so I thought it was a good jumping off point for our year of Social Studies. I homeschool my kids (continuing the theme of getting very into things) and we had a great time. You can look at all the cool stuff we did on our site hereWe contacted The Republic of Tea about our site and studies and they sent us mugs and hats as a thumbs up. Yay!

Time to sit back with the fam and admire the new display with a steaming mug in our hands.






Rise unfettered.
Move with intention.
Be grand.