There are no less than three tea shops in the neighborhood where my new job is located. My favorite is a rather plain little spot that is wonderfully quiet and peaceful. A young man waits on me everyday and he has been looking at me with growing curiosity. I sense he wonders who this newcomer is but I am not quite ready for friendly small talk or introductions. I like being anonymous in this unfamiliar place where I am still unsure of myself. I order a decaf English Breakfast tea that is delicious and brewed in a hand tied tea bag. I steal a place by the sunniest window where I sit and sip and try to get the lay of the land of my new workaday world.
I learned tea drinking from both my grandmothers. One honored the three o'clock tea hour by gathering mismatched china cups and then let us have potato chips and pickles in a disarray at the kitchen table while we slurped. She also didn't care how many spoonful's of sugar were emptied into our cups from the sugar bowl. It was the best of times.
When I was a young wife I had the opportunity to stay at Boston's Copley Plaza Hotel in the winter while my husband was attending a seminar. Feeling cold and lonely one afternoon, I ordered tea from the room service menu. Soon a waiter arrived with a large silver tray which held a silver tea service with milk and lemon slices. On the tray was also a petite silver basket overflowing with plump green grapes and juicy oranges cut in quarters. The repast was rounded out by delicate water biscuits and perfect triangles of subtly piquant cheeses. I had never beheld such a banquet for one and it forever raised the bar for creating tea trays at home.
Tea is often put into the hands of my favorite literary heroines, and writers have always romanticized the tea hour in books. Tea has been part and parcel of many a children's story too, such as the fanciful classic, Alice in Wonderland. Whenever a book I am reading has a character that drinks tea, he or she is suddenly elevated. Tea is a true seal of elegance and refined living.
I like black tea with milk best but I am not opposed to a fragrant jasmine with honey when I am feeling fickle. Sometimes I try to recreate my hotel tray but for long afternoons with a book, a mug is my favorite vessel. The one I currently use has a lid which keeps my tea hot during page turning. Tea is consoling and takes me back to the days I spent with a grandmother who shamelessly and magically indulged our whims. Tea comforts and cheers - it's the pause in the middle of the day to gather thoughts or sift through cobwebs. And tea helps us find our feet just before we step out anew.