Growing up, there was always a box of Lipton Tea in the house. The little wrapped bags in the bright yellow and red box were a comfy companion in sickness and in health. The grown folks would add a little rum, lemon, and honey for the bedtime "Hot Tottie" before NyQuil was a thing for colds and flus. A sip of this warm drink with a Vicks Sab rub down; these are my earliest memories of tea.
There wasn't much talk about tea in my house. I was never given a lesson about why we drink it or what it does, however, it was common knowledge that it had to be present in the house. Drinking tea at gatherings, like the church "tea event" or "Mother's Day Brunches" gave tea a small spotlight, however, certainly not enough to be indoctrinated into the culture like the "real tea drinkers". As a child growing up on the South Side of Chicago, and a little girl who enjoyed "playing house" and "teatime" with real or imaginary friends, drinking out of the dainty cups for pretend or real gave the feeling of doing something special.
My mom was a tea drinker and they say I am "my mother's child". She didn't appear to care too much for coffee, and even as a child, coffee was reserved for "the grown folks". I do remember the time my grandma let me sneak a sip; and even though I felt special, I also remember thinking "is this what all the fuss is about?" No shade to coffee, and of course, as I matured, so did my taste buds.
The variety of tea was limited in my house; black tea reigned for years until we were introduced to green tea during the "wellness awakening". There was an occasional walk on the wild side with a flavored tea as they became more available such as earl grey, lemon, chamomile, and mint. Lemon-ginger would become my mom's favorite, and by request in her last days, tea was one thing she could tolerate taking. I cherish the memory of spoon-feeding her sips of what made her "feel better".
As an adult, I always preferred tea over coffee. I somehow even survived call nights in the hospital without the caffeine rush most docs were getting from coffee (well, tea and an occasional Diet Dr. Pepper). Don't get me wrong, I certainly enjoy coffee on occasion; the smell itself is intoxicating! Over the years, however, this preference expanded my interest in different types of teas, and I joked with a friend once that "I drink so much tea that I should make my own". Hence, VIP Wellness Tea was born.
Tea time has become more about the experiences, shared memories, and not just about a drink. My daughter is known to head right to the kitchen to put on hot water when she visits (especially during our cold winters), just like a dear friend who usually prefers tea over a glass of wine! We compare our teas and enjoy testing out new brands, not only for the flavor, but the potential health benefits.
The act of preparing the tea, the learning, crafting, and hands-on blending, allows an artistic and creative escape from the technical and scientific world that I live in. It allows a space for imagination and artistic expression; a gift that I enjoy sharing with others.
As my collection grew over the years, so did my interest in herbs and natural medicine. Harnessing the power of plants became an important part of my own health journey, and although learning about the medicinal properties of tea was certainly not new, the intentionality was. Broadening this knowledge, such as working towards ITA Certified Tea Sommelier Certification and completing herbalism certification, has been enriching. Tea was a common household product that I took for granted! I wanted others to discover how they could potentially benefit from drinking tea. They just needed to know how to look at tea differently.
In a world where access to healthcare is inequitable, we must be creative in how we create health. To be clear, I'm not advocating that herbs replace traditional medicine, however, it should be considered as part of an integrative plan when it is safe and makes sense. I'm grateful for the medical providers in my journey who were open to that. Besides the potential benefits of the herbs, the act of drinking tea, the ritual; a ceremony which is highly regarded in other countries, creates a space to pause and be present. Drinking tea has become a mini self-care practice, thus Teatime=Me Time!
That's my tea story, what's yours?