Ode to Tea
© 2010 Paula Tohline Calhoun

     Thanks be to God for the gift of tea:
The favored drink of many societies,
Brewed from leaves of many varieties
Tea is its name – a delightful beverage
And many a merchant has garnered leverage
Exporting tons and tons of tea
To satisfy the likes of me.
The fragrant  leaves, from which it’s brewed,
White, green, red, black – are multi-hued.
With or without a sugar lump, it
Is often paired with toast or crumpet.
But tea is generally more high-brow.
Indeed, the study of the tao
of tea can lead one’s mind to ponder
How it came to be, and wonder,
Who was the first to sample its flavors
And dole it out for royal favors,
Offered to some concubines
Instead of finest silks or wines?
Oh! The exotic aromas of lapsang soochong,
The enticing scent of jasmine and oolong,
The lavendar mixed with Earl Gray tea,
That turns that peer into a Lady!
These words I write could never capture
Tea’s glorious, heavenly bliss, its rapture!
No coffee brewed could ever win,
A taste contest that tea was in.
And putting exceptional flavors aside
The truth just cannot be denied:
For its medicinal values alone
To tea belongs the crown and throne.
Served piping hot, or over ice,
Plain or with some added spice,
Sugary sweet, with lemon or cream,
(Or on cold nights with a shot of Jim Beam!).
Tea’s possibilities stretch to infinity
Adapting to one’s desire or affinity.
And so unto this royal treasure,
My praise is offered without measure!
     No finer quaff will ever be!

Needless to say, I love tea!  If you’ve only used tea bags – I don’t care who makes them – then you have never really had tea!  For a wonderful treat, find a store or shop that sells loose tea, either in a packet or box. Choose two or three varieties, (Start by sampling the aroma of the leaves.  If you like that, you’ll like the tea!), and for your first taste of each, drink them separately, brewed according to directions given by tea salesperson, or by reading the package.  Some tea should never be subjected to the insult of boiling water.  Too hot can ruin the delicate flavors of some varieties.  In my 1-quart teapot, I spoon in 3 or 4 heaping teaspoons of the leaves (I like my tea STRONG!).

What I love to do is blend varieties:  I particularly like a half-and-half mixture of Lady Grey and Jasmine.  Have fun discovering your own blend!  I pour the hot water over the tea, immediately put the lid on the pot, and swaddle it in a wonderful cozy my niece Abby (Knitter par Excellence!) made for me.  I usually let the leaves infuse for about 5-8 minutes.  My first cup is weaker than the last cup, but that’s OK!  It’s all good!  I also like my tea sweetened sometimes (I know, I’m not a purist), and will add honey or sugar to my liking.  If a quart of tea doesn’t get me through until lunch time, then I just heat some more water and pour it over the same leaves.  I have been known to eke three pots-full out of one portion of leaves!  If you desire, you can put your leaves in a porcelain or stainless steel tea ball, however, I don’t believe those gadgets allow the tea to steep properly.  I use my antique hammered silver over-the rim strainer.  The fine holes in its shallow bowl keep out all but the tiniest leaves from your brew – you really need a few strays to be left at the bottom of your cup!  Otherwise, how will a gypsy tell your fortune?

I lift my china cup (or pottery mug) to you all, Gentle Readers!  It is filled to the brim with prayers for your happiness and wholeness.  And remember – from the first sip to the last little drop from the pot, when it comes to tea, there can never be enough. . .
(Unless you are miles from the nearest restroom!)