Talking Tea with Lena Citron
At the end of a long day, when the city pollution and commute is wearing me down, nothing calms both my mind and body like a cup of good tea. In traditional Chinese medicine, hot water is used to expel excess cold and humidity from the body. It increases blood circulation, which helps detoxify the body and relax the muscles.
When you add to this simple remedy the lovely aroma and taste of a well grown tea, it becomes a healing journey for all of the senses. At night I love brewing a small pot of blueberry rooibos, since it's caffeine free. Each step in the brewing process reminds me of the time and space I am taking for myself. I set up my teapot next to the stove, letting the water boil on a low flame so that the process isn't rushed. I put three teaspoons of tea into my 20 oz pot, one for the pot and one for each cup of tea I plan to drink, and pull down my favorite large mug.
Even before adding the hot water, the smell of the blueberry tickles my nose and the color of the hibiscus shines in the teapot.
When the water is at a rumbling boil, but before the kettle is at a full whistle, I pull it off the flame and pour it into the teapot. If your teapot is clear, you can watch the hibiscus and blueberries create a lovely deep color as soon as you start to pour. Either way your nose will thank you as the light fruity flavor grows into full bloom. I set the lid on the kettle and set a timer on my phone for 3 minutes.
I always take these three minutes while the tea brews to release the day. I let the good and the bad flood my mind and then slowly fall away, focusing on the condensation around the pot, the lightest stream of smoke that starts to flow from the spout. If you are very very quiet, you can sometimes hear the leaves unfurling as they drink up the hot water. When the timer goes off, my mind and vision are clear, with a focus only on warm blueberries and sharp hibiscus. I sit in the softest chair in my house with my hot cup and blow lightly at the surface, watching the warm liquid move and the smallest bit of tea settle at the bottom.
In A Nice Cup Of Tea, George Orwell outlines 11 strict rules about tea drinking, many of which are controversial, all of which are Very English. The last rule is that one should never add sugar to tea. While I disagree with that sentiment wholeheartedly, when I drink a cup of rooibos, I never add sugar, especially to one with fruit. This way, when that first sip hits, nothing destroys the layers of flavor as they hit the tongue. The Hibiscus brings its loud floral strength, the elderberry trying its best to quiet the blueberry and cranberry notes as they hit tartly at the sides of the tongue. And the rooibos sits beneath it all, like a calm grandfather watching his grandchildren play in the backyard.
In the morning I will start the day with a cup of Yunnan Black. It will be brewed directly in a togo cup, its strong depth of flavor a sharp kick in the mouth that always jolts me awake. But for now I rest with tea, feeling the warmth in my chest grow and the chill in my fingers dissipate. This is the power of a good cup of tea; the ability to remind you where your body is, by taste and by storm. It is a cup of liquid grounding that has the audacity to also taste good.