drinking day old tea

You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me. C.S. Lewis.

It’s transition time at the university. As a new semester begins my Capable Assistant and I are pushing to get new students into the online program I manage.

And face-to-face classes are starting as well. There are syllabi to prepare and advisees to meet. There are other transitions too, both at home and at church. Long, busy, stressful days.

But nevertheless I was surprised to find myself standing in the suite outside my office, absentmindedly drinking day old tea.

Let me acknowledge first that my relationship with tea is complicated. I was weaned on sweet tea down south, tea sweet enough to pour on your pancakes, even if it wasn’t thick enough. As a kid I could feel my mother’s sweet tea coursing in my veins.

But age, diabetes, and living in Michigan 25 years had pretty much cured me. Or cursed me, depending on your point of view. And the tea you get in a restaurant up here is so weak it barely registers on the tongue.

Everyone knows you can’t dissolve sugar in ice water, even if the waitress did wave a tea bag over it. So I’ve learned to drink my tea without sugar.

But life improved when my wife and I started drinking hot tea a few years ago, loose leaf tea of a much higher quality than the Luzisanne tea bags of my youth.

Brewed loose leaf tea is a European thing—something we picked up in Sweden and perfected in Ireland. Our adult kids have, for the most part, joined in. Even led us.

So each month Katie and I travel to the TeaHaus in Ann Arbor, where Lisa and her staff let us smell and taste exotic teas before we bring them home to enjoy.

We share a pot of Darjeeling every morning before I go to work, reading and talking together. It is an essential ritual. And often when I get to work my much appreciated assistant Terri and I brew another pot as we plan how to solve the problems of our very small world.

So I was surprised to find myself pouring day old Sikkim Timi into a Styrofoam cup. Terri was there and I think she gasped.

A. A. Milne said “A Proper Tea is much nicer than a Very Nearly Tea, which is one you forget about afterwards.” This was not even Nearly Tea. It was a Great Desecration, and I hope I can forget it immediately. Or at least never repeat it.

And in Styrofoam, no less. Lisa probably won’t let us back in the store.

Because a Proper Tea is not only memorable, it is restful. The whole process slows you down and invites conversation. The making of tea is the unmaking of stress. One must take these matters seriously.

Tea may “amuse the idle,” but it also “relaxes the studious,” as Samuel Johnson once observed.

Mine is a heritage literally steeped in tea. And whether it is served hot or cold, I’m pretty sure it is not meant to be served a day old. If you don’t have time to make a new pot, you probably need to take the time.

Simple things are to be savored, after all.

But they can rarely be saved.


See also relearning to linger

8 thoughts on “drinking day old tea”

  1. Which was the bigger insult? The day old Sikkim Temi or the too-weak Irish Breakfast I finally got around to brewing?

    Thank you for being the kind of Boss Man that recognizes the days that all work must wait until a pot of tea has been (properly) brewed. And a cup (or two) drained…

  2. And about tea sweet enough to be poured on to pancakes…
    1. Shudder.
    2. Leave it to a southerner to think that pancake syrup is thick. You’ve lived in the great Midwest long enough to know that pure maple syrup (for there is no other kind worthy of the rare treat of a pancake in your world) isn’t thick at all. It’s deliciously runny.

  3. In my small world we drink mostly coffee;tea being for ” old ladies in declining nations” . However: we have a local tea that we pick ( hudson bay tea) that never seems to sour no matter how long it is steeped,one just keeps adding leaves.

  4. You know, I am a bit- some would say, obsessed with tea. I have a large cupboard that is overflowing with various bags of loose leaf teas. So much that often when I open it, they fall out and frequently hit me in the face. Ben Newman has told me so many times, “Next time you’re in Hillsdale- you HAVE to have tea with the Metts, you both love tea so much.” Perhaps that can happen sometime soon.

  5. Oh, I love this! I have an ever-growing love affair with tea. Trying to work around my problem with caffeine (or rather, my nursing baby’s problem with it) is a little annoying, however. But I love your insights into the importance of this ritual.

  6. As a proper British tea drinker, whenever I go abroad and drink the awful tea (hot water not boiling, with lemon, not in a pot? – who knew there were so many ways to abuse tea?) I always think that everyone must think us mad for drinking tea. Why would you choose to drink this awful stuff? But make it properly (and it’s not hard, just different from coffee), and it’s a process and a product that brings sunshine into the heart.

  7. Here, here Wally. Having lived in the south now for a few years, I have finally begun to appreciate the tradition of sweet tea in a way I never did nor could in Michigan. But, above all, I have grown to LOVE hot tea, especially the loose leaf tea variety. Mmmm. I find it a vital part of appreciating the moment and it adds to our simplification process. But day old in a styrofoam cup? What? You must be crazy tired!

  8. […] His blog’s most endearing quality is that, in it, he is able to take mundane things in life and eloquently present them in a way to bring out the importance of paying attention to them.  A prime example being one of my favorite of his posts, drinking day old tea. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s