It has become down right noisy, this old world of ours.
Moments of respite from breaking headlines to household emergencies (Mom! Where are clean socks?) can be hard for busy mothers to find. Perhaps that is why daily rituals, deliberately carved out of hectic schedules, should not be considered frivolous but completely necessary to the health and well being of every woman. Personally, I can think of few rituals more worth practicing than that of afternoon tea. A fragrant, steaming cup or pot of tea can be the companion of many a happy, quiet hour. Tea time lends itself beautifully to the peaceful pursuits of prayer, reading, or simply contemplating the many subjects that occupy our often over-taxed minds. And, it is quite inexpensive and easy to come by which matters greatly these days of tightening purse strings. Tea is still readily available, beautiful cups, saucers, and teapots can be found at yard sales, thrift stores, and estate sales for a song, and no need to drive anywhere, once you have your tea supplies in place, everything is done right in the comfort of your own home.
At my house, tea time has become sacrosanct.
My children know that when the kettle turns on and my tea tray is laid out, it is mother’s quiet time. Now for some of you, I know, the thought of teatime with small children in the house, must sound daunting to say the least. My children are older, sixteen and twelve to be exact, so I must pause to encourage mother’s of small children. For those of you in the little years please note, teatime if it can be managed at all looks quite different than that of teatime with older children. When children are little a tiny tea set with filled with lemonade or an herbal brew right alongside mother can be a wonderful opportunity for teaching inquisitive minds (and busy hands!) about fine things and how to use them. It will not be a quiet respite but it will hold a joy all it’s own and trust me when I say, you will long for those chaotic days and chubby fingers stirring “sugar” into cups of lemonade. Young mamas, be kind to yourselves and know that your time of peace and quiet will come. For the more seasoned mothers among us (I will not say older!) the time of solitude has been hard won and should be enjoyed to the fullest!
Now, how to go about creating a teatime all your own?
Again, this is where the simplicity of tea is so wonderful. To make a cup or pot of tea requires two ingredients: tea leaves (or bags) and water. Ah, that is my kind of beverage. There is precious little extra space in my brain for complicated ingredients and multitudes of steps. Although, I must say, even with tea drinking, its easy to get lost in the weeds and over complicate things. Purified water, first flush leaves, white, green, black, oolong or herbal(tisanes)? China, Indian, or African grown? These are all considerations of expert tea drinkers/growers and should be of little consequence to the novice tea drinker. All that is needed is to find a tea you truly enjoy and drink it! (this is where the fun of experimentation comes in to play. Perhaps ask some friends to join in and share teas with one another.) I have been asked many times what tea I recommend to beginning tea drinkers. My answer, hands down, is Earl Grey. There are very few who do not love the Earl on first acquaintance. It is a perfect tea with which to begin your tea journey. Slightly citrus and mellow, I have met very few that do not succumb to its charms.
After you choose your tea, it is time to start acquiring and assembling your tea tray. Tea trays are indispensable for so many things. I used to make multiple trips back and forth from the kitchen to my special spot for tea drinking in my living room, floral chair lots of cushions, thank you. One day it dawned on me to use a tray…I have never looked back (they also double quite nicely as invalid trays. My boys love to have chicken soup brought to them on tea trays when they are under the weather with a folded napkin and a little flower as an added touch). I have two trays that I use on a regular basis. One has the look of Wedgewood but is really a melamine tray with a chip in corner that I got on clearance at a discount store. The other was a tarnished silver tray that was on the bottom shelf of a thrift store covered in dust and less than a dollar. It cleaned up beautifully and holds everything I need to a perfection.
Teacups, teapots, and sugar and creamers are the next items to be acquired. Of course, you can always make it really simple and use a mug and call it good, nothing wrong with that whatsoever, in fact I do it quite often myself when pressed for time. However, having a few china cups and a beautiful teapot is a joy that cannot be adequately described and is well worth the effort of procuring. Most of my cups and saucers I have paid less than $5 dollars for, teapots as well. I stalk garage sales like a tiger and while I wouldn’t go so far as to say I have elbowed an old lady or two out of the way to scoop up my porcelain prey, I am quite serious in the hunt. It is worth the snarky looks to be aggressive. There is nothing worse than the regret that follows the one that got away. My best find was a stunning Sadler teapot, made in England, that I got for a dollar. I doubt any fisherman exaggerating his latest catch could rival my unbridled passion for that find nor have more joy in the retelling to uninterested friends and relatives.
Other odds and ends can be gathered as time goes on to up your tea drinking game. Small spoons, sugar tongs, tea strainers, trivets, tea cozies, doilies, linen napkins and the like abound at second hand stores and estate sales. These are wonderful add-ons that make an already enjoyable pastime even more fun. There are also a plethora of books and magazines to inspire and enjoy. One of my favorite tea authors is Emilie Barnes. Her books are no longer in print but are wonderful resources for learning all about taking tea.
Once the tea accoutrements are gathered into your nest, the tea itself chosen, and the kettle set to boil you are ready my friends to begin a daily ritual you will wonder how you ever managed to live without. Don’t forget to add a little treat now and then…a gourmet chocolate, a madeleine, or scone with jam and clotted cream can be just what the doctor ordered.
But, above all, no matter how you take your tea the most important thing is to enjoy every minute. Oh, dear, I must run…my kettle just started to boil, its time for tea!