It took me until college to realize the reason Americans aren't huge tea drinkers (disconnect between the Boston Tea Party and real life... oops!). but I'm sorry-- sorry for Americans having deserted the wonderful tradition of taking time for tea.
Here in Zambia, we have a plethora of British cultural leftovers since the Brits came to this part of the world to colonize it soon after David Livingstone's expeditions to Africa's interior. For example, men wear trousers, not pants (pants are... well, what you wear UNDER your trousers). We write cheques (not checks) from bank accounts. We drive on the left side of the road using autos equipped with tyres.
We drink tea.
I've always liked tea. I guess as a child it was because it was so special. Sometimes my siblings and I asked permission to have mini tea parties with graham crackers (major treat!). Mom would let us each choose a tea cup from the fine china ones she bought years before in Canada. Joel liked the yellow one. Amy would chose the elegant Victorian bluish/gray one, and I thought the tiny fluted pink one with three golden pedestal legs was the most gorgeous piece of finery ever.
It was in high school that I started regularly drinking tea. Amy and I discovered our mutual love of tea and the fact that since she liked her tea light and I liked mine strong, we made a great tea-bag-sharing pair. One of us would heat the water and dip the teabag lightly in Amy's cup and then leave it in my cup to steep.
A 'cuppa' was a perfect way to end cold, dark winter evenings. After dinner and long days of university, we'd sit on our beds in our pink bedroom and drink tea and discuss life. Once, in an interview for an accounting job with an international company I was asked how I handle stress. One of my top answers was drink tea with my sister in the evenings.
During my first visit to London I discovered why the Brits are so stuck on tea. Have you ever lived in that place?!? me. oh my. It was like the dampness never quite left anything (especially one's bones), so a hot drink in hand was blissful.
As I mentioned previously, I was already pursuing a strong relationship with tea before moving to Zambia, but I must admit the first time I was served a 16 ounce mug of extra piping hot boiled sugar water with a hint of tea when the temperature was in the 90's F with no breeze... I almost keeled over inside. Hot drinks when it's hot? how? how is this possible? how is it preferable? HOW is it enjoyable???
I'll never forget the sweat. Just pouring out of everywhere without even moving, let alone drinking a HOT drink. But somehow I managed to gulp that drink down (though it took me twice as long as my seasoned Zambian friends). Since then, drink after hot drink has been part of my Zambian life.
In the States, Amy and I kept a generous assortment of tea on a prominent shelf in our kitchen. Once my Nahumba tea cupboard was stocked (which took time and some careful collecting...), I felt like this place could be home.
Last November when I arrived home to Michigan, Amy and I both knew we had some serious tea-drinking to accomplish during my brief visit.
We brewed pot after pot and drank to our souls' contentment.
Every night, after work and visits with family, we came home to our Cookie House and boiled water for tea. Then, we sat across from the heat stove watching the fire flicker and we did what sisters do. We talked and laughed and shared with each other-- about silly stuff, and tough stuff, and work stuff, and stress stuff, and money stuff, and God stuff, and past-year stuff. All that stuff.
And we talked about how much we missed drinking tea together for the past year of our lives... and we couldn't talk about the truth that another such year was brewing. We focused on the moment.
I don't know how many pots of tea I've steeped since I've been back home in Zambia, but it's been a lot. Here I have to drink the entire pot, because Amy's too far away for us to share. For now, we drink our tea on separate continents. Though, deep inside, sometimes I fantasize that we're together, and that our tea pots are what has brought us both there.
And somehow after living in Zambia for nearly two years, drinking hot drinks on hot days isn't so absurd as it once seemed. In Michigan, the weather gets frigid, and hot drinks are a welcome source of warmth. Here, however, where the sun is normally quite generous in toasting everything, we don't have to drink hot drinks for warmth. More than the variety of flavors and pretty cups, I guess it's soul warmth that I love most about tea: