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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

A memoir in tea

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If you drink a cup of tea too quickly, you’ll burn yourself. That’s part of the beauty of it – tea forces you to slow down, to wait for the brew to steep, then to wait for the brew to cool.

I’ve been drinking tea most of my life. Admittedly, I’m no tea connoisseur – I don’t know the subtle differences between the excellent and the mediocre—but I am a tea aficionado, in a casual way. I think part of the reason that I like tea is that I like the people who have had it with me. Most of my memories of tea are also memories of people: the people who have been willing to slow down and sip with me.

My journey with tea started when I was about three or four. My mom and I would go to the now-defunct Moses Tea Room in an upstairs loft in my hometown. We both ate scones and I drank Earl Grey tea, plopping all the sugar cubes in my teacup that I could. During my elementary school years, various Bigelow teas floated around my house, teas with great alliterated names like “Constant Comment” and “Lemon Lift.” In middle school, my parents and I traveled to British Columbia, where I mistook a salt cellar for a sugar bowl and wound up with an oceanic cup of my old standard, Earl Grey.

I remember nights at the kitchen table in high school, drinking Good Earth Original spicy but sweet herbal tea, mulling over the biology class I detested. Shortly after that, I started going to the now-defunct Ma Cha tea room with friends and boyfriends, a converted house where every room was a different color, a place where you could choose from any number of exotic teas and pair them with various ex- otic cookies. I took an art class my senior spring where I did an exercise involving spilling tea on paper and turning the stain into creative forms with a pen.

When I first came to Carleton, I had a bonding moment with my freshman roommate when we both realized we had the same favorite tea – a very particular brand brewed with licorice root that leaves a sweet aftertaste. A student from India on my freshman floor taught me exactly how to make his favorite form of tea – mint tea brewed quickly with a slice of lemon and a squeeze of honey. At the end of that year, another friend offered me all the extra tea that he had in his dorm room that he couldn’t take back to his home country. I took some of it, and I wound up with delicious mint tea, strange chocolate tea, and a mystical-looking tea that came with the warning not to serve it to pregnant women or drink it while operating machinery. (I must admit I never tried it.)

Someone who loved me once gave me one hundred packets of decaffeinated spiced chai, which I’m still working my way through bit by bit. A dear roommate gave me some herbal coffee as we listened to classical piano music one lazy Saturday morning. One of my favorite professors gave me rose-hip and hibiscus tea during office hours when she knew I was having a bad day.

It seems that, whenever you’re sick, people will tell you, “Drink plenty of tea!” Sometimes, it seems that they aren’t just saying, “Stay hydrated,” or “Stay warm,” but rather, “Slow down and heal, because I care about you.” As is the case with many other students, slowing down isn’t something I’m always very good at. But the tea, and the people I drink it with, can teach me to go slower, to avoid so many burns.

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