TWP - 5, Tea Dumping

Greetings, loyal minions. I don’t recall if I’ve ever mentioned it before, but I am a tea drinker. I come from a long line of tea drinkers. Considering my ethnic background, drinking tea is not a surprising character trait.

I am not, however, a coffee drinker. Others in my family are, but not me. Something about coffee gives me a headache. It isn’t the caffeine. I drink plenty of caffeine (in tea, soda, and other things). Something in coffee, that is not caffeine, gives me a headache. For what it is worth, I like the smell of coffee. When I do drink it (in small quantities and very infrequently), I like coffee (when enough milk and sugar is added) enough to say that if I could drink it I’d probably be a cafe au lait type of guy.

So I drink tea. Iced tea. Hot tea. Lukewarm tea. A bunch of tea.

When I make tea, I prefer to use leaf tea and a diffuser. I don’t use bags very often. Tea bags are for when I am rushed. I keep a number of types of loose leaf tea around to satisfy the usual tea cravings I have. The usual suspects in my cupboard are: (the almost cliched) Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Scottish Breakfast, and Russian Caravan. (NB: I do love Russian Caravan tea. It is a strong full-bodied black tea that goes through periods of popularity. I wish it was more widely available when I want to buy it.) From time to time I will end up with something very posh like some “Des Steppes” from Petrossian in New York City. Sometimes friends travelling through London will drop off some loose Darjeeling (or Earl Grey) from Harrods, or Fortum & Mason.

If you notice, all these teas have something in common. They are all regular black teas. They aren’t herbals, or weird infusion teas. Those aren’t my style or preference.

As I mentioned, I come from a family of tea drinkers. Both my side of the family and my wife’s family have numerous tea drinkers. As you might imagine, tea is often a gift to members of the family and among family members. When tea is gifted within the family, it is always something the receiver would like. But when the tea comes into the family from outside is where one can go a little off the rails.

I recognize that gift-giving, thoughtful gift-giving certainly, is a tough job. So I appreciate that someone takes time to go to a store, look at various teas, and picks something out that they think will be well received. But often the choice of tea as a gift isn’t what the receiver really wants. They get a flavor that doesn’t sound appetizing or a description that doesn’t appeal to them. When someone gets tea that they don’t really like, it often finds its way to me. I am a sort of tea dumping ground.

I’ve become the tea dumping ground for a number of reasons. Firstly, I don’t mind free stuff. I don’t question the motivation of the giver and I try to be cheerful and thankful when I receive a gift. Secondly, I almost always accept foodstuffs without exception. Some people can be a little particular about accepting foodstuffs. Not me. Bring them on. Thirdly, people know that when they give me foodstuffs, I always use them. Even when I’m not sure about the foodstuff, I still try to consume it. I just can’t throw it away and I am generally committed to breaking the cycle of re-gifting. (NB: Breaking the cycle of re-gifting could be another topic all to itself.) I chalk up my inability to no consume food I’m given to my Catholic upbringing and being told that to waste food is sinful. Thus, when I am given food, I always consume (at least part) of it. As tea is a frequent gift in the family, I find myself often getting tea that I would never buy in a million years…

At any given time, you will find at least two (sometimes as many a six) teas that if you know me you would say to yourself, “Self, why does he have this tea in here?” These are teas that have made their way to me through re-gifting. The vast majority of these teas are herbals. They contain all sorts of fruits (peach, apricot, passionfruit, and “citrus”) or herbs (cinnamon, peppermint, lavender, and ginger). (Here is a whole page of them from Teavana.) Some of these teas have some sort of black tea leaf as a base. But many just seem to be an infusion of stuff that discolors and flavors hot water into something that is “tea” in the loosest sense of the drink.

This year has been one where I’ve done my best to get rid of all of these teas that have, through one means or another, been dumped here. Unless the tea is completely vile and noxious, I will use it all. As I said, I just can’t stand to throw it away. That being said, I have little “tricks” to make the tea disappear faster than it should. I have tea infusers of different sizes. I find myself using the largest one possible, and packing it as tightly as possible to utilize as much tea as possible to make a pot of tea. With some I find myself drinking half a pot of this tea, letting it sit for a while, then making a whole fresh pot rather than re-heating the remainder. (NB: I know that this might fly in the face of “not wasting food.” But I do it just the same.)

I’ve been rather successful at consuming the “unconventional” tea flavors this year. So successful in fact that I am, right now, drinking the last of the tea that has found its way to me. I am drinking the last pot of that tea as I type these words. Not only that, but I am thankful that the last pot of this tea is only the second pot of this tea that I can possibly make with the amount of tea that has been given to me. This tea is an herbal/fruity blend. It contains bits of dates and dried peaches (or apricots - I’m not sure). It also has the brightly colored petals of some sorts of flowers. I don’t believe there are any leaves of the camellia sinensis in this blend at all. In a few more minutes, this tea will be gone and I’ll be left with only plain ole Earl Grey in the cabinet.

That being said, Christmas is coming… And stockings will be stuffed… With tea…

Carry on.

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