I love tea. And I don’t just mean I’m addicted to it. It’s more than a habit. It’s a lifestyle. You’ll find me huddled up around a steaming mug every afternoon, around 3pm, searching for revival.
I have even been known, upon occasion, to carry tea bags in my purse. Just in case.
The reason for this stems from growing up in England, in a series of small towns along the “green belt” outside London. It was here I learned that tea not only embodied centuries of cultural tradition, but also served as a form of social glue. It brought people together, and it kept them in each others’ company.
My mum used to say that tea was an important asset to Londoners during the Blitz, when the city was being bombarded by Nazi bombs in World War II. The tirade would let up at intervals, and when the shattered city fell back into silence and people surveyed the devastation to their homes, someone would offer a comforting cup of tea. Neighbors would gather in whatever homes were left and share their burdens over a steaming brew.
Little has changed in that respect. The war is thankfully history, but the English still soften their troubles over a cup of tea. In fact, I remember hearing that during the Christmas special episode of the soap opera “Eastenders,” the National Grid — the agency responsible for managing the electricity network across the country — has to max the power. Throughout England, during the commercial break, millions of people head into their kitchens and click the “on” switch of their electric water kettles. They put a tea bag in a mug and take the milk out of the fridge in routine anticipation.
So, you can perhaps understand why 20 plus years in England turned me into a tea monster. Growing up, the sound of water boiling in the kettle signalled a new day. In the afternoon, always around 3pm before us kids got out of school, the neighbors would pop over for a cup of tea. Every house we visited of every friend or relative meant a cup of tea.
Now I live in the East Bay, an American once again but with British taste buds. I still get that craving at around 3pm, when I’m due for a hot pick-me-up. So I explore the various cafes and tea houses in search of the perfect cup of tea.
This week the place was A Cuppa Tea on College Avenue, and the tea was a cup of ginger and lemon elixir. Hot or cold, ginger and lemon tea soothes the mind and refreshes the spirit. I usually have it hot, especially on dreary days, because the warm spiciness of the ginger has a calming effect.
But since it was a warm afternoon, I opted for the iced version. The spiciness was subtler, having transformed its abilities from warming to cooling. The lemon sliced the flavor into neat pockets of deliciousness. I drank the whole thing in the space of a couple of minutes and, regrettably, ended up with brain freeze.
A Cuppa Tea has the most extensive range of potions I have ever seen. I couldn’t believe my luck when I found it, with its comfy arm chairs, free WiFi and gentle quiet. I had found a new home.
Then disaster struck and there was talk of closing the place due to an expired lease and a tentative license renewal. Fortunately, A Cuppa Tea managed to renew its license and will move up the road in September to a new home at 2992 College Avenue. Phew.
I will be continuing my search for the perfect cup of tea each week, all the while enjoying the social experiences my quest affords and carrying tea bags in my purse.
Any suggestions for tea houses, tea concoctions, or anything tea-related will be much appreciated. Or, if you'd like to open your doors and offer a cup of tea...
I'll see you at 3.