Tea – back in flavour

Peta Yowie 10 November 2018

There’s comfort in the ritual of brewing tea – the preparation, the waiting and then the first glorious sip.

Lately I’ve become a bit of a tea connoisseur. Tea has always been a big part of my family – from my grandfather Arthur sitting like a silver knight at the round kitchen table with his cup of tea, to my aunty and her morning tea, and the mourning tea we drink. Mourning tea is like drinking tea to overcome my sadness. It reminds of family – warm and sweet. A sip of mourning tea is like a little prayer from my lips. I guess I’ve gone from addict to teetotaller in the space of a few years.

So, it’s no surprise that on my walks to Prahran I’ve discovered a tea shop with shelves stacked high with all kinds of tea, some exotic and some herbal. Like Alice in Wonderland I’ve walked down the rabbit hole to the tea party. I bought a glass teapot and a blend of some perfect day black tea, and I came home and excitedly brewed my first pot. There’s a ritual that is comforting – boil the water, spoon the tea in, then let it sit for three or four minutes, turn the pot three times, pour the tea into the cup, and how glorious it is when I take my first sip.

On another visit I was looking for something with a hint of vanilla, and the saleswoman led me to Melbourne breakfast, black tea with vanilla, though it’s more the aroma than the taste. I purchased a box and a green tea cannister because the saleswoman said it’s important to keep your tea fresh.

I have a friend who told me about white tea. It comes tightly wrapped and you put it in the pot and as the heat gets to into it, it releases a bouquet of flowers. She said it’s really pretty. She has a lot of different teas, although mainly in teabags that she’s going to give to me. On my next visit to the tea shop I’d like to try a tea with spearmint.

My beloved aunty, who’s passed away now, once found what looked like a bag of drugs in a teapot she bought at the op shop. Talk about a genie in the teapot. I asked what she did with the white powder, she told me she chucked it out, although in hindsight, with all the pain of cancer and chemo, she wish she’d kept it.

Tea is the great leveller. There’s a truth in the benefits of hot sweet tea when you’ve had a shock. I’m partial to a chai tea. Tea seems to loosen the tongue. Civilisations and wars have been lost and won on the rim of a tea cup. Warm tea for the warm-blooded. Mornings seem warmer in winter with a cup of tea. Outside the tea shop is a jug of ice tea with ginger and lemongrass and paper cups for passersby to try. Tea brings civility. To sip on a cup of tea is a mindful meditation.

The last memory my mum has of her sister is her asking for a cup of tea in hospital and my aunty getting a paper cup with a tea bag in it. Mum wanted her to have her tea in a fine china cup, it doesn’t seem right.