I Believe in Tea

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When I first get to know someone, I ask them what type of tea they like. It sounds like a strange icebreaker, I know. But there’s more to the subject than meets the eye.

Once my new friend and I have talked about our favorite kinds of tea, I’ll usually take a risk by dropping some interesting facts about tea. My favorite is always, “Did you know almost every tea – green, black, white, red, and even oolong – come from the same plant?”

The plant is called Camellia Sinensis. And it has been providing tasty drinks, beneficial foods, and even currency for thousands of years. In fact, there’s a tea tree that has been providing leaves for over 3,000 years in the Yunnan province. That’s the part of China where brewed tea originated as a drink.

I don’t have any great story about how I came to love tea. I’ve never been to China. I’ve never even been to a Chinatown in the United States. Maybe my love of tea springs from my Grandmother’s teapot collection. It was at a tea specialty store in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania that my love of tea was born. I bought a strawberry chili chocolate tea that day.

Talking about different flavors is fun, but my favorite part of any tea conversation is the talk of benefits. Anyone who’s been peddled tea has been told of the mysterious and powerful abilities that can be steeped into any cup of hot water. I’ve been told tea can aid digestion, fight cancer and whiten teeth. But to me tea is not some sort of silver bullet Medicare plan at 30 cents a day.

To me, tea is a stop sign. It is time consuming to steep tea correctly and drink it comfortably, and rightfully so. I believe in the power of tea to remind us to slow down and enjoy ourselves, and to savor every last drop.

This might sound crazy, but legends and tales have my back on the importance of tea. My favorite story involves Laozi, the father of Daoism. The story goes that as Laozi approached the end of his life he began to lose faith in humanity. He saw a stagnancy in society, so he set out on a journey to leave the world behind.

While stopped by a customs official, Laozi was offered a cup of tea. At the time it was a fascinating new drink. He drank slowly, and watched the mysterious leaves unfurl and color his beverage. He praised the drink as miraculous and healing. It’s been said that this cup of tea inspired Laozi to record his thoughts on his journey and those thoughts became the revered book, the Dao De Jing. Daoism is based on this book. Tea inspired a religion.

Tea hasn’t inspired me to journey into the wilderness and record my thoughts, but it has proven inspirational to me in other ways. In times of sickness, all I really need to pull through is a hot cup of black mint tea. When I’m up late writing an essay, some pu-erh with strong fruits and herbs has always carried me through the night and sometimes into the early morning. I believe in the power of tea to heal, calm, and bring us together.

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