Ah, tea! Hearty Assam, smooth Darjeeling, delicate green, smoky Oolong. Blended, flavored, fermented to all degrees. With honey, milk, sugar, butter, lemon, spices. By the pot, by the cup, by the mug. Loose-leaf, bagged, or tied into flowers. In the morning, at noon, mid-afternoon, or after dinner.
I like both tea (made with the dried leaves of Camellia sinensis) and tisane (infusions that don’t include Camellia sinensis). Of the former, I especially enjoy English Breakfast, jasmine, Tazo’s Zen. Of the latter, I’m partial to rooibos, my own infusion of fresh lemon basil, and a couple of medicinal combinations for various purposes.
Tea (and tisane) has gained enough of a foothold in this country that it’s fairly widely available in some form or another. You can’t always get it hot; you don’t always have much selection; you seldom get it with milk, but you can find it. That makes me ridiculously happy. (Maybe it helps explain why I was so delirious with joy just being in the UK.)
Several years ago, I had a group of friends who held old-fashioned tea parties. Some collected teacups, teapots, and other paraphernalia. Some assembled recipes and tried out menus and techniques. Some scoured tag sales for hats and gloves, table linens, and parasols. We staged elaborate gatherings, complete with poetry readings and croquet, depending on the season. It was glorious fun.
I no longer live near these friends, nor do I have the time or the energy for such theatrics, but I still find both comfort and sustenance in a nice hot cuppa, no matter what the time of day.