I like tea. I’m not addicted to it, but I definitely don’t mind a nice cup every now and then. I’m not picky about how it’s made, or what kind of milk is used to make it. I’m okay with whatever amount of sugar is added to it. I don’t even need it hot. I don’t need (or like, to be honest) fancy additions like peppermint or chocolate. I’m not even a big fan of the universally popular “masala chai”. In short, when it comes to tea, I have no specifications.
Well, except one. My tea has to be made by someone else.
It all started on one of my trips home during my university years. My mother, who had strictly forbidden me and my brother from indulging in coffee or tea in our younger years, finally deemed me old enough for the “a cup a day” routine she had been following for years. This was only applicable for the holidays, though, because she didn’t want me to get addicted (like she had) and wanted me to live a relatively caffeine-free life.
It’s a good thing, then, that I adopted my “anyone but me” policy with regard to my preferred tea-maker. (I get the feeling my father has a lot to do with this attitude, because he, too, loves tea and coffee, but refuses to make it himself as much as humanly possible.) It worked perfectly. As long as I was home for the holidays, it became a routine for Mom and me to sit in the afternoon, drinking nice, hot cups of tea (made by her, of course), munching on snacks and chatting about everything under the sun. I had to stop the routine whenever I went back, because if I wanted a cup, I’d have to make it myself, and that, of course, was just out of the question.
Then came a new addition to my family, in the form of a fun, pretty sister-in-law. Who, it just so happens, was a big fan of tea herself. No, not just a big fan of tea, but a big fan of serving tea. It was like she was made for me! Now, I didn’t want to become a slave to liquids, so I never asked for a cup myself, but whenever she did offer, I never had the heart to say no. When my parents came over for a few months to visit, it was like being home all over again. Hot cups of tea in the afternoon, snacks and chit-chat! Fun times.
This rou”tea”ne hasn’t slowed down since it started a few years ago. I’m now at home on holiday, and come 4pm, you’ll find me in the living room, my usual Mum-made cup of tea in hand, gossipping about inane things with my mother (and recently-retired father). It’s tradition, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. For me, tea is no longer just a refreshing, energizing drink to shake off the drowsiness of the afternoon. It symbolizes “family time”. A time to sit down with the people I love and share stories and experiences.
I’m reading Salman Rushdie’s “Midnight’s Children” right now, and in it, he talks about food taking on the characteristics and personality of the person making it. So you get references to guilt-filled chutneys, curries that taste of determination and anxiety-riddled pickles. Along the same lines, I’d say my daily tea is flavoured with generous amounts of fondness and affection. That’s why I don’t make my own tea… because it’s never going to taste as good as when it’s made by someone who loves and cares for me.