I have a confession: I am a compulsive tea buyer.
It’s a really serious problem. I have more tea than I can hope to finish within the year atop the wooden shelf of my dorm room. I drink an average of one to two cups a day but I don’t often tap into my own sources to get this fix. There are several events on my college campus that keep me fueled up. (That’s not to say that I don’t drink my own tea, there’s just so many opportunities to try new teas).
Despite this, I still have a compulsion to further build up my collection. Whenever I go to a grocery store, I somehow find myself in the Tea/Coffee/Condiment aisle looking up at their not-so-vast array of teas contemplating the flavor of each. (I consider myself to be a tea adventurer. Connoisseur seems to be too fancy a word for me). One type of tea I always spring for is a cinnamon-infused tea with a hint of nutmeg and/or clove. (They’re three of my favorite spices. Whenever I’m at home looking through our spice collections, I like to sniff the spice containers to take in their spicy essence. I wonder if I should have admitted that?).
I find it strange to think that I started this drinking habit of mine relatively recently. It was during my freshmen year of college when I discovered my kind of liquid courage. (Others drank beer to have a good time. I partied it up drinking tea with a good book). On top of that, my reasons for at first sampling tea were rather eccentric. I was a huge Anglophile back in the day fueled by my love of England’s rich history and literature. On the other side of that, I am a big BBC show fanatic. I binged watched Doctor Who, Merlin, Sherlock, Being Human, Pramface and a good host of others. I was also going through a strange episode of Hetalia obsessiveness. I re-watched all the episodes, bought all the DVDs, dipped my toe in the fan community, etc. (I bet you can guess one of my favorite characters in the show).
I made the decision to drink tea enticed by how fundamentally British it seemed. I also perceived that there was a sort of elegance in the experience. Sitting there, relaxing in worldly comfort, sitting back enjoying a warm cup of happiness as you took in the world around you.
When I got to have my first tea drinking experience, it was rather ‘meh.’ I started out a bit fearful because I have these moments where I believe the next new thing I consume could potentially kill me. I could potentially be allergic to this. My mom is allergic to all forms of grass. Isn’t tea mainly grass and leaves?
The first cup I tried was Earl Grey. I was sitting in the dining hall watching the steam dance in the air and disappear into nothingness. I stared into the deep brown pool feeling my heart quicken in anticipation.
I took my first sip.
Ah! Jesus, that was hot! I should wait another minute or two.
Took a second sip.
It tastes too bitter. Did I keep the bag in too long? Nothing for it but a packet of sugar.
Took a third sip.
Now it’s a bit too sweet. I guess it doesn’t taste too bad. I’d hate to waste it.
Determined to like tea, I tried several more cups. I tried green tea with a bit of lemon, simple Lipton green tea, Earl Grey (again), English Breakfast, and Chamomile. Since I’m a bit of a dope, I committed the same error of seeping it too long and adding too much sugar to remedy it. Oddly, I grew to love the taste of tea with a bitter edge. When the box says seep for around 3-5 minutes, I usually seep for seven or keep the tea bag in altogether. I hardly add any sugar. Maybe milk. Maybe honey.
There were also many other things that made me love the act of drinking tea. The different flavors that I try are taste bud adventures. With each sip, subtle notes of flavor dance on my tongue and warm my soul. The aromas of hot tea tickles my nose and relax my senses when I get particularly stressed. After walking in the chill winds, tea became the perfect remedy to warm my frozen fingers.
After I began my love affair, I compulsively bought tea. Anything I found that was new or had some interesting flavor combinations I bought instantly. It was through this ritual that I discovered Rooibos teas, Chai teas, Sleepytime teas, Oolong tea and strange tea names like Samurai Chai Matte. Sometimes, I travel to World Market and The Britstore for the sole purpose of purveying their infinitely more diverse collections. I even went as far as looking up the health benefits of these teas to sate my curiosity and to justify my purchases.
I’m not particularly ashamed of this habit. On the contrary, every time the subject of tea is brought up among my group of friends I actively engage. I even got some members of my family to join in my drinking habit.
There’s nothing to help this habit. Even on my poor student wages, I still buy tea. As long as I have a good five dollars to my name and interesting tea options, I will always sally forth and find tea.