These days

tea pot and cup1I’m sitting on the sofa reading a murder mystery located in a freezing Sweden spring (Asa Larsson’s Until Thy Wrath Be Past–really good, by the way). The stove, where the chicken stew (my mother’s recipe) is simmering, imparts a delicious warmth to the whole house. The light is turning crepuscular. I’m warm in my wool slippers and cardigan. The baby in his crib upstairs. Every once in a while I can hear him muttering something in his sleep.

I am having my afternoon cup of tea. I am not a natural tea drinker. I grew up with coffee and had herbal teas with honey only when sick. But these days I need to drink something stronger than herbal tea in the afternoon and yet not as heavy as the very milky coffee that I like. Earl Grey tea is the only black tea that I am able to tolerate without the addition of milk or sugar. Surprisingly, in the past few months I’ve grown to enjoy it as much as the morning coffee.

But now of course I’ve become obsessed with finding the perfect blend of black tea and bergamot. Because I need something to do, right? Until now I’ve tried several blends (five or so?) both in tea bag and loose leaf form. Some are better than others. Haven’t found an absolute favorite yet. I like an intense bergamot flavor. I wonder if I can mix my own tea using plain black tea and bergamot essential oil. There must be a technique for doing that, right? I need to do some research. Like I said: things to do.

I’m also starting to understand why people and entire cultures make a ritual out of the drinking of tea. I have special cups for tea that I won’t use for drinking coffee. I also have set up what looks like a crazy two-teapot operation: I first heat the water on the stove in one and then I brew the tea in the other. I know that technically the first one is a teakettle, but it looks almost exactly like the teapot, only made from a different metal. It could be used for brewing tea if I wanted, I guess, and otherwise it could be replaced at any time by any basic sauce pan with a spout. But then, where is the fun in that?

We all need some fun things in our lives. And if those things happen to be bergamot flavored and keep one awake on tired afternoons, even better. I’m sure you’ll agree. Or maybe not. Don’t worry, it’s not important. We can have our differences (of opinion and taste in refreshing afternoon beverages) and and still be friends. Because we’re grown-ups (unlike a lot of the rest of the world, it seems these days). Right? I know.