Life Sucks, But At Least There’s Tea

The perfect cup that gets me out of bed in the morning

Pax Ahimsa Gethen

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Three saucers on a wooden table containing small amounts of black tea leaves, turbinado sugar, and soy milk, respectively. Photo by Pax Ahimsa Gethen.

Like many people, I suffer from clinical depression and anxiety, both of which have worsened during the pandemic. I struggle to find the motivation to get through each day. But one thing that makes me look forward to getting up each morning is a perfect cup of tea.

Unlike most US-Americans, I never developed a taste for coffee. Until my mid-30s, I didn’t particularly care for tea either. But that changed when I discovered the delight of steeping tea from high-quality loose leaves rather than cheap tea bags.

I’ve tried many tea varieties and blends, but the favorite I always come back to is Irish Breakfast. The variety I drink is a blend of Assam and Ceylon black teas. I order it in one-pound bags from a company that gets their tea directly from growers. (My spouse prefers Earl Grey, which I can’t stand; he feels the same about my blend. Somehow, we still get along.)

Proper preparation of this tea is critical to my enjoyment. Put an infuser into a mug (we use good-sized mugs, not dainty cups, in my household), and add one heaping teaspoon of tea leaves. Bring filtered water to a boil, and pour the still-boiling water over the leaves. Steep for exactly five minutes, then remove the infuser.

Add one level teaspoon of turbinado sugar and just enough unsweetened soy milk to turn the color from dark to medium-brown, close to the color of my skin. (This is how my spouse remembers how much milk to add when he prepares my tea. He likes his tea a lot lighter, matching his own skin tone.) Stir, drink, and repeat. Ahhhh.

For years I only steeped the leaves once, so with drinking two-three cups of tea a day I went through our supply rather quickly. When I was on a temporary sugar-free diet, I switched to a variety that I could enjoy without adding sweeteners. As this tea (Golden Monkey) was much more expensive, and took multiple steepings well, I was able to make two-three cups from one set of leaves. So now I do the same for my Irish Breakfast, though as it’s not as “sturdy” I normally swap in fresh leaves after the second cup.

I so look forward to this small comfort every day. I tend to be highly critical of myself, so I can easily find reasons why I should abandon this habit. I know that the caffeine isn’t good for me, and I do occasionally go for short periods of time without it. But inevitably, I come back to my beloved blend.

Tea is not a magic cure-all, but it gives me a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Right now, that’s the kind of magic I need.

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Pax Ahimsa Gethen

Queer agender trans male. Black vegan atheist, pacifist. Pronouns: they/them/their. funcrunch.org, patreon.com/funcrunch