February 7, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

Tea may be for reading leaves, but there is more to the brew. There are reasons why the Irish, the English, the Chinese, Indians and those of so many cultures not only enjoy their tea but are tethered to it, for it is a port in a storm, a safe harbor, a comfort zone.
Coffee is the daily energizer, the adrenalin that gets you moving. The world drinks java and builds its cities, its progress. But it comes home to a nice cup of tea — to accept that things just are, that’s all. Tea dillutes worries.
From the earliest moment, I was raised on tea. My Irish-descendant mother, daughter of an Englishman, gave my brother and me tea with milk and sugar at every supper. It might also be the chaser after very hot, delicious tomato soup on a very cold day.
Some dinner dates I had back when saw the meal end with tea for her, as if to emphasize the finery of the moment. One time the lady noted that tea calmed her enough so that she was less likely to drop the cup, a sometime thing. A nice memory.
The English have their afternoon tea, which is charming, especially if you happen to be in Betty’s Tea Room in York where the real reason for before-dinner tea is revealed: delicious cake, pastries, clotted cream.
There probably isn’t an English mystery program — and the Brits offer the best — that doesn’t have tea respite, even in the midst of a murder probe.
And there isn’t an Irish novel, short story or poem that doesn’t have a side order of tea. No cream, mind you. And no watered-down fat-free milk. It is a fine line between the door to the Irish soul and that second sip of tea.
When I was quite young and the family splurged on a very rare dinner out, it might be inexpensive Chinese. Always had the sweet tea, in a cup with no handles, a tradition after the wonderful consomme.
I am not familiar with Indian tea traditions or that of other cultures, but the certainty is that life, in whatever expression, cannot be separate from the brew wherever tea is had.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@hotmail.com