You’re Going to Want a Tea Station in Your Home
My grandmother’s wooden vanity table is in the corner of our dining room. It’s close to a hundred years old and not very sturdy. Whatever stool or chair was used with it is long lost. But it has been given new life the past six years since it was passed down to me. Now it’s the table that holds our tea station.
There are not many things that I love to be asked on a chilly afternoon more than, “Would you like a cup of tea?”
It was the welcoming tea stations I’d seen at certain hotels that had given me the idea. They’re stocked with a variety of teas, cups, stirrers, sugar, and milk. I wondered why wouldn’t we have one at home, too? Wouldn’t that make life a little more enjoyable?
This month, a red and white snowflake patterned tablecloth covers the table and hides its delicate spindle legs. A piece of cut glass that has managed to survive all these years lays on top of the tablecloth and holds it in place. It is here that the tea box my mother gave me at my wedding shower sits, filled with a dozen kinds of tea, and surrounded on both sides by our collection of Christmas mugs from the local tree farm. Each one has a unique design and year printed on the side. We each have our favorites.
It’s our tea station. It’s not fancy, but it is inviting.
It used to also have spoons and a sugar bowl too, but they didn’t feel necessary. And it was never practical to leave milk out all the time, even in a bowl of ice, as I’d seen done elsewhere.
Finally, I realized the tea and the mugs are all we really need to gently suggest we enjoy some tea.
Just as having a bowl of fruit on your kitchen counter has been shown to increase your fruit consumption, our tea station has greatly multiplied the cups of tea we regularly enjoy.
It is not that tea disappears entirely during other parts of the year in our house. In the summer months, at least once a week we fill a clear pitcher with filtered water from the refrigerator and drop in four tea bags in flavors like hibiscus, peach, watermelon-mint, or white tea-pomegranate. Sometimes we add mint from our container garden or a few slices of fruit too.
We place the pitcher outside, on the corner of the deck railing. Through the window above the kitchen sink, I can see when the sun has worked its magic and turned the water into tea. Then it’s put into the refrigerator to chill.
We enjoy a cold glass of this sun tea on hot summer afternoons. It is a part of our summer routine.
But it is not quite the same as a hot cup of tea.
By this I mean, we enjoy it, but we do not rely on it.
In times like these, however, a hot cup of tea is more than just a beverage.
In the afternoons, long after the morning pot of coffee is gone, when an afternoon of work still lays ahead, tea is the drink that can help us see the day through. When we are sad, it comforts us. When we are happy, it helps us to savor the moment a little more. Sometimes, when we don’t feel well, it helps us feel better.
In the afternoons, long after the morning pot of coffee is gone, when an afternoon of work still lays ahead, tea is the drink that can help us see the day through.
And in the cold weather months, it’s a much preferable way to stay hydrated, I think we can all agree.
Years ago, I was the only tea drinker in the house. My French husband was not sold on the necessity of tea, in general. My girls were too young to be given a hot beverage other than a very carefully managed and suitably cooled occasional cup of hot cocoa.
Now, it is often my husband or one of my daughters who offers to make it. We have all come to the understanding that when one of us wishes to have a cup of tea, we also offer some to anyone else who is around.
I have nothing against coffee. The first cup in the early morning, as the sun is rising, or about to, is a daily ritual that I adore. (I like mine with a side of The New York Times, particularly the mini crossword puzzle.)
But I must admit, for me, coffee does not have quite the versatility or friendliness of tea. Maybe that is why I love being offered some.
Unlike coffee, I have never had a day in which I’ve had too much tea. It does not lead to accidental over-caffeination. Of course, not all the teas we drink contain caffeine.
Our box is often filled with a combination of black, white, green, and herbals teas. Some to energize, others to promote relaxation. Some to soothe a throat or stomach. Others are designed to promote a certain mood or state of mind.
Our tea ritual has none of the pomp of a high British tea or formality of a Japanese tea ceremony. Though my husband speaks fondly of quatre-heures our taking of tea is tied to no single time of day and does not usually come with a sweet on the side. On rare occasions, we do enjoy some tea with a hot muffin or scone straight out of the oven, but that is the exception, not the rule.
Most often our tea is not accompanied by any food at all.
In its simplicity, we can enjoy our tea at any time. Though our knowledge of tea is limited, we have discovered many we find suitable for different situations.
Darjeeling or Earl Grey in the late morning when the coffee is gone.
Green tea in the afternoon when focus and energy are required.
Herbal teas in the late afternoon or after a workout.
Chai or matcha when it is too late for coffee, but we wish it weren’t.
Peppermint, spearmint, or lemon-ginger after dinner.
Chamomile or another relaxation promoting blend before bed.
Medicinal blends for sore throats or congestion.
When and which teas we may enjoy varies by the day. Even during the steady hum of our lives now spent mostly at home, our needs and desires fluctuate.
When I go down to my husband’s basement office and discover that he is having a tough day, there is most often nothing I can do to directly make it better.
But I can always ask, “Would you like me to make you some tea?” And, usually, the answer is yes.
Or if someone is too tired to finish the night’s homework? Or I am struggling to focus, or need to change gears to a new task?
Somehow, we have all come to the conclusion that in all these cases, having a cup of tea makes these things a bit easier to do. A warm mug in hand and the sweet scent of our chosen type of tea offer us supportive companionship to help us get our jobs done.
And our ever gracious and inviting tea station always sits quietly in the corner, beckoning us to make some.
While we enjoy tea when doing our own separate activities, it is the invitation to drink tea together that I love the most.
The addition of tea turns an activity into a shared experience. Someone might say, let’s make tea and work on the puzzle together. Or should we make tea and play a game by the fire?
I have hopes that our various tea times create not just good memories for my daughters, but also teach them a simple, affordable, and healthy way to take care of themselves. Tea as self-care.
For when I’m not there.
For now, the days of having my mother stop by, and us drinking tea together are on pause. To help compensate, for Christmas I plan on giving her some special teas to enjoy on her own. It’s not the same, I know. But I hope some of the same messages a shared teatime conveys will still be received.
Our days of visiting hotels and cozy bed and breakfasts are also on pause. We miss them but know that they will return one day.
Until then, separately and together, we will turn to our tea station to take a tiny break from this pandemic life. It will give us not just hydration and energy, but encouragement, comfort, and companionship when we need it.
Because some days right now we really do.
Most of all, the invitation a tea station offers each day will continue to help us cherish one of the simple pleasures of life that we can still enjoy: a cup of tea.