You calmed me the morning before an exam. You soothed me after long college hours in the afternoons. You gave me a boost whenever I needed it. Oh cup of tea, you’ve been a good friend to me.
I switched from sugarless tea to tea with unprocessed brown sugar when my nutritionist gave me the go-ahead. The sweetness was a welcome addition to my daily pick-me-up. I drank tea to solve almost everything. Headache? Drink some tea. Need to be more alert? Drink some tea. Feeling peckish, and dinner is too far away? Drink some tea. Tea, at once, enslaves and soothes with its calming effect.
My addiction to tea began in college in Pakistan. Before that, I turned down offers for tea when visiting people. After college, I became one of those guests who in fact requests tea after a meal is over. Let me tell you, tea addiction is real. If the gap between two regularly scheduled teatimes is too long, my headache would begin. I tracked the passing of my college years by the price increase of one styrofoam cup of tea from the chai wallah: 10 rupees when I entered college, all the way to 25 rupees when I graduated. I drank tea from the cafeteria every day. That was a ritual in it of itself. Winter or summer, I would go and stand in line for tea without fail. My friends made fun of the way I kept dipping and dipping my teabag into the tea for maximum caffeine strength. “Your truck will start well on that,” one of my classmates joked once upon observing my teabag dipping ceremony, which lasted for a full minute. I didn’t care what they thought. I needed my tea!
I always respected the tea-drinking wishes of my classmates. If I was leaving the workspace for a trip to the cafeteria, I would bring back tea for everyone. And they in turn trusted me. One time, one of my classmates suggested we try some tea from the roadside tea stall. We did, and it was beyond delicious. Our teatime shifted from the cafeteria to that tea stall. One day, nearby the tea stall, I spotted spiced, unripe mango slices being sold and I grabbed a few because one of my colleagues said she liked them. Oh, was she excited when she discovered those slices nestled in between the cups of tea! It was a nice sight to see her happily enjoy the mango. Surprises always taste better.
Tea was also a family affair in the afternoons and on weekends. Between my mother and me, weekends became known as “staying at home and drinking tea” days in between drifting from one activity to another. Sometimes my mother would make it and sometimes I would make it. It became a sort of game between us to see whose turn it was to make the tea. One way or another, we figured out a tea-making pattern that suited us both.
When guests came over, I hardly had the confidence to make tea for them unless it was supervised by my mother. My mother knew which relative drank what style of tea, so she was able to make the arrangements for everyone. Tea-making and tea-drinking is a central part of socializing in Pakistan, with all guests being veritable tea connoisseurs. My family members like the tea I make nowadays, so unless they are just being kind, I suppose I can make an acceptable standard of tea. I’m just hoping to reach that guest serving level.
Moving to America meant finding out that the American Lipton brand of tea is not as good as the Pakistani brand of Lipton. In Pakistan, we were loyal drinkers of the Lipton brand, but in America, we shifted to others. Not getting the exact taste of the tea you want can be devastating, so we carefully selected a brand and stuck to it.
I have a confession to make. I drink cool tea. Not iced tea, not steaming hot tea, but tea that has been allowed to sit and cool down. To most tea drinkers, this is sacrilege. However, I go ahead and drink cool tea anyway. I let it cool, then I gulp it down, rather than holding onto the teacup with hot tea and taking little ladylike sips. It’s just the way I am.
I have tried many times to break my addiction to tea. I simply wait for the right bracket of time in which I am free enough to allow for caffeine withdrawal, and then I go cold turkey. However, some situation or another always brings me back to tea. I suppose there will come a time when I will resign myself to tea addiction and stop my periodical breaking away from tea. I will accept the fact that tea is a constant in my life. In good times and bad times, high times and low times, tea has always been there, a constant comfort. People will disappoint you, but a well-brewed cup of tea will always satisfy. It’s good to have little things in life that make you happy, and for me, tea is one of them. It’s one of the little joys that make life worth living. I’ll risk going overboard in my declaration of love for tea. Hey, what’s the use of being hopelessly addicted if you can’t openly declare your relationship status, eh?