You can take this week’s “Spill the Tea” prompt in a number of different directions. But right now, we’re keeping it simple and asking our staff writers to chime in on their preferred choice for a hot brew. You might be surprised the direction some of them took it.
Tea, in my house growing up, was the ultimate beverage for life’s most important and mundane moments. On most days, the kettle never had a chance to get cold. A good day, a terrible day and everyday in between called for a cup of tea and some shared company.
Since I had a lifetime of training, I am one of those rare tea people who starts their day with a good cup of real tea (coffee is delicious but it makes me feel crazy). I like Earl Grey black tea with whole milk and a little bit of sugar (or a little bit more depending on the mood). The rest of the day I fill with all sorts: lemon ginger, tulsi, peppermint…(you get the idea). If anything, I am very well hydrated.
Despite my self-proclaimed status as an Anglophile, for much of my life, I could not warm to a cup of tea. It tasted like dirt. It smelled like dirt. It made my cute teacup look like it was full of dirt. Even when attending school in England, I couldn’t bring myself to drink it — although that was more due to my body’s aversion to caffeine. Luckily for me, though, a couple years ago, my friend was able to convince me to give it another try. Brewing us a pot of English Breakfast, she added sugar and cream, handed it to me, and my life was changed with one sip. Ever since, I have been a fan, and while I have tried a few different varieties each tasty and comforting in their own way, English Breakfast still prevails as my favorite.
The union at my school would sell you tea by the pint. Served in the same fluorescent plastic cups they’d pour a pint of lager in when you went to dance in “the bop.” Same price as a cup, the cashier told me once. “Just more hot water, innit?” Builders tea. None of this fancy stuff. You get them at Tesco by the hundred for like a quid. Here in The States, I can hardly get 20 bags for three whole dollars. My tea consumption has thus subsided and become more refined. Single estate Ceylon. Green tea with popcorn. Fragrant chamomile. Tea bags made of linen bobbing in a stainless steel tumbler. If you’re reading this and can spare the money, please send help: 500 bags of Tetleys should do the trick.
You people think you’re so fancy with your hot tea. Go warm up some goddamn oolong and binge watch Bridgerton and pretend it’s not the same plot as Gossip Girl. Go ahead.
The only tea I enjoy with any regularity comes in a half gallon jug and is sold at Wawa.
In high school, my friends and I would go to the neighborhood Wawa and buy half gallons of iced tea. The flavor we chose dictated our personalities: Wayne was raspberry because he was a kid at heart; ball-busting JB liked the Half&Half because of the sour twist; I was a green tea guy because it shouted sophistication.
My best friend Dom? He hated iced tea, so he’d buy a gallon of Wissahickon water instead. Classic Dom.
Our selections made, we’d loiter in the parking lot sipping straight from the bottle until curfew. THAT was, and is, real American tea.
F*ck White Claws. Forget about Earl Grey (old as boomer.) Sleepy Time?! Nah, I’ll sleep when I’m dead.
The ONLY tea that matters is Twisted Tea.
It’s Summer 2021. I’m in my newest Speedo (tie-dye? Floral? Striped? Popsicle pattern – who knows?!). We’re all vaccinated. I discreetly pour my peach tea into a Corksicle (cause there ARE laws when you’re getting Twisted!)
I pass out. I wake up and I’m as red as a freshly cooked lobster. I can’t feel my face. Some teenagers have stolen the rest of my six pack. When I stand up too quickly, I throw up because the heat exhaustion is on its way.
But The Asbury is on Hotels Tonight for $98 a night.
I fall asleep on their cheap IKEA furniture.
Life is good.
Until I get my Urgent Care bill.
In these times when we’ve forgotten that private companies can censor speech, I researched Ice-T’s “Cop Killer” controversy when Warner Music caved to social and government pressure in ways that resemble how online platforms edit speech today. Politics aside, consider this amazing observation from Ice-T: “If you believe that I’m a cop killer, you believe David Bowie is an astronaut.”
Ice-T thinks Space Oddity is about space travel?
Yorkshire Tea. Hands down. Quality black tea that doesn’t make you shiver from bitterness, and that’s without milk. A smooth English tea, and highly recommended to all of us in our caffeination nation! Yorkshire Gold is also acceptable. If you are sensitive to caffeine like me, this is the perfect tea. International aisles in most groceries have them in stock as far as I know, and they don’t come in the plastic tear-away bags. Drink up!
Don’t get me wrong, I love a strong Earl Grey or English/Irish Breakfast, but Sleepytime Tea has gotten me through several phases of life. Whether I was doing late night studying in high school or college, or just relaxing with a book in young adulthood, or straight up trying to fall asleep with little success, that sleepy bear in his pajamas and nightcap has always been there for me. There’s nothing like a cup of Sleepytime to calm your nerves and recenter yourself when the world is spinning out of control. Yes, I am open to sponsorship opportunities, Celestial Seasonings.
Now tea I’d tried many a time, and always let down was I
Until one day, I discovered the taste of milky hot chai
Donkey’s the shop, and Athens the town, in the south of Ohio
‘Tis their chai I’ll drink until I die, no other’s caught my eye, no
My favorite tea is coffee.
When I was a child, my grandmother served me a multitude of warm beverages. I was regularly handed Snoopy mugs full of steamy hot cocoa, strawberry rabbit milk (Nestle’s Quik), Tang, pot liquor (usually from greens), or, especially, tea. I wasn’t fond of tea, but she’d insist it was good for me. My issue with it was the bland flavor. It tasted like nothing. Tea, to me, was murky water with a tail. And asking my Grandma for more than a spoonful of honey was like requesting a $1,000 allowance advance.
Now, I drink tea nearly every day. Here’s one I concocted: green tea, ¼ cup apple cider, raw honey, cinnamon, hot water, steep 10 minutes. Here’s another: Celestial Blueberry Herbal Tea, Bigelow Spiced Chai Black Tea, 1 Tbsp raw honey; a couple dashes of cinnamon, ginger, and turmeric, 1/8 cup of milk (cow or goat), hot water, steep 10 minutes.
Asking me to choose a favorite tea is akin to asking someone to choose a favorite child. There is a tea for every mood. There is a wake up tea and a mid-morning tea and a mid-afternoon tea and maybe a later-mid-afternoon tea and an after dinner tea and a bedtime tea. There are a lot of teas, people! And I may or may not be drinking all of them. But, I will cop to having a favorite at this particular moment.
For context, I decided to do dry January this year, because if there was ever a time to do it (when I’m locked in my home with no social life beyond Facetime), it was now. Since I would not be drinking, I figured I should restock my depleted tea stores. When ordering my go-to Tazo Zen tea (green tea, lemongrass and spearmint), I noticed a tea I had not seen before: Juniper Mint Honey. I had a stray thought—”Well, if I’m not drinking gin, it would be good to keep juniper in my diet.” So I bought it, taste untested. Turns out, it is an absolutely glorious blend of juniper’s earthiness, with an undertone of crisp mint and a sting of sweetness from the honey. Perfection isn’t real, but this tea is close.
You can put almost any tea in front of me and I’ll drink it, eventually, once it cools down a little. But what tea really gets me going? Iced tea. Squeeze of lemon, maybe two squeezes of lemons, and (don’t tell Bernie, AOC, or Jillian) a plastic straw. Let me be outside, give me an iced tea, and I won’t require anything besides a refill.
I ordered the same drink every time my Dad would take us to the little Szechuan restaurant / miscellaneous Chinese merchandise shop just down the street from our local library. Thai. Iced. Tea. It was love at first taste. Heavy cream floating above an amber sea. I enjoyed fishing for the slightly sweet rich flavor in the shallows of the glass, then deep-diving into the dark abyss, drawing forth dissolve sugar with a pre-Cali-straw-limitations straw. We quickly became regulars, and the waitress, a student, memorized our usual orders. As my siblings and I grew into colleges away from home, we were away for extended periods of time before returning to our weekend lunch spot. I was so touched when the same waitress greeted us, remembering how I always order thai tea.
My favorite tee is this one.
It’s black. It’s got a space unicorn with a USA tattoo. Upon its back rides a cowboy puss-in-boots using the space shuttle Challenger as a boom box. It proudly proclaims that I am on Team America: Fuck yeah! It’s basically the best tee ever.
Not much of a tea drinker, but my favorite “T” is the one that starts a Charles Barkley “That’s Tuuurrrrible.” For one, that’s how I would describe drinking tea, but as far as the letter T goes, it’s the most powerful T of all T’s. That T is a leader, in charge of a bunch of crazies and renegades. That gang of “U”s are supposed to be one singular E. Nothing that follows that T is how it’s supposed to be, yet the word still functions. The “U”s get all the credit, but it’s the T leading the way. Without that T, they’d be a jumbled mess.