For a long time, I thought of myself as a promiscous sort of tea drinker. I'd drink whatever was put in front of me, as long as it was in a nice teacup. Since that's not considered a dangerous type of promiscuity, I never questioned it much.
I suppose the root of that behavior stems from afternoon tea at college. Tea is a tradition at Vassar that's as old as the school itself. Young ladies would arrive to afternoon tea at the parlor in pearls and white gloves to sip tea and engage in modest, sophisticated conversation. Rumor has it that if they didn't have both pearls and gloves, they'd be sent back to their dorm rooms to fetch them. I beleive, at the time, afternoon tea was mandatory, though I could be mistaken. (Ask Jane Fonda. She'd know.)
By the time I arrived at Vassar in the mid-1980's, tea was a less decorous, more lively affair, and definitely optional. Gone were the gloves and pearls. Ripped jeans and Birkenstocks were de-rigeur. But still, we arrived promptly in the Rose Parlor, sipped tea from delicate teacups and listened as fellow classmates practiced on the grand piano in the corner. No choices were offered as to the type of cookies or the type of tea. The choices were milk, lemon or sugar. Tea was an event.
My first afternoon tea, in an attempt to fully enjoy the experience, I took both lemon and milk in the same cup. Immediately conscious of my mistake as the curdles instantly rose to the top, I quickly choked down the nasty mess before my embarrassing gaffe could be discovered.
It wasn't until years later, when I moved to California and learned to enjoy tea time as a solitary experience, that my relationship with tea drastically changed. With a busy life and packed schedule, the prospect of daily me-time became less and less of a possibility. Enter my daily afternoon tea break.
I bought a tea box at Bombay Company and was faced with a smorgasboard of flavors, scents, regions, infusions that were all new to me. To my surprise, there wasn't just "caf" and "decaf" in this box. I tried two a day to get through the offerings without risking overcaffeination or tea overload. I discovered that I wasn't as promiscuous as I had thought. I actually had opinions.
Turns out that "Tea, Earl Grey, Hot" is fine for Captain Picard of the Starship Enterprise (more on him in a later post) but not my cup of tea, thank you very much. But I also learned to enjoy the differences between Ceylon, Oolong, Rooibos, and Green Teas. And I discovered, after a long search, that at the end of the day, I could mix promiscuity with discretion:
Whether I'm wearing pearls or Birkenstocks, anything mixed with vanilla can claim the honor of being "my cup of tea".