If you're a regular reader of this tea blog, the past month's posts have taken you to Spain, Hawaii, Britain, and my grandparents' dining room table. Next up: Israel.
I spent several months living and traveling in Israel last year. and I came home hooked on Middle Eastern favorites like just-baked pita, falafel (deep-fried balls of mashed chickpeas, usually served
with hummus), and halvah (a melt-in-your-mouth sesame candy). But if there's one thing that can transport me to that foreign place in the blink of an eye, it's the tea that I drank almost daily: Rooibos with cinnamon and vanilla.
This tea blend is not a notably Israeli one, nor is it particularly popular (as far as I know). I saw it on a shelf, tried it, and got hooked. It's created a quirky memory highway which I consider wholly mine - there just can't be many other people who also happen to associate this unassuming tea with this ancient, beautiful, and long-disputed land.
When I small this tea, I instinctively breathe it in deeply, slowly. My shoulders relax. When I sip it, I smile. This tea is unhurried. It doesn't conjure up hammocks and palm trees specifically, but it clearly brings me to the mellow mindset of a lazy, blue-skied afternoon.
Israelis, if you're wondering, usually drink stronger stuff, like mud-thick Turkish coffee. And the tea drinkers are crazy about black tea with mint - which is available bagged, but is best if you grab a fresh "nana" (mint) sprig or two for your mug. (Now there's a delicious idea I'm suddenly itching to revisit...)
When I arrived in Israel, my carry-on contained a small bag of can't-travel-without-'em teas (my longtime favorites). When I left, it was with a soothing new go-to. This magical tea is every bit as sweet as the memories I made while I was away.