While you're frying up some eggs and bacon, we're cooking up something else: a way to celebrate today's food holiday.
Something excellent is brewing; January is National Hot Tea Month.
When I was in 5th grade in South Africa, my teacher asked the class to write a step-by-step report on how to make a cup of tea. She wanted us to be as detailed as possible. Mine went something like this:
I got an "F." That’s how seriously some people take their tea. My teacher’s perfect report included the following:
You get the point.
Tea time is something of a ritual in Commonwealth countries, usually served around 4 p.m. The ritual is so ingrained in society that cricket matches (the five day ones) take tea breaks during the game.
There’s something incredibly soothing about drinking a cup of steaming hot, sweet tea with milk (never cream). It’s a social norm, comforting in its existence, an excuse to stop what you’re doing and take a break.
Then there are the accompaniments. Most people think tea is served with cute little cucumber sandwiches on white bread with the crusts cut off, and while yes, they are a staple in some circles, at our house we always had biscuits or scones. Or in American vernacular, cookies and biscuits. Our (and I’m talking about the royal "We" here) scones are light and fluffy and slightly sweet, served hot out the oven with strawberry jam and whipped cream. They aren’t had every day, but it is nice to enjoy them as a treat.
Speaking of which, "high tea" has become something of a novelty in some parts of the world. Fancy hotels and restaurants will bring you pots of different flavored tea and a tower of miniature deserts and treats. In our house we never had anything quite that luxurious, but for special guests my mom would break out a tin of Baker’s Choice Assorted biscuits. My sister and I would argue over who got the last strawberry wafer and life was perfect.
Not only is tea ideal for afternoon entertaining (pinkies up everyone), it’s also pretty good for you. Tea has less caffeine than most coffees, and some of the herbal varieties can help with all sorts of ailments. Tea can help perk you up (black tea), but it can also help calm you down (chamomile tea).
Next time you hit that afternoon slump, instead of a trip to the coffee machine, consider making yourself a cup of hot tea. It won’t keep you awake for as long and you could even rally your officemates to bring a plate of sandwiches or cookies. Points if you follow the direction above, extra points if you speak in a British accent the whole time.