February. Oh, I could do without you.
Your quietness exhausts me. Your monochromatic skies bore me. Your snowy lint irritates me.
But then, my dry hands cradle a cup of hot liquid. My tight shoulders loosen a centimeter. Then two. The first scalding sip warms my throat, my belly, my bones.
If December is all glüwein and hot chocolate, and January is fit for resolutions and a motivating cup of joe, February is the perfect month to reacquaint yourself with tea.
Oh, tea. In the middle of a blazing summer, I forget how much I like you.
February, I must grudgingly admit, reminds me.
Let’s talk about tea leaves.
Like many things, at first, I did not understand. Why not a tidy little bag? Why not a string? Why bother with a pile of dried, crackly leaves and things? Why wrestle the soggy mess out of a ball of a strainer?
But, like so many things, millions of people know something I don’t. Tea tends to be fresher when it’s loose. More carefully handled. Better.
It only takes one cup of brightly brewed loose-leaf tea to shock the system. And herald a conversion.
There’s a lovely little tea store in Stuttgart that has become a fixture on my visitor circuit. I bring visitors to the Schlossplatz (palace square) and the Königstrasse (king street).
And then we go buy tea.
The batch pictured above is called Micraculix Zaubertee, which the tea lady translated as magic tea.
Made of black tea, green tea, mistletoe, and rose petals, the tea is named so because it tastes differently to different people, she told me. Perhaps it resembles green tea to you, and black tea to your friend.
To me, it tastes like a sweet, floral green tea, a more palatable version of the straight-up green tea.
Chai is also lovely, with a dollop of milk and spoonful of brown sugar.
I’m not yet a tea scientist. I haven’t figure out the exact temperature and timing.
Some days, the tea is slightly bitter or grassy.
Other days, it’s as bright and sweet as an apple.
As temperamental as the weather.
Part of me rather likes not knowing how it will turn out.
This cup comes from Scotland, via one of my most cherished friends. All sorts of “nessies” dance around the cup. Not Loch Ness himself, but his unsung incarnations: Cheery-Ness, Tired-Ness, Queasy-Ness. My favorite is Wonder-Ness.
And February, you might well be Dreary-Ness.