Friday, February 10, 2012

Folklife Friday: Tea

Ahhh, the joys of a cup of tea.

In the South, rarely do you find a kitchen without a pitcher of sweet tea.  Served over ice with some lemon, it is as much a staple as cornbread.  Some of my friends have ice tea for breakfast, along with their bacon and eggs.

A few years back, we started having water with our meals.  I rarely make a pitcher of tea now, but make it a cup at a time, steaming hot.  I now have a much better understanding of the motivation  of the colonists when they pitched a hissy fit over their tea being taxed.  A girl wants and needs her hot tea!

There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea. ~ Henry James (1843-1916)

Both the discovery of tea and the origin of medical knowledge have been attributed to the same person--the Chinese "Yellow Emperor", who lived about 2500 years before Jesus Christ was born.  It is said that he saved his people from a cholera epidemic by insisting they boil their water.  People being what they are, then and now, some curious person, tired of plain boiling water, threw some leaves in the pot to flavor it.  Hallelujah!  Since then, tea has been associated with healing.

Back in the day, just about every family had a bunch of catnip and sage growing along the garden fence.  The sage was used for chicken and dressing and the making of sausage.  The catnip leaves were made into a tea to soothe colicky babies.  I never gave my sons catnip tea because they were never bothered with colic, but I knew many mothers who did.  Catnip, I have learned, does have sedative properties.

Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
~ William Cowper (1731-1800)
I love trying new teas.  My colleagues at work and I are always sharing different kinds of tea we have found.  The greens are not desirable to me, but I love the blacks, chai, and fruit-flavored.  My favorite right now is a berry mix from Celestial Seasonings--it has no caffeine so I have it right before bed.

There is a cold front heading to North Alabama this weekend, and nothing warms me inside and out like a cup of tea.   Put the kettle on!