Dry aroma is undefinably synthetic to me, but it brightens and sweetens in the cup as the rooibos makes itself known.

This being a rooibos, I have plenty of time to contemplate the odor while the steep time passes. What does it remind me of? There is certainly something of a reminder of autumn. Certainly not fresh pear. More like… hmm… pear butter simmering away in a slow cooker. Or poached pears. Yes, it reminds me of autumn in the mountains where I rented a studio for a year and a half. A cherry-wood fire burns slowly in the iron wood stove, fueled by old prunings from the local cherry orchards. My landlady’s pear tree has produced a great excess of fruit, and none of it wants to stay on the tree. Countertops are littered with bowls, baskets, and paper bags full of windfall pears dropped while still underripe. Even more underripe pears wait out the winter in the crisper drawer. As the bounty of pears ripens, I use pears in every way I can think of. Eating out of hand. Pear scones. Pear cobbler. Poached pears. Pear butter. Pears go in salad, on swiss chard, in oatmeal. They make their way into breakfast and dessert. Excursions into the hills are accompanied by bags stuffed with pears. I eat pears under oaks laden with acorns, under maples dropping huge yellow leaves, under the shadows of canyon walls where the mountain stream winds around groves of alder and stands of blackberry.

Tasting this tea, I half-expect to feel the granular texture of those pears on my tongue. I half-expect to smell wood smoke and feel the bite of mountain air.

Forest fires raced through that area in may, and I haven’t been up the road to the lake since. Most homes survived, including my former landlady’s, but I’m uncertain which houses were burnt, or what the fire did to the landscape – to the stands of live oak, the streamside alder groves, the hillsides dark green with shoulder-high tangles of mountain mahogany and bush rue and chokecherries.

I’ll visit again, I know. In autumn I’ll make my way to orchards of peach and pear, and perhaps stop by my former landlady’s house. Maybe I’ll ask permission to once again gather dandelion greens and shaggy mane mushrooms from her field, and windfall pears from beneath her tree. And after a couple of weeks of ripening in the warmer october days in the valley, they’ll taste much like this tea. Sweet without need for any added sweetener, with a slight burnt-sugar tang. Or will that tang be missing when the house is not filled with the scent of smoke from a cherry-wood fire?

5 min, 30 sec

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I used to drink lots of tea but I had to stop drinking caffeine regularly so now I mostly drink herbal tea.


Castaic, California, United States

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