Red Rose Orange Pekoe and Pekoe Cut Black Tea really should have been the first tea that I reviewed here, since this was the tea of my childhood.
—Childhood? you ask. Just how young was I?
There’s a funny story there. It started with my first job: I spent the summer I was fifteen working for my aunt who owned a stable. The trainer, the barn manager, and all of the other stablehands were adults, and they all drank coffee. Since I was a young’un, they’d rinse out the coffee pot, refill it with plain water, and point me at the small stash of cocoa in the back of the office. Unsurprisingly, this was a real pain for everyone, and eventually I just took a cup of coffee, dumped in terrifying amounts of sugar and non-dairy creamer, and decided that it tasted pretty much the same (the water had never gotten particularly non-coffee-flavored) so what was the difference, right? And hey, I was a teenager, and if all of that caffeine made me jittery, nobody noticed a thing.
And then, at the end of summer, I left on vacation with my family. First day of vacation, we’re at the beach, of course it’s awfully bright. Second day, still bright, the headache is really setting in. I’m gulping lemonade by the bucketful and trying desperately to explain this agony to my mother. My mother, the caffeine-drinker of my immediate family, recognizes these symptoms. She extracts the story of the cocoa-coffee from me and suggests I go cold turkey. I explain the agony a little more. Since it is a shame to waste a vacation on withdrawal, she brews me some coffee. Third day, I spend the morning bounding gleefully across the sand dunes, then seek out my mother for another caffeine hit.
Let’s try weaning you off slowly, she suggests, and makes me tea. This tea, in fact. I doctor it up like the coffee with sugar and actual milk and am amazed to discover that not only does my headache go away, but this tastes good. I keep drinking it.
We get home from vacation. I keep drinking it.
(I go to college and shift up to coffee, then to expresso beans, then to caffeinated water. I don’t sleep much.)
In grad school, I return to my tea. I have, by that point, had many teas on many outings, but none of them are morning tea. Morning tea is Red Rose with milk and a bit of sugar.
Eventually, as I dropped out of grad school and began commuting to an office in the mornings, I let go of my childhood morning tea. But still, I remain fond and nostalgic. In my mind, this tea is served in at the kitchen table in a brown ceramic mug with the string of the teabag wrapped once around the handle; it’s milky smooth, not too sweet, extremely tasty, and just the right sipping temperature the entire time.
And yes, I still have fifteen or twenty of the ridiculous figurines. Somehow, more than a third of them are polar bears. Make of that what you will.