When it comes to cooking, baking, drinking, writing, teaching, gardening – well, basically anything – I like to have a rhythm and structure within which I can imagine and create. Boundaries give me the freedom to explore without feeling overwhelmed by too many new things at once, I think, but avoiding strict rules and routines keeps me from burning out or losing interest altogether. So I have my four garden beds and their two trellises, and I rotate through some of the same crops each year, but I always add something new that I’ve never planted before. I write down favorite recipes, but I never make them the same way more than twice, and I drift through categories of favorites depending on season and mood.
And I drink tea every day (two teaspoons steeped in the huge mug Rondel got me for Christmas, and at least three brews throughout the day with the same leaves), but I mix and match the varieties I have with different fruits, spices, and herbs. I really enjoy this, to be honest – maybe it’s because the pandemic has rather limited my opportunity to have novel experiences, or maybe I’m just the kind of person who delights in simple pleasures, but trying out new flavor combinations in my tea is something I like forward to each morning.
This time of year, when the weather is cold, I drink most of my tea with cream, and lean on the strong teas whose nutty depths can support it. I also love Assam tea with or without cream, so I find that I prefer cut all of my flavored teas (which have a Ceylon base) 1:1 with the unflavored Assam. Some of my favorites?
- Almond with a sprinkle of cinnamon – with cream, this is reminiscent of rice pudding
- Almond with diced candied lemon peel is also good, and reminds me of Christmas cookies – both of these almond mixes have a very dessert-like feel
- Vanilla with dried lavender (from my poor bush that perished in the record-breaking heat this summer) – this is the most calming of my teas, and particularly good for stressful days
- Chestnut and caramel with a dusting of cardamom (this is good if you want something almost coffee-like; the chestnut on its own has an aftertaste I’m not especially fond of)
- Rose, also with cardamom – I wasn’t sure if the rose tea could hold up to the cream, but I really enjoyed the light floral notes dancing over the earthy base.
- Maple with candied orange peel, whole cloves, and cinnamon (this is so amazing. I have to make it at my mom’s house because the maple tea is one I gave her for Christmas, and while she doesn’t keep cream or Assam on hand, this is quite excellent without either.
- Plain Assam with saffron and cardamom – this is like a mild chai, and really lets the saffron flavor shine, with a bit of sweetness from the cardamom.
Soon I’ll stop using the cream, as the weather gets warmer, and eventually I’ll tend towards iced tea instead of warm tea, and I’m looking forward to seeing what flavors will blend together well for those seasons – but for now, these are my favorites.
What areas of life do you enjoy experimenting and creating in? What are some of the small and simple things that bring you joy? And if any of you also love tea, what are some of your favorites?