by Lana

When I first reviewed the offerings for this month’s article theme, I thought I did not have anything to contribute and to leave it alone, but then I remembered my historical relationship with tea. Let me first state that when I was growing up, almost any hot beverage could be called “tea” but was substituted by coffee, warm milk or cocoa on a regular basis.

I was raised drinking tea made from loose green tea. Visitors from abroad would be aptly surprised when they assented to an offered cup of tea and ended up with a cup of something else – coffee, cocoa (local cocoa sticks sweetened with condensed milk, bay leaf, nutmeg, and sometimes sugar) or bush tea. Growing up, I drank two steaming hot cups of tea daily – one in the morning for breakfast and one in the early evening with dinner.

I must say that the temperature of hot coffee served at coffee shops has nothing on my cup of tea! First a pot of water would be set to boil on the stove, and I would add loose tea (cannot remember the measurement,) to the water when it came to a boil. I would let the water boil for a short time and then steep. Condensed milk and or evaporated milk would be added to the mixture and then it would be strained and served into cups. Sometimes the same tealeaves were used to brew a second batch of tea. This beverage would be enjoyed with local bread or a homemade pastry and some kind of filling or a variety of local goodies. At night, a similar routine was followed.

I was refreshed and relaxed after drinking my cup of tea although I was sweating profusely. I must say that I had strayed away from this practice of the evening cup for some time as it interrupted my sleep routine (not allowed) for some time but I enjoy a caffeine free cup at night because I like to experiment with the various blends of teas that relax and warm me and are a good way to bookmark the day.

Teas were also used for fundraising parties when I was growing up, and I recall attending some at my primary school and local church on sundry Saturdays. The main beverages served at the event were orange and grapefruit juice, along with a wide variety of sandwiches and cakes. Entertainment most times took place in the form of a fashion show, on and off the stage, and at times an additional talent show. In sum, teas were also made from the leaves of local trees as herbal remedies to treat some illnesses (hibiscus and soursop) for cooling or detox purposes.