Small Changes Make a Big Difference: Tea for You?

Tea BallA month ago I switched from coffee to tea.

Darlene and I were at a cooking class taught by Warren Kramer in Brighton, Mass. As an aside, Warren made a statement that nudged me to action. All it took were four simple words. Here they are, perhaps arriving on a day that will nudge you, too:

Coffee is a drug.

Warren is a renowned macrobiotic chef who rules his kitchen with the confidence of a Navy SEAL.  Darlene has adopted macrobiotic cooking with her usual focus and intensity, which means our eating life has been transformed in the last six months. I am supportive but not rigorous in my following of the plan. My lapses included sips of Hood Golden Egg Nog during the holidays and occasional preparation of my favorite supper since childhood, Kraft macaroni & cheese doctored with chopped ham and frozen peas.  But like my father, I eat with relish anything put on a plate in front of me, so I have not had much difficulty adapting to a diet of beans, rice, vegetables, and tasty sauces.

I used to think I couldn’t write or read carefully without a cup of coffee at hand. My daily habit comprised three or four cups of home-brewed Starbucks coffee. I never became a connoisseur. I drank coffee for the effect. If the only thing handy was Dunkin’ Donuts, Tim Hortons, or the Flying J truck stop blend in Cheyenne, Wyoming, that was okay by me.

Leading up to December 5th, I had noticed how jumpy I was and how often I felt anxious, especially in the middle of the night. A few pages of War and Peace on mytea cupKindle Paperwhite 3G would usually do the trick, and I would fall back to sleep. But still. I wondered if I might be ready for another period of caffeine abstinence. Warren Kramer’s four words tapped my readiness in exactly the right spot. The next morning I packed my big coffee maker and bean grinder away, next to a far wall of the kitchen closet.

In Cambridge, my tools for making tea consisted of old boxes of Twinings tea bags and a stand-alone hot water heater. I’m not sure of the brand we have there, but here in Denver it’s a DeLonghi Kmix 54-Ounce Kettle. It heats up several cups worth of hot water in three minutes flat. I have several bags of loose tea a friend sent us from Virginia. I scoop dry tea leaves into the ball, then place it in a cup and fill with boiling water.

In replacing one habit with another, I find it helps to have details to attend to. That’s why I like the tea ball better than tea bags. The tea ball takes more attention and fussy work, which develop into a calming routine. For a similar reason, I used to love grinding the Starbucks beans rather than buying them already ground. Our Yorkie Claire for some reason would come running into the kitchen barking whenever she heard the coffee grinder go, and that added to the ritual. “Go get it, Claire!” I’d tell her.

There are no annoying sounds that provoke Claire in my tea ritual. So her life is a little calmer, and so is mine. I’m not sure how long this tea phase will last, but it’s well-established after the first month. My work on the Kindle Chronicles podcast seems to be less frantic, less jammed up against the Friday midnight deadline, and less interrupted by Twitter/News/email distractions. I can still be a jerk to my wife, but maybe less often and in milder doses.

Small changes make a big difference in life, right? As the new year picks up momentum, do you have any you are ready to make? If so, I hope you will leave a comment and let us know how it’s going.

[Cross Post from The Kindle Chronicles]

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3 Responses to Small Changes Make a Big Difference: Tea for You?

  1. April says:

    Both tea and coffee are drugs for me. For some reason hot drinks really soothe me. My favorite tea blends are English breakfast, Irish Breakfast and Assam which is also a breakfast blend. Assam would have to be my absolute favorite though.

    Enjoy your tea journey.

  2. Craig Daniels says:

    Love the tea, and the coffee also.

    Over the years I’ve found that my preference is for a loose leaf Oolong variety called Ti Kwan Yin imported from China by Elmwood Inn Fine Teas out of Perryville, KY. Not hawking for these guys, its just that its superior quality and much more affordable than the same types found at some of the new tea emporiums popping up in the malls and about town. They have a website, but I’ve found mine at a local grocery here in Fairfield, Ohio called Jungle Jim’s. You would not be disappointed. All these loose leaf vendors, Harney & Sons, Taylors of Harrogate, Republic of Tea, etc., they have great offerings, so enjoy the journey because it always turns out better that the destination.

    Don’t forget that you can get several flushes (infusions) from the same leaves when using white and green teas, and the 2nd or 3rd flush is often the most enjoyable. Not so many flushes from black teas, maybe two, with the 2nd noticeably weaker.

    As for boxed teas, I recommend Twining’s English or Irish Blends when you’re looking for a caffeine kick. For greens, TAZO Zen is nice. These are always available at your typical grocery. I sometimes like to use one sachet of Zen and one of Stash’s Moroccan Mint or Jasmine for a change of pace in flavor. One tip is to definitely use ample amounts, 2 sachets per cup, as each sachet is recommended for 8 ounces of water.

    Finally, I prefer to sweeten with locally harvested honey to get the benefits of anti-allergens, although this advantage is up for debate. Still, for me honey tastes best, German rock sugar is very good, and regular cane sugar third. Haven’t taken to the English penchant for whole milk.

    My accumulated vitium: a great cup of tea, some high quality pipe tobacco, jazz or classical, the Kindle and life becomes sublime.


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