007…On Secret Mission to Tea…

Maybe this has happened to you… Someone loves coffee. You love tea. You want to be more than co-hot-drinkers. If only your “someone” would share your sipping. It’s a hard road, to convert someone from one hot-drink preference to another. Not that you would presume to try such a thing. But what if you had a moment of naughty intention, just for the sake of… you know, bonding over loose leaves?

You might do what I did. You might, during a week’s time traveling with someone, bring along 8 different loose teas, a steeper, and even an automatic teakettle. For good measure, you might pack a cooler with just two items: an icepack and a tiny carton of organic cream.

It would be a hard road. Did I say that? Especially if your someone was not only a coffee drinker but, more specifically, an espresso drinker. Several cups a day. Your enthusiasm would go a long way. Even if someone had a serious reason for tea-abstinence (say, perhaps, a deeply unpleasant childhood experience involving a pulled tooth, a father with a home-remedy for pain, and a popular—but not so tasty—brand teabag).

It’s important, when not presuming to convert someone to tea drinking, to simply be yourself. You know how you just about swoon every time you open the black tin with the vanilla Earl Grey? Let it show. Your delight will hold its own kind of power. And when you perform all the little rituals of tea making, don’t hide that smile of anticipation. Happiness is contagious.

It is also important to be acquiescent. A coffee lover might not go for your green lychee blossom that tastes as light as sweet snow on a cherry-tree mountain. Start with a strong brew. Something that says, “You aren’t giving anything up here; you are still trading in the currency of strength.” Begin with a mighty black, maybe with overtones of chocolate and caramel. Your purpose, after all, is to bond, not to convert. Before you put the loose leaves into the tea basket, open the tin and ask your someone to experience the rising fragrance. (You are using loose leaves, aren’t you? This is critical.) If the fragrance elicits a smile, you might be on your way.

Did I say you should bring along two teacups? Perhaps I forgot that part, out of not wanting to seem overly zealous. Teacups alter the experience of drinking, because their shape controls the flow, delivering the tea one alluring sip at a time. Okay, so I brought along two white china teacups as well.

The teacups, the loose leaves, the exotic black teas, a hint of cream. None of this might work for you. Although I can tell you a secret: it worked for me.

L.L. Barkat is the author of five books, including The Novelist, a novella about a blocked writer who, through the rituals of tea and an encounter with a “tea empress” on Twitter, comes to find her voice and an unexpected story locked inside

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