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Tea time with ‘Tea-hilla’

The other Shabbat, as the host uncorked a bottle of wine, the guest who had brought it began remarking upon its quality after she began sipping the wine.

“It’s bold and full bodied” — or something to that effect — was her remark, as she continued swirling the wine in her goblet, as though she were a professional wine taster. The host shot back with the wine “having a nice fruity complexity.”

I riffed on their remarks, with my own pithy observation, as if I were a fellow sommelier steeped in viticulture.

Of course, none of us had a clue what we were saying. It was just a brief mirthful moment.

Drinking a glass of wine with a heavy rich dinner can be joyful and feel very grown up. It is often suggestive of inducing relaxation and letting go just enough to giggle just a bit more. It is so strong a beverage, though, it even has the power to alter your state.

I used to chase the cappuccinos topped with clouds of “katsefet” — whipping cream — as dessert at the conclusion of a meal when I lived in Israel. Unlike wine, coffee evokes a more hyper vibe, infusing one with energy and fuel.

I enjoy a glass of wine at a Shabbat dinner here and there, as well as a daily morning cup of coffee.
But more and more, I’m becoming that tea drinker. If there’s a drink that says you’re getting older, it’s tea,

I’m afraid!

I can’t remember exactly when the tea nicknames and jokes with my name began.

Being that the beginning of my name makes the sound “tea,” it was a natural. “Tea” somehow led to “TeaLeaves,” which led to the idea of me being a tea leaf reader and my apartment known as the “TeaHouse” or “TeaHaus.”

I enjoyed playing this out. I adorned my kitchen with charming tea pots and kettles. Sometimes I even them as vases. A variety of cozy mugs was always on hand, with the perfect petite teaspoons of course.

Flowers, dots or modern geometric shapes — I had a teapot to lend the necessary artistic vibe for any particular gathering.

I didn’t have a lot of teapots, just a few lovely ones I had been gifted.

Over the years, I’ve seen the zaniest teapot designs. It’s interesting how a teapot has morphed from a utilitarian object, to one of floral-designed beauty, and then a vessel of artistic expression and creativity.

Tea kettles, too, or as they’re playfully called in Israel, a koomkoom. The word might sound like gibberish, but koomkoom is actually an example of another Mishnaic word that has become a part of modern day Hebrew.

The signature three-tiered stand served alongside tea, stood proudly. When the occasion arose, I layered it with the dainty crustless tea sandwiches embellished by paper thin cucumber and radish slices, bowls of jam and bowls of cream, meringues and even a flower or two.

I went all out, and indulged the whole tea theme. I began saving the petite wooden Wissotzky magic tea boxes, and repurposing them for dropping off little home baked treats. For a while, that tea box became my signature parcel drop-off.

It’s unique that a tea kettle whistles and lets you know when it’s hot enough to be poured. Scientifically, it has to do with the bubbles trapped in the pot heating it.

When it comes to tea drinking, you can have one cup, and then another, unlike wine or coffee, which have built-in limits due to the states they can potentially alter, be it drunkenness or hyperactivity.

With herbal tea, the more the mellower. Copious cups of tea often bring peaceful moments, and the opportunity of lingering with bottomless cups of tea, brings with it the opportunity for conversation and storytelling.

While I definitely enjoyed my mugs of tea, I wasn’t from those excessive tea drinkers. I did, and continue to leave the hot water urn on basically throughout all of winter, and definitely find myself filling my mug often enough.

For fun, at one point I even owned a proper samovar. I continued to adore all tea paraphernalia and accoutrements, from tins to tea sachets. I enjoyed the charm of all things tea.

But I wasn’t that person who always turned to tea or went for another cup of tea.

I’m telling you; I don’t know what it is, but you turn certain digits, and suddenly you become that tea drinker.

I’ve been telling myself it’s not age, that it’s not for nothing that of all beverages, we have a social designation of “high tea” that evokes elegance and nobility.

But I know the truth!

Copyright © 2021 by the Intermountain Jewish News

Tehilla Goldberg

IJN columnist | View from Central Park

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