Re-Defining Tea, Re-Defining Me

tea puzzle
Image By Rebecca Angel

Here on GeekMom, we have expanded the term “geek,” beyond STEM, Star Wars, and dice to encompass anything that you are overly excited/obsessed/people-think-you’re-weird about. This is how I am with tea. Yes, I’m geeked about tea, but I’m talking semantics. I consider tea to be any beverage with steeped plant matter.

If you stop by, I offer you a cup, and you say, “Oh, I don’t like tea.” I convince you to just try a wee something I brewed; I give you a cup of eggnog heated slowly with chai and a dash of brandy. You will say, “GOOD GOD, I LOVE TEA!”

I can hear someone saying, “But I can’t drink eggnog.” That’s not the point (and you really should try my alcohol free, coconut milk version). Every culture in the world drinks plants in water for medicinal and comfort purposes. I say all of it can be called drinking tea!

But what about camellia senesis (the Latin name for black, green, white, oolong, ceylon, etc. tea)? I adore this plant, don’t fret. Camellia senesis is the most common beverage in the world. If you ask for a cup or tea in any restaurant in Cairo, Tokyo, or Boston, you will get these leaves in a cup with steaming hot water—except for Boston, where it will be lukewarm with a tea bag of bitter crap… but I digress.

I used to be quite stringent in my definition of tea, using the term “tisane” to mean an herbal drink, not camellia senesis. This did not make me more of a geek, just a snob. Then the migraines galloped into my life. I suffered on a regular basis until I tried keeping away from all caffeine. Goodbye to my beloved tea—even decaf had that .00001% too much. But it worked. My migraines corralled themselves, but I missed my cuppa.

I started experimenting with purchased “tisanes,” garden herbs, bark, ANYTHING. Peppermint and chamomile are lovely, but there are a wealth of options to try. Rooibus (African red bush) is a great one to add warming, full-bodied flavors like cinnamon, licorice, or ginger. Tulsi (Holy Basil) is a perfect base for high blends like mints, citrus, or flower petals. Spiced cider became a tea for me during the winter. In March, the most depressing month of the year in upstate NY, my tea was “whatever” with two spoons of hot cocoa.

With caffeine off limits, my beverage world exploded. I stopped being such a damn tea snob, and started experimenting, enjoying, and expanding my definition of tea.

The only beverage I couldn’t call “tea” was hot buttered rum. Very tasty, but no plants steeping. Oh, and coffee. That was a line I wouldn’t cross. Besides, it has caffeine, so not on my safe list anyway.

Currently, I am able to drink small amounts of caffeine, and have enjoyed putting back traditional teas on my liquid menu. I’m more than happy to gulp Starbucks chai lattes when I’m on the go, but it’s hard to pay for something I can make so much better at home.

If you do stop by for a cuppa, I will most likely make you the best Earl Grey you have ever tasted. But if vacuum cleaners are “geeky” because they are robots, then my mulled wine can be tea because it’s a hot cup of comfort and hospitality—and that’s the whole point of tea!

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Rebecca Angel was one of those kids that put the dragon book on top of her pile in the hopes that someone would say, "Hey, I'm into that stuff too!" Alas, she had to wait until she was an adult to find fellow geeks. Luckily, she married one and their kids are too. Rebecca is a lover of tea, science literacy, music, funky tights, RPGs, anime, manga, comics, fantasy books and movies.