Time Out For Tea

IF YOU ARE ONE of those people who read Sojourners the day it comes in the mail (usually several weeks before the date on the cover), then this column is for you. On these blustery, dregs-of-winter days in March, you should have a cup of tea.

"Tea" in my book means stopping the action a few minutes to eat a treat, think faraway thoughts, or have a brief but energizing conversation with someone (or several someones) who also want to have a cup of tea.

It is a catchy habit. The New York Times has reported that for more than a year now, afternoon tea has rivaled the power-breakfast as the latest setting for wheeling and dealing. Alcohol's fall from favor has increased the popularity of other beverages, and the food served with tea is light, a benefit for people watching their weight.

The idea of taking tea used to seem too exotic for my ordinary day -- Arab, Japanese, and European cultures have very colorful traditions and protocol for tea drinking. And, to be honest, I don't particularly adore teas, herb or otherwise. But I have discovered that I really do like the three Cs that come with a ritual cup of tea: company (either that of my friends or of my own thoughts), cookies, and the cup that it is served in.

The Company. I still remember the flowered pot and the type of tea my mother would fix when she got home from work. She would sit down to drink a cup with our grandmotherly baby-sitter and discuss their days. I was thrilled to be invited to join them once in a while. Later, as an adult myself, I and several friends fell into the habit of weekly tea parties to talk about our lives. One friend, now geographically distant, still sends me tea bags through the mail to mark special occasions, reviving memories of laughter and tears at those gatherings.

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