A Spot of Blue on My Horizon

Posted: 23 September, 2015 in Blogging tools, Depression

Monday morning found me at my doctor’s office. It was a routine follow-up to some blood work I had done the week before. I was still feeling a bit down (see my previous post), and the nurse even mentioned it. She said, “You usually cheer us up. I’m sorry you’re having troubles.” We chatted while she took my weight (still higher than I would have preferred) and my blood pressure (excellent!), and then she left the room.

Then I met with my doctor. I don’t remember if I mentioned this before, but when we first met at my first appointment I said to myself, “Oh, my God! She must be all of 20 years old!” But when her ID badge flipped around to show the back, it said “FACULTY.” That, more than anything, put me at ease. I mean, the University of Rochester Medical School is highly respected, and they don’t hire no slouches to teach there!

Anyway, while we were going over the test results (my estrogen levels are about 180 points above what’s normal for a cisgender woman, but still below the level where we need to worry), I talked about how long I was waiting to get into therapy. When I told her the name of the clinic I was waiting for, she said I had made the right choice, as it was the best in the city when it came to transgender care.

She also said that while the initial wait was frustrating, once I had my first appointment and was “in the system,” things would get a lot better.

The upshot of my visit was that I actually walked out with a smile on my face.

How About a Nice Cup of Tea?

In the words of Arlo Guthrie (“Alice’s Restaurant”), that’s not what I come ta tell ya about. I came t5o talk about what I did when I got home.

I suppose I can blame my mother’s English heritage for instilling a love of tea when I was a child. Childhood illnesses always meant being tucked into be with a tray of tea and toast. A nice cuppa, with sugar and milk, was to her what chicken soup was to Jewish mothers: the cure-all for everything. And as I grew older, I kept to the ritual whenever I was ill. Eventually, I passed it on to my own daughters.

To this day, if given a choice between tea and coffee, I’ll take a properly-brewed cup of tea every time.

But what constitutes properly-brewed? While there are many “rules” about tea—most of which are available on the Internet—I find that none of them are rules so much as they are guidelines, starting places for you to begin your adventure. And since 99% of the tea I drink is black tea, that’s what I want to talk about now.

A Brief  Treatise on Tea

And I promise to keep it short.

All tea comes from the leaves of the same plant: the camellia sinensis, an evergreen shrub native to Asia. Strictly speaking, your Rooiboos (redbush) tea is not a true tea but rather a tisane. The same holds true of herbal teas. Unless it comes from camellia sinensis, it ain’t tea.

But what about all the varieties? Black tea, green tea, white tea, oolongs, matcha, and so forth? They are all leaves of the same plant. When the leaves are picked, and how and how long they are allowed to oxidize is what result in the different varieties of the leaves from the very same plant.

For a more detailed look at how tea is made, I would direct your attention to Samovar Tea.

But let’s return to preparing our cup of tea, shall we?

As I said, I drink black tea almost exclusively. And while my initial love of this beverage came from my mother’s English heritage, my preference for strong black tea was handed down by my father’s Irish side of the family.

When it comes to tea, the Irish are either the second or third greatest per-capita consumers of tea, depending on which source you consult. And the Irish like their tea strong. How strong? Legend has it that one of my ancestors said that a proper cup of tea should be strong enough “that a wee mousie might trot across the top of it.”  Hardly an appetizing image, but you get the picture.

And good, strong black tea comes from the State of Assam in India. SO it should come as no surprise that every commercial blend of “Irish Breakfast Tea” contains varying amounts of Assam tea.

So my own personal rule is this: when brewing black tea, When the kettle boils, immediately pour the water over the leaves. Depending on the brand of tea I am using, I let it steep between 3 and 5 minutes. If you prefer a stronger brew, add more tea, do not steep it longer; that will only make it bitter.

Loose tea leaves make the best tea; the next best is a decently-bagged tea, such as PG Tips. And despite having numerous coffee shops and tea vendors here in Rochester, the only place I have found that consistently has PG Tips available is WalMart.

Chai Spice Tea is a Redundancy

Why? Because the very word “chai” means “tea.” So you’re saying “tea spice tea,” in much the same way as you’re saying “the the Angels Angels” when you say “the Los Angeles Angels.”

What you mean is Masala chai, which translated from the Hindi means, quite literally, “mixed-spice tea.”

Regardless of what you call it, what you’re getting when you order it at fast-food places is not true Masala chai, but rather an insipid blend of powdered tea mixed with chemical fragrances and flavorings. If you want the real thing, you’ve got to go somewhere they know how to make it—usually high-end tea houses, Indian restaurants, or (I hate to say it) Starbucks or Teavana.

Or make your own.

But Robyn, Is There a Point to This Discussion?

Sorry, I got carried away. It’s easy to do with a passion.

The main point is that making a cup or a pot of tea is my favorite calming ritual. Emptying the old water from the kettle and replacing it with fresh cold water, putting the kettle on to boil, measuring the tea into the teapot (after warming the pot with hot water), pouring the boiling water over the leaves and letting the tea steep…all these steps require my concentration, and help to clear my mind and calm me.

In fact, whenever I get stuck for an idea to blog about, my favorite two methods of achieving inspiration are walking about my apartment and brewing a nice cuppa.

Try it…it works.

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