Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Zen in a Cup

When Spousal Unit and I were getting ready to leave New Mexico, the bookstore manager, Michael, came to work one day with a box full of tea as a going-away gift. And by "a box full of tea," I mean a box with at least ten packages of tea, about a quarter of a pound each.

A lot of friggin' tea.

He said it's from a place he and his wife love, near where they lived before New Mexico - Willoughby's. If I remember right, there were five different kinds of tea in the box: Earl Grey with Blue Flowers (black), Gyokuro Jade Dew (green tea), Gardens of Provence (herbal), Ti Kuan Yin Oolong, and Russian Caravan (a blend).

"It's for you, but if Spousal Unit likes it too, that's a bonus," he said, and went on about his work. As though he hadn't just given me a two-year supply of tea.

I was incredibly touched. I hadn't expected anything at all from him, and his sincere, thoughtful gift spoke volumes. I've thought of him and his wife every time I drink the tea he gifted - which is often.

Of my two favorites, I was most surprised at the oolong.


(picture from Willoughby's website)

It's flavored like a lighter version of green tea, and is apparently the "monkey-picked" tea of legend (you can read one version of the legend in Cloud Tea Monkeys, a beautiful book). This oolong is perfect for a moment of relaxation on a weekend, when you can just sit while you enjoy a cup or two and ponder all the good in the world.

But my favorite one by far is the Russian Caravan.

(picture from Willoughby's website)

While this one is mostly black, its flavor is much lighter than that, thanks to the oolong mixed in. It also has keemun tea in the mix, which is one of the ingredients in English Breakfast tea.

I've been living by this one in the mornings, now that I have an actual commute to undertake. I miss being able to walk to work every day, but if I have to drive, I like doing it with a cup of this tea. (I am apparently too much of a tea snob to drink it in anything other than a mug now - meaning, no travel cups. I can taste plastic in the tea if I do that.)

When I drink this on the drive to work, I can almost forget where I'm going. Not enough to miss my turn - fortunately or unfortunately - but enough to have a moment of zen in the little bubble of my car. And it's that last push toward waking up my brain, too.

I think I'll have that cup early this morning.

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