Not just a cup of tea

Tuesday, November 17, 2020 - 12:21am

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Loverna Journey via Unsplash

My tea makes people fall in love.

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First, gather your materials: a mug that gives you the most comfort, your favorite type of milk, some fresh ginger, black pepper, sugar and, of course, your tea leaves. I stick to Lipton black tea.

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Growing up in a household that places an emphasis on familial connection, I don’t realize how much I miss that connection until I go back home after a hectic few weeks on campus. I grew up in a bustling house with seven people and then spent my middle and high school years with my immediate family in a house of four. There was always something going on: people talking, the TV blaring, music playing and the sounds of an elaborate meal being prepared in the kitchen. These were the sounds of my life for 18 years, and I didn’t realize how much I took it for granted until I came to college. Suddenly, I found myself craving the presence of someone who truly knows me, someone who understands my moods and feelings. Someone who knows me to my core, like only family can. Many college nights were spent feeling lonely despite having so many friends around me because I always felt like I was acting. 

Those feelings of loneliness faded when I went back home for the weekend. The minute I enter my house, I shed all insecurities and doubts that stick to my skin whenever I’m in Ann Arbor and just let myself go. I let go of the feeling that I need to be a certain way around certain types of people, because who am I around my family if not myself? Coming home turns a little part of me back into a child, able to ignore some of the worries of the world. Whenever I return to Novi, I can truly say that I’m home in a way Ann Arbor, as much fun as I have there, never can be.

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Boil some water. While that’s going, grate your ginger gently but firmly. Make sure to retrieve all of the flakes that come out. Throw them into your saucepan. When the water is boiled, take your mug and pour half a cup of milk with half a cup of water into it. I like soy milk with my chai, but use whatever makes you happy.

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Comfort: to give strength and hope to, as defined by Merriam-Webster. As a verb, this is an intentional action one takes to make those around them, or themselves, feel better. Comfort comes in all forms — encouraging words, acts of service or even just a hug.

Comfort is something that we oftentimes view as being soft and fragile, maybe something that makes us feel weak if we ever need it. But I’ve come to realize that comfort itself is a form of energy. We find comfort when we practice our love language, and when we receive our love language from someone. Being cared for is necessary to have the motivation to continue with life, whether that care is coming from yourself or someone else.

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Pour the water and milk mixture into the saucepan with the ginger, and turn the stove on to the highest setting. While this mixture is heating up, add some black pepper and sugar. I twist my pepper shaker an even number of times, either 2 or 4, and add half a tablespoon of sugar.

In a couple minutes, this will all start to boil over. Right before the liquid starts pouring out of the saucepan, change the stove settings to medium and move the saucepan to the side. Put about 1-1.5 tablespoons of tea leaves into the pot, then move it back to the original burner and turn the stove back up to the highest setting.

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Our living room in Novi is connected to our kitchen, and in that in-between space is my happy place. With a hot water kettle on the counter and boxes of various tea leaves, coffee, sugar and honey carefully tucked away in the mahogany cabinets, I can create the most comforting cup of tea for myself and my family. Starting in high school, my afternoon routine went like this: I would come home from school, shower, go to the kitchen and make a cup of tea for myself and my mom. We have a running joke now where my mom always knows I’m going to ask her if she wants tea (I ask even though I always know she’ll say yes), so she looks at me and starts nodding before I even ask my question. Both of us erupting in a fit of giggles, I then start boiling the water and begin the preparations to make the tea.

Making tea isn’t something I just do for myself; I make tea for my friends and family as an act of love. When I make tea for someone, it’s a sign that I care for their happiness and wellbeing. A cup of tea doesn’t just make the moment warm and sweet, but it reenergizes you for the rest of your day. This energy comes not just through the caffeine, but through the knowledge that the person who made it for you cares deeply about your wellbeing. When your loved one makes tea for you, it’s an offering from them that shows there is someone on your side. I’m a person who isn’t necessarily the best at showing my emotions through spoken word; I can write my feelings out all day, but when it comes to explaining my love to someone face to face, I freeze. Making tea made me realize that we all have our own unique ways of showing our love, rather than just saying it.

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At this point, you must keep an eye on the tea at all times. It will start rising, and you will have to repeatedly turn the heat down, move the saucepan while the liquid settles, then put it back on the burner and turn the stove back to high. Do this a couple times, then let it simmer for a bit at a medium heat setting. Remember to watch at all times, and notice the color deepening to a shade akin to wet sand.

When the color reaches your desired shade, turn off the stove and use a mini strainer to pour the tea into your mug. When the tea leaves and ginger collect in the strainer, use a spoon to gently press down on the residue to get the most liquid into your mug.

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Obviously, I know it isn’t my tea that makes people fall for me. I am well aware of all of the qualities I possess that make me a wonderful, caring human being who anyone would be blessed to have in their life. But being the person I am, I often struggle to show how deeply I truly care about a person with just my words. I know what I feel, but when it comes to telling them, I tend to shy away. As of now, I rely on my actions to speak for my thoughts and feelings, and thus pour all of my love into the things I do for the people in my life. As fantasized as this sounds, I truly believe that the love I pour into each cup of tea has a bit of magic in it.

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This is why I always return to my tea nook. I return to my childhood home not just to sleep in and do my laundry, but to exercise one of the most important acts that reminds my family that no matter how far away I am or how little I come home, my love will always be shown in every cup of tea I make.

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Dispose of the leftover tea leaves and wash the saucepan. You will be left with a cup of chai that will remind you of all the blessings of the world.