The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

January 13, 2013

Tea lover extols its virtues

KEVIN CULLEN
Commercial-News

I just read an interesting lifestyle story by Laura Ungar of The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky.

It begins: “Worldwide, tea is the second-most-popular drink, after water. But in this coffee-crazed nation, it’s long been a subordinate brew. Until now. Tea’s popularity is growing across America as scientists and the public learn more about bountiful health benefits.”

Approximately 160 million Americans drink tea on a given day, and the number is growing.

Tea fights cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure, studies show.

It’s nice to be ahead of the curve, for once in my life.

My father came from a family of coffee drinkers, but he preferred tea. He was my hero, so when I was about 6, I started drinking tea, too. I added one level teaspoon of sugar, and just a smidgen more, just like Dad. I can still hear him say, “Cuppa tea, Bee?” (He called me Beezer). We drank tea together until he died in 1991.

He also introduced me to “real” tea. That began with an early-1960s trip to Lincoln Square, the indoor shopping mall in downtown Urbana. There was a tea shop there, so Dad bought a can of “Irish Breakfast” loose tea for me. I had never seen loose tea before.

Back home, we found an old aluminum tea ball that my Grandmother Cullen had. Dad spooned in the tea and screwed the lid on. Into the teapot it went, followed by boiling water. A few minutes later, we were sipping “real” tea. I was charmed by the process; the tea tasted better, too.

Our tea drinking continued through the years. Dad and I were tea drinkers in a world full of percolators, Maxwell House and Folgers. I grew up and moved away, but we resumed our little father-son tea ritual whenever I came home.

Later, Laurie and I bought a house on Park Street in Danville. Dad stopped by every Saturday morning. Laurie would fix the bacon and eggs, and I would make a pot of old-fashioned tea.

Fast forward 30 years. Dad is long gone, but I still look forward to my morning tea. I boil two cups of water in an electric kettle, spoon loose tea into the tea ball and warm the tea pot. The instant the water hits those dried leaves, magic begins.

Tea is both a caffeine jolt and a soothing friend. My favorites are “China black” and Nambarrie, a favorite in Great Britain for 150 years.

Gladstone once wrote: “If you are cold, tea will warm you; if you are heated, tea will cool you; if you are depressed, tea will cheer you; if you are excited, tea will calm you.”

Colley Cibber, England’s poet laureate from 1730 to 1757, took things much further:

“Tea! Thou soft, thou sober sage and venerable liquid! Thou female tongue-running, smile-soothing, heart-opening, wink-tittling cordial, to whose glorious insipidity I owe the happiest moments of my life, let me fall prostrate!”

Umm … and it’s good for you, too.

Danville native Kevin Cullen is a former Commercial-News reporter. Reach him at irishhiker@aol.com.