Tea can be so many things to so many different people.
My mother-in-law loves her milk tea. Cha. Every day, morning and afternoon, the loose black tea leaves roll in a boil on the stove, smelling of warm milk and ginger. The aroma of her tea is a gentle “good morning” every day in her house.
I love sweet tea. Available in gallon jugs at the grocery store or at home straight from a plastic pitcher full of Luzianne tea bags, sweet tea is the drink of the South. On a scorching, humid day, while I’m on the run, a swallow of sweet tea is a cool “hello!” that helps keep me going.
I’ve never known my mother-in-law to try cold, sweet tea, and I’ve never been too fond of her warm milk tea. No problem. To each his own, right?
However, we decided our worlds should meet halfway and go to a nearby English tea house with a southern twist. So, my mom, my Mom-in-law, and a dear family friend hopped in the car and made our way to the historic district of our small suburban city for a “Southern English Tea.”
The tea house is located in a historic home on Main Street in our small suburb. The town is over one hundred and eighty years old…young by most of the worlds’ standards, but ancient by standards of the South. The little house that houses the tea house has a fireplace in every room, creaky wood floors, and low ceilings. As I walked inside the tiny foyer, and onto the screened porch, I felt the ghosts of the first homeowners passing us, perhaps inviting us to have a “sit on the porch for a while and enjoy the breeze.”
We ladies did “have a sit” at a white-clothed table, near a coat rack draped in feather boas and hats. Many of the women around us wore these accessories in fun, but we were a little too self-conscious to don the fun. The menu featured traditional English Teas, with scones and lemon butter, and curried chicken croissants. The list of teas was long, and my mouth watered over the delicious choices…60 hot teas, and a choice of mint or peach iced teas. This may be an English tea house, but no restaurant would be complete without peach or mint! We were in Georgia, for goodness sake!
Trying to branch out, I had a cinnamon spice tea, which was delightful. We all had a wonderful time trying different flavors and sharing what we liked. The curried chicken croissant was to-die-for, and I wished my vegetarian companions could enjoy it, too. But, while Mom and I enjoyed the chicken, Mom-in-law and Friend enjoyed salads and vegetarian soups.
We entered the gift shop to pay our bill, all of us “full-as-a-tick-on-a-coonhound,” as my crazy Indian-with-a-drawl husband would say. Surrounded by British tea sets and locally made candies and handmade soaps, I think I felt the ghosts again, mingling with us in the crowd. In one room was a collection of souls, past and present, of different worlds. Warmed, welcomed, and smiling. The cashier handed me my change, each of us a tin of our favorite tea to take home, and said, “Thanks for coming. Ya’ll have a good day.”
We opened the door, stepped into the breeze under the ancient oak tree in the yard, and headed for the car. I knew you’d be able to find me relaxing in the evening over a warm cup of my new cinnamon tea.
But tomorrow afternoon, you’d better believe, I’ll be driving around in my minivan, listening to a Disney movie playing in the back and bickering boys.