Incongruously, for a wintery night powdered in snow, the tea is called Raspberry Cream Pie. It’s a rooibos, and its full of rose petals, honest-to-goodness frozen blackberries, and crystallised pink sugar. If you’re very disturbed, don’t worry. You’re in good company. The pink crystallised sugar gave us a turn too.
It’s not a bad tea though. Exceedingly sweet, but after the revelation about the crystallised sugar, that’s hardly a surprise. It also tastes powerfully of raspberry, which shouldn’t be surprising except for the utter lack of raspberry in evidence. All told, it’s a strange tea. Not, as we say, bad, but we’re not sure rooibos is supposed to be sweet. What we love about rooibos is its spice and zing, and it’s hard to detect any of that under all the crystallised pink sugar. Of course, it might help if we had a sweet tooth for things that weren’t peppermint squares and lemon-flavoured.
It’s billed as a dessert tea, and it’s undeniably that. Decadent on a level that’s worthy of a pre-Raphaelite painting. We have to say, our favourite dessert tea was called Secret Weapon. It was a white tea, full of almonds, liquorice root, orange peel and cornflowers. It was also our get-out-clause when we wanted a sweet after a meal during Lent seasons past. They don’t make it any more that we know of. But we say this because we want to drive home that a sweet tea doesn’t have to taste like confectionary or candy floss. Now, to be fair, Raspberry Cream Pie tastes more like a Cranachan that someone left the oats out of, but that’s hardly what your average tea-drinker goes into a cup of rooibos expecting. It certainly wasn’t what we were expecting.
But perhaps what’s most incongruous is that we’re getting this tea in an Advent Calendar. A few sweet teas in winter don’t warrant a raised eyebrow, not really. But raspberries in December? Where are they getting them from?
After all that, here’s a poem a bit more in season. It talks of mists and steam, and the kind of weather that we associate with a Scottish winter, and the kind of china that by rights belongs in harbour cafes. Blue and white pottery, you know the kind. We first came across it -the poem, not the pottery – in Ten Poems about Tea and at first reading we glanced off of it. It wasn’t obviously witty, it didn’t make us laugh, it didn’t rhyme -and yet it’s better stamped on our brains than some of the more obvious pieces in that collection. Without further ado then, here is Eavan Boland’s In Season.
The man and woman on the blue and white
mug we have owned for so long
we can hardly remember
where we got it
are not young. They are out walking in
a cobalt dusk under the odd azure of
going towards each other with hands outstretched.
Suddenly this evening, for the first time,
I wondered how will they find each other?
For so long they have been circling the small circumference
of an ironstone cup that they have forgotten,
if they ever really knew it, earth itself.
This top to bottom endlessly turning world
in which they only meet
each other meeting
has no seasons, no intermission; and if
they do not know when light is rearranged
according to the usual celestial ordinance –
tides, stars, a less and later dusk –
and if they never noticed
the cotton edge of the curtains brightening earlier
on a spring morning after the clocks have changed
and changed again, it can only be
they have their own reasons, since
they have their own weather (a sudden fog,
tinted rain) which they have settled into
so that the kettle steam, the splash of new tea are
a sought-after climate endlessly folded
into a rinsed horizon.