Old Friends

It’s Advent IV and the question has really become how we got here so fast. We never think of December as going fast, as say, February, but it does. Perhaps it’s because we spend the brunt of it counting down. One way or another though, we’re here with days, not weeks, to spare before Christmas.

Today featured two really lovely teas. We began with Winter Earl Grey. It tasted suspiciously like a pet St Andrean tea by the name of Arctic Fire. We used to get it from Glasgow, from Tchai-Ovna tea house, and it famously featured cornflowers in the ingredients. You could see them, all these little blue flowers in among the leaves. So on a white we chased up the ingredients to Winter Earl Grey because it tasted less of Bergamot and more of Arctic Fire’s cornflowers. Sure enough, they’re in the ingredients. There’s some peppercorns in it too for an extra-christmassy touch and the result is one of the best teas we’ve had from DavidsTea in a while. The calendar doesn’t feature any of it’s typical gift certificates or bargain coupons this year, but we’re putting it on our list of things to buy in larger quantities post-Christmas anyway.

After that we went off to church, where we have so thoroughly lost patience with the sequencing hymn being everlastingly Creator of the Starry Night all Advent long that we’ve gone well and truly rogue and started swapping in our own selections from the New English Hymnal. This, by the way, took us down a whole liturgical rabbit hole. We looked up the ecclesiastical guide to the direction of music in the Anglican Church of Canada and everything, just in case there was some obscure rule about how sequencing humans had to be in plainsong. They don’t. Unless you’re really, really Anglo-Catholic. We thought we were, but apparently musical instinct trumps theology every time with us. And the best part is that because Mass is virtual, no one is being tormented by our rejection of the prescribed music. We’ve even started swapping in communion hymns, because we just can’t be doing with staring at the ‘Act of Spiritual Communion’ slide mutely while the cantor and priest take communion. It’s been great.

Once we’d sung the Mass and thrown all the rules out the window we had the tea from Germany. This one was also an old friend, also from Tchai-Ovna. Only they, and we, call it Milk Oolong and this one was Milky Oolong. It’s six of one, half a dozen of the other though. It’s the same, creamy oolong we’ve been buying from Glasgow for years. Or at least it’s a version of it. We knew it was the same the minute we saw the leaves, which have a very distinctive burl to them. We suppose lots of oolongs have that but these have a very distinctive smell, because they’re trying for a certain creaminess. It’s a lovely, lovely tea. Indeed, we used to have it regularly when we hosted After Church After Church tea. (That’s not a redundancy, it’s the technical name for the tea you have with people after you have already had tea at the church Agape together.)

So all round a bit of a nostalgic look back at old tea favourites, and we have absolutely no complaints about that. It’s always fun finding a new tea but sometimes nothing beats the tried and tested. In the same vein, here’s a well-beloved poem to go with well-beloved teas.

Robert Frost

I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth —
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches’ broth —
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.

What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?–
If design govern in a thing so small.

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