I grew up north of the Mason-Dixon and did not experience my first sip of sweet tea until my first house-hunting adventure to Georgia. What a difference there is to fresh brewed sweet tea compared to the lemony-powdered instant tea that my mother served. (No offense, Mom.) I’ve become a southern girl through-and-through because if a restaurant does not serve sweet tea, I’ll resort to water. How can they deny their guests this sweet delight?!

Regardless of your taste for sweet or unsweet tea, did you know that there are more tea drinkers in the world than coffee drinkers?  The top ten countries for tea consumption surprised me.

One of my favorite boutique olive oil stores recently began selling loose leaf tea, so a new adventure began. There was a lot to learn: the growing altitude of the plant, the amount of caffeine in the various types and even the correct brewing temperature for the perfect cup of tea. Then there is the question of milk or no milk and sugar or no sugar. I enjoyed tea with milk once at a cousin’s whose wife was from Egypt. It was pure delight, and I wish I knew the type of loose leaf she used. Milk would not do in my favorite Heavenly White tea, but I do have to add just a bit of sweetener, in my case, Agave, but honey works as well.

The Japanese have taken the preparation and presentation of tea to an art form called Chadō. If you ever have the opportunity to enjoy a true Japanese tea ceremony, I would recommend it.

We can learn just a little from the Japanese Chadō. Tea preparation is a process that requires one to slow down and be patient. Take these winter months to lose yourself in the preparation of your tea; boil the water to just the right temperature, prepare the loose leaf in an infuser, let the tea steep just the proper amount of time. Maybe bring out an heirloom tea cup or Russian tea glass (my favorite) and enjoy a freshly brewed cup of tea. If you let it, it will relax the mind and bring you into the present to enjoy these winter days.