sunflower tea

1001 nights of summer

A step inside, off the bright, busy street and into a dark corridor. Before your eyes can adjust you are moving, down a spiral staircase into a small room brimming with cushions and low tables. On the tables, candles, flickering the shadows of teapots on the walls. You order tea. When the tea comes, you pour it over the rock sugar in the bottom of your cup. The tea is golden, a hypnotic blend of black and green tea and sunflower petals. No words can describe the flavour, and yet, you can never forget the taste. It is the lazy gold of a summer’s afternoon, distilled into a cup of tea.

Photo: 1001 Nights of Summer at Same Fusy in Warsaw, Poland.

Some like it hot

‘After a cup of tea (two spoonsful for each cup, and don’t let it stand more than three minutes,) it says to the brain, “Now, rise, and show your strength. Be eloquent, and deep, and tender; see, with a clear eye, into Nature and into life; spread your white wings of quivering thought, and soar, a god-like spirit, over the whirling world beneath you, up through long lanes of flaming stars to the gates of eternity!’
― Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat

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I like my tea hot, and I like it to stay hot while I jam away to Brooke Fraser while editing my chapters. Luckily for me, my brother and sister-in-law gave me a ceramic travel mug for Christmas. It has a lid, which helps keep the tea warm.

IMG_8139And then Sarah told me the trick for getting the tea to stay hot for even longer: first pour boiling water into the mug and once the mug itself is warm, discard the water and then brew the tea in it. Presto! Hot tea that stays hot until I finish it! (Okay, with one or two exceptions, but I’m impressed by how long my tea stays hot in this mug.)

The only problem? The ceramic would get so hot I couldn’t hold the mug. The solution: for my nifty travel mug, I would knit a stylish travel sleeve.

And so I did. I used the Woven Cable Coffee Mug Sleeve pattern from A Tight Knit Gathering Blog. Fingers no longer scalded by hot surfaces, hooray.

Now I just need a tea cozy for my teapot and then I will be sorted for piping hot tea for finishing the rest of my PhD!

The Lady of the Vistula

I never did finish posting about my trip to Poland. Well, after Krakow and the Wielizcka Salt Mines, Lola and I went to Warsaw.

First we went to the Palace of Culture, which was a gift from Stalin to the Polish people. People say that it offers the best views of Warsaw because you can’t see the Palace of Culture, but I thought it had more character than the ugly modern skyscrapers built around it. Why is it called the Palace of Culture? Well, it’s one of the largest buildings in Europe, consisting of a number of auditoriums, museums, theatres, and various arts centres. Near the top of the Palace of Culture is a viewing terrace which does, in fact, offer the best views of Warsaw.

I particularly liked that from above you could see that the crosswalks are painted to look like a piano keyboard. Frederick Chopin is from Warsaw, after all. His heart is buried in Holy Cross Church in Warsaw (his body is in Paris).

Copernicus is also from Poland. One of the (many) statues of him has him looking down on a model of the Solar System. Lola and I have a long-running joke that I’m ‘like the Earth!’ so I couldn’t pass up a photo-op of being the Earth.

We spent most of our time in Old Town — wandering around and doing some souvenir shopping for me. On our way to the Warsaw Renik we passed Death and the Bear. Death bore us no ill will. Upon learning that the bear is an enchanted prince, cursed until his true love kisses to wake him, I kissed his nose — but alas, no Polish prince for me.

In the Renik is the protectress of Warsaw. This guardian who defends Warsaw from harm is none other than a mermaid from the Baltic Sea who came to live in the Vistula river. More a siren, or syrenka, than a mermaid, she is fearsome to behold.

(Yes, I did buy a replica of her. How could I not? She is too much like Melusine to be left out of my desk collection of medieval romance figures.)

In a basement in Old Town is one of the best tea houses I have ever been to. Same Fusy was small and cosy, with tables made of tree trunkes, candlelit, and Agnes Obel softly playing from the speakers. We spent ages choosing which specialty tea we wanted and chose 1001 Nights of Summer. I have never tasted more delicious tea.

  This, my friends, is the perfect essence of tea.

Ode to tea

Tea is the elixir of life.

The best cuppa is made by pouring just-boiled water over teabags in a teapot. Our household prefers Yorkshire tea. Once the tea has steeped a suitable amount of time — approximately two minutes — then one pours the tea into cups. I’ll let you in on a secret: tea tastes best when one already has milk in the cup when one pours the tea. Milk, no sugar. The perfect cuppa.

Tea: how such a simple thing can both calm and fortify the spirit! Its warmth relaxes and enlivens, awakening the mind and warming the blood to press onward, to greet the day and see it through. Tea can help alleviate any problem. Someone’s just recalled your book? Drink a cup of tea. Don’t know where this chapter is going? Tea. Depressed by the employment outlook in your field? Tea. Worried about paying back your student loans? Tea. No really, tea.

Yes, tea is essentially just flavoured hot water. Yet its virtues come not only from texture or taste, but also in the very act of production. One has to stop what one is doing, wait for the kettle to boil, wait for the tea to steep, wait for the tea to cool enough to drink without burning one’s mouth. Drinking tea is a lesson in waiting; compelling the drinker to pause and to reflect. Tea clears the mind, calms the spirit, comforts the heart.

When in doubt, drink tea.