There is makeshift stall in the Cambridge Market that sells different kinds of tea (it also sells different kinds of coffee, but I don’t care about coffee). Charlotte, Holly and I run there in the unpredictable rain to see his collection. No, he says when I ask him, he doesn’t own a store—this stall alone takes up far too much of his time. It’s a hobby: a diligent one, but not a day job. It’s hard to imagine how it wouldn’t be. Each tea is sourced from around the world and delivered specifically to him. The combinations are astounding. Samples are laid out, loose, in little silver bowls, with a handwritten card detailing its name and components. The one I have fallen in love with, and that is now my ‘study tea’, is green vanilla—green tea with a hint of vanilla that lets you feel like you’re savouring the lightness of dessert in the warmth of your mug. Today, I am missing home, so I buy 70 grams of passion fruit, guava and mango green tea. It smells exotic and tastes (marginally) like mango. Which, ultimately, is the flavour I was aiming for.
There are certain habits that weave themselves into your life, waiting for the right moment to bloom into all their inherent importance. Tea has become such a habit. The horror of my dissertation has now sunk deep into my soul. I have learnt that I am intrinsically and inescapably lazy and it is not a trait that complements the rigours of academic thought. Each word feels like a tooth extraction, each idea like physical labour. Amid all this gloom (and hyperbole), however, there is tea. Two years back, I asked Charley to buy me a teapot for my birthday. It was a whim, the desire to own a pretty teapot rather than to use it. It was to be emblematic of the mornings she, Lucy and I met up for breakfast, and she made us pancakes and poured us tea and we analysed our writing and our lives. She bought one from Yorkshire, the most English teapot she could find. A year after, my father bought me another: smaller, stone and charcoal black. People began cottoning on to the trend. Ami and Lucy both bought me beautiful teacups for Christmas. Lucy’s was Japanese in design, white and gold, and Ami’s was vintage, with flowers, and a tiny Eiffel tower. If there is anything that reminds you of Ami, it is flowers.
So there is tea. These pots and teacups sit on top of my chest of drawers and speak of a collected past. And on the days I must chain myself to the desk to stop me taking a nap that I don’t need, I get to pour out tea from teapot from Yorkshire, brought by a friend who believed I needed something ‘traditionally English’ and drink a tea that tastes of mangoes (and guava and passion fruit) and that reminds me of home.
Tea makes everything better.