Counter Intelligence: Tea for Two

One of the things that makes me most feel like a grown up is my deep affinity for a nice cup of tea.

It started in college, when I would routinely work in my dorm's dining hall late at night. The very lovely Cabot Dining Hall staff members (who truly deserve a post all in their own), usually left out cookies, cakes, bagels, and toast for hungry students to munch on through the night (Brain Break! so good). Along with that, they'd usually keep the soda running and, if you had been around long enough, you knew how easy it was to turn on the hot coccoa machine and the juice fountain. They also, though, left out dozens of mugs and kept the coffee and hot water dispensers turned on.

I think I probably started drinking tea mostly because the water was very, very hot, and I was very, very cold, and when you're working your way through 300 pages of reading a night, sometimes you just need something to do, even if it's just routinely making undrunk cups of tea. But! Eventually I did start drinking them, and stumbled upon how truly lovely it is to sit with a cup of tea on a rainy day.

My various favorite blends and flavors have changed throughout the years. Like so many people, I was for a time lured by the rich, fragrant sweetness of chai tea (the very first time I ever had it was 2001, when my brother and I did our Christmas shopping at Borders. The sweet smell of chai tea wafted throughout the whole building, until finally we walked up the cafe area and said "We want two cups of whatever is making this place smell so amazing." Immediately sold.).

I do still hold a special fondness for chai--a box of the stuff is sitting in my cabinet now--but since then I've pared down my tastes. My favorite right now is basic black tea (generally Bigelow's English Teatime) with a tablespoon of honey and a splash of skim milk. I leave the tea bag in the cup to steep, so that it gets stronger and stronger. Even if I forget to drink all of it before it stays hot, the cold tea is strong and flavorful, crisp and refreshing.

While I drink tea every single morning (I am not a "coffee" person, but I do have a pretentious NPR-style disdain for coffee drinkers), I actually don't own anything to make tea for myself (aside from a big pot, but where's the charm in that?). No kettles, teapots, or strainers, and even the mugs at home are loners from my roommates. Not for lack of desire though, I love teapots (check out my little URL icon)--the cheerful colors, the bright little whistle, the endearing song (you know the one!). My dearth of mugs, though, just seems to indicate that I haven't had too many life experiences (it seems like they all come with mugs. Witness my parents' collection of more than 2 dozen of mugs from countless grateful students and corporate events).

Yes, I love tea and teapots and mugs and I would happily build my own lovely collection, but I am picky and discerning in my choices. For mugs, they have to be large, plain, not too heavy, and not have a cover. Ceramic, not plastic, and hopefully matching (I get that I'm crossing the line from cute to neurotic. I guess we all have our pitfalls?). I like teapots in either bright bold colors with a classic Mrs. Potts shape (did you ever wonder where Mr. Potts was and whether all the teacups were her kids or just Chip?) or the vintage wide-bottomed and flat copper kettles. Oh, or! The teapot in the background of the Flight of the Conchords openning montage (watch it here! Then watch "Carol Brown" and also, if you have time, the original live version of "The Humans are Dead." Ok. Back to teapots). It is an adorable squat little thing in a sunny yellow and if I stumbled upon it in a hipsterish street fair in Brooklyn I would love it with all my tea-filled heart.

But, since I'm still waiting for that special teapot to sweep me off my feet (I am leaning towards this one, but I don't know, something just doesn't seem right), here are some of the more beautiful tea-related things I've discovered. I fear that soon enough my online tea shopping will turn to musings on grills and ice cream makers, while I curse my apartment for its lack of air conditioning, but while New York stays dreary, rainy, and cold, I'll keep dreaming of tea time.

These are flowering tea blossoms, and they are impossibly lovely
Hand-sewn tea leaves expand and bloom when dropped into hot water
You can watch a beautiful, mesmerizing video of them here

The nice thing about the blooming tea blossoms is they're served in clear teapots
I would worry that these glass pots would get too hot, but they do look very pretty

Why yes, that is a teapot in the shape of a giant lime robot.
Notice the bolt of electricity which forms the handle?

Unsurprisingly, given my last post on crockery, Urban Outfitters has some sweet, simple mugs
These are technically capuccino mugs, but they are so bright, bold, and cheerful

A kama sutra teapot.
Works out kinda amazingly well, given the Twister-limbs

This is Crispus Attucks' teapot.
I saw it in real life a few years ago when I took a class on New England artifacts
My professor, who discovered the teapot and put it on the cover of her book, was like
"We just thought it looked cute, and then we actually realized what it was."
It is cute, and tiny.

It's a Wallace teapot! And he's holding a cuppa tea!
*Head splode with happiness*

More Urban mugs. They didn't have K. They never have K...

I'll leave you with a video of one of the best tea songs out there, sung by, natch, Julie Andrews.
When I was a little duckling dreaming of being Shirley Temple I used to tap dance to this (and sometimes still do!)


  1. Well, UO might not, but Anthropologie does. Maybe not online, but it's out there! I promise! I dragged Adam to Anthropologie because I wanted to look in person at these. And I saw all of the beautiful monogrammed mugs , etc. You should check it out!

  2. Ooh, those are very lovely. I like the monogrammed mugs, but there's something a little pretentious about them. Maybe I would get them to spell something out (like "TEA"!)