by Guest Blogger Christy Potter
[Editor’s note: Christy’s first and sadly only contribution to our blog — we wish her the best.]

I was raised to be many things: a creative thinker, a strong woman, and a coffee drinker. Black, specifically, brewed in the early morning and traded for decaf in the afternoon. When I became a full-time journalist, coffee was as essential to the newsroom as ink. Now, although I do still like coffee, I’m an avowed tea drinker.

It wasn’t that I didn’t like tea when I was growing up. I liked it fine, but I never aspired to be old enough to drink it. There was no magic, no mystery to tea. I got tea with honey when I was sick, my grandmothers and aunts drank it in little china cups, my parents had it iced in the summer, and I could sneak as many sips as I wanted and no one said, “Hey, you’re not old enough to drink that.”

Lots of types of tempting teas! (ETS image)

Lots of types of tempting teas! (ETS image)

Where’s the fun in that?

My conversion to tea was gradual, subtle: a little herbal on a cold evening, a big mug of green when I was feeling virtuous, a hand-selected bag from the wooden box the waiter would bring around after dinner in my favorite restaurant.

Then in 2009, I was in England for the Birmingham Book Festival and on my first afternoon in the city, someone offered me a cup of tea and I said, right out loud, “Oh, thank heavens.” I stopped myself in my tracks with that. I not only wanted tea, I’d apparently been craving it. And I don’t think it was just that I was so comfortably ensconced in the tea capital of the world. Somewhere along the way, I’d gone and fallen in love with the stuff.

Since that day, although I’ve not been back to England, I have developed a collection of tea that would make Prince Charles weep with joy, and I’m always on the prowl for new varieties. Fruit herbals, white tea blends, chai from India, Rooibos from South Africa, and canisters I bought in Asian markets and can’t even read. I experiment with tea pots, cozies, infusers, tea balls, filtered water, tap water… The day I found a British market in New York City that sells giant boxes of PG Tips, I literally shrieked. The woman behind the counter almost dropped the Cornish pasty she was making.

And that, I finally realized, is what I love most about tea. One little bag can reach across cultures and continents, bringing me a taste of what’s out there, beyond my four walls. It’s a universal thing, tea, crossing borders and opening doors, giving visitors to foreign lands something familiar, something warm, to hold while they get acclimated to their surroundings.

For me, a cup of tea is more than a beverage or a break in my working day – it’s a celebration. When I find a new variety from another country, I call it my Ambassador in a Bag, and I give a little nod of thanks with the first sip.

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