Tea Time In Eorrid
It's that time again, for the kettle to boil, the water to pour, the sweet familiar aroma of joy to hit you, and the long-celebrated taste of tea to reach your mouth!
I know my readers of Rise to Dust are partially British and partially American. So, for those who do not drink tea, I shall lay out it's wonders and why it is an important part of my books as well.
I pride myself in my dedication to tea in both its understanding and consumption. My mother is English and I grew up having many mugs of it a day. Now it is my primary liquid intake. I drink almost exclusively this, with an occasional vitamin water in between. I do drink all types but I mainly drink PG tips and Tetley British Blend, which is a black tea. I take it with two teaspoons of sugar and whole milk.
The taste is indescribable. I feel like a writer, fueled with the imagination of words and deep thought. I feel like an ancient being, who after years of ware in a withering time, finds a moment of simple respite. I feel close to my friends, and close to my favorite writer Tolkien, especially in his elven culture that was based upon the understanding of the Earth and the elves place in it. When the quick fires of the world were burning, the elves were moving slow, reflecting on their long histories, which I do as well when drinking.
I have had tea after every bad day and every good one. I have said often that I have to care to eat or sleep and only do so because my body demands it of me, yet I would drink tea even if I didn't require liquid to live. I remember drinking it with my dear friends in moments of grief after I had lost animals. I remember drinking it to celebrate chapters in my life like graduation, birthdays and the completion of my book. In fact, it was beside me every time I wrote it. So, I think it is only natural that it is an important part of my worlds in writing.
One who drinks it understands all of its power to comfort you. It is like the breath of fresh air when you first wake after a long night of nightmares. Tea has been used in culture and ceremony across the world for many generations. Okakura Kakuzo wrote in his 1906 Book of Tea, "Teaism is a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence. It inculcates purity and harmony, the mystery of mutual charity, the romanticism of the social order...Tea is more than an idealization of the form of drinking; it is a religion of the art of life."
I can hardly think of any other beverage more moving and potent that is good for you. Green tea is perhaps the healthiest drink in the world in moderation due to its antioxidants and minerals. I could write an entire blog or short book on the properties of real world tea, but I will leave that for another time.
Yet when tea appears in my books, it is of course, no accident. It is used in many ways. One way is as a device to describe culture. Amelia drinks Rustmellow tea, which is even in its name, a clear contrast from the type of tea prince Kythes drinks.
The characters later brew a tea from Agreth flowers and apples they find in the wild. They call this tea, Lionroot tea. Now I will confess, because there is no actual tea leaves in this brew, it is actually identified as a tisane, but nonetheless, it allows them to come together in a simple way to examine how all their cultural backgrounds have differed. Kythes speaks of how he took it with sugar and milk, while Mreavus explains he likes it without that. This shows a bit more of his darker personality in the very color of the brew, versus Kythes who is softer and brighter in spirit. Amelia describes how she can drink it both ways, but only since arriving at the castle did she drink it with milk.
Kythes goes on to describe his dream of writing about tea and drinking it as he grew old in peace. This is a rare moment for Kythes that we get to see what he actually wants, and the duplicitous simplicity of tea as a device to give insight. Luana describes her Blisterwood tea, which makes the group cringe at its sound. I would doubt it would be an actual tea, more of a tisane with some kind of heavy wood smell like a real world Russian Caravan tea.
Kythes explains to Luana about the trade of tea, which is an important historical explanation as it shows a bit more of how the interconnectivity of the surrounding continents and its internal cities trade resources with another. I was very aware in my writing in what each city specialized in so that the landscape around it would make geographic and historical sense on my maps.
Tea is consumed again in moments of grief for the characters after the main tragedy. Just as it had been used for me. It is a small constant in a world of fleeting permanence. And that small fact gives hope.
Overall, I hope that my audience takes on some of the magic of such a simple thing and understands how it makes up much of their culture. I will say it here, that there is no coffee whatsoever in my entire world. I do not drink it in life and neither do my characters. While I love its smell and there is an allure of the coffee shop, it is not a culture I am a part of. And when tea for me borders on being a pseudo-religion, I think it should remain potent in all my writing to come.
If you would like to know more of my opinions on this and some more about the actual teas I drink, let me know down below. Perhaps you are even inspired to brew a cup for yourself.
(Fun fact: All actual tea is green tea, from the plants of Camellia family. The difference in black, red and white comes from when it is harvested and if it is allowed to ferment or not.)