Stranger Days #31: Finding Tea But Never Leaving Coffee

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Welcome to stranger days--my blog series exploring daily life, challenges in times of the COVID-19 pandemic, and just sharing insights or thoughts about how to make it through these days.  

A tall 16oz stainless steel mug with "NERCOMP" on the side of it.
My mug of choice
My path to coffee is not a straightforward one--I didn't really like it or drink it until I started doing overnight work in my mid-20s. And even then, it was a half-coffee/half-chocolate mix that the Barnes & Noble cafe got me hooked on.  However, I eventually moved from expensive store-bought to doing cold-brew coffee in my fridge so that I always have a  gallon ready and a gallon brewing (I don't drink a gallon a day--to be clear; those I've definitely done half that on occasion).  But for the last 15 years, I have been firmly in #TeamCoffee.  

It doesn't mean I wouldn't drink tea but it was often a second choice beverage or my replacement for a diet soda when eating out in the last year.  But, it's funny how a pandemic and being homebound can change your habits and your tastes.

The space where I'm set up in the house is probably the least-heated room. There's not direct heat and it relies on two doors open at all times for the air circulation.  However, I usually have one door closed.  My station is also next to the window, making it the coldest place in the coldest room.  My own choosing so I can't complain.  This positioning has definitely made me feel colder over the days because I'm up early (5am'ish) when it's coldest outside and in the room. 

A glass jar of loose leaf tea with an orange teaspoon half in the jar.
The current blend.
All of which is the long way of saying, I've been getting cold and looking for something to keep me warm. I'm finding warm food or beverages fill this niche nicely but, of course, there is the trade-off of calories.  So, tea seemed like a great idea.  We have an electric kettle and oodles of tea that we've collected at different times; some bagged and some loose-leaf.  

Since it seemed like the loose-leaf didn't get consumed much, I decided to make my way through that and now, not only am I all hipster-like in cold-brewing coffee (though I'm not sure I do it all hipster-like, but I feel like, regardless of the reason, cold-brewing coffee is hipster'ish), I am not getting into loose-leaf tea to boot.  

The first bag I made my way through was a vanilla black tea mix that was nice; it had hints of sweetness. I enjoyed drinking it and it took me about 2 weeks to make my way through it (I usually use 1 teaspoon's worth and keep it for 2 fill ups of what I think is a 16oz mug).  I followed this up with mixing together two bags that I'm not even sure what they contained but at the time, I thought "what the hell, it should work."  And boy did it!  
A circular mesh next that fits over the mug and filled with tea.
Loose leaf tea ready for soaking

This new tea is like a power-lesson in tea appreciation. It's a mix of black and green (I think) and also some other interesting bits like rice--yes, rice!  I was skeptical at first too but the flavor of the rice adds such a richness of flavor that rounds out the other parts of the tea that I am finding that I want to drink it even when the goal is not to warm me up.  

I'm also growing impatient with how long it takes to cool down. My mouth is sensitive to heat and doesn't do well with it so I have to wait until something is in the 90s in order for me to be comfortable drinking it (and tasting it). 

But it's funny what you notice.  For instance, I use a particular mug; one I got from running a NERCOMP event last year. The mug is insulated, stainless steel, and ergonomically perfect for my hand. It feels nice just to hold and smell the tea rising forth.  

I've also made a clear ritual of how and when I integrate tea into my morning. When I wake up, it's coffee first. I fill my cup of coffee the night before and leave it at my desk in the morning. I've typically poured my coffee the night before and had it in the fridge. This saved me the time and coordination in the morning of pouring.  But having it in the fridge also meant walking it to the office and keep it from pouring. It also meant it was quite chill and not ideal for the first thing in the morning.  So room-temperature coffee works best (for me--and yes, I know this is extremely weird and specific but hey, you're still reading right...right?).  

The mess net for the loose-leaf tea is in the mug and is filled with water and some pieces of rice float at the top."
Tea time!
As I'm finishing my first cup, it is close to about 7am and so it's time to make the tea. I'm awake enough to actually use semi-dangerous equipment (namely, the hot water kettle).  My mug, back-up mug (where the mesh goes after seeping), and loose-leaf tea are all set up from the night before (I'm a big "lay stuff out the night before" person as it reduces noise in the morning).  I fill the kettle and turn it on. I scoop the tea and put it in the mesh netting which firsts perfectly on the mug (not planned--stumbled upon this accidentally).  I usually also get some breakfast while it's brewing.  As I'm finishing, it's ready so I pour it and bring all the things back to the office.  Now, I'm ready to start the work day.  

That's a new drink and ritual in my life. I knew that there would be changes in the move to work-from-home but this is one habit that I hope will continue with me should I return to the office.  

What about you?  What new rituals have you created?  What new foods or drinks are you exploring or appreciating if your context has changed?

Take care. Be careful. Be care-filled.  Welcome to stranger days.

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