September: Tea for Two (the diary of a coffee quitter)

I am a helpless, habitual coffee drinker. For the most part, I don’t drink yuppie, frothy coffee. No, I drink the black stuff, the kind that tastes like ash. I drink it like it’s a badge of American masculinity, I guess. My grandpa used to say, “real men take their coffee the way God intended it–black as night.” Statements like these have a way of making an indelible impression, a way of escaping from my own lips from time to time.

And despite my family tree of coffee drinkers, I’ve been pondering the brutishness of the coffee experience and it has me second-guessing the staple beverage of my life. Consider the process: coffee cherries are picked and their pits are removed. The pits, then mislabeled as “beans,” are roasted beyond recognition, crushed into powder (tantalizingly known as the “grounds”), and then expressed through a tortuous drip process, a botanical waterboarding. It is a violent process; one that, in my estimation, lacks the necessary refinements of civilized culture.

For juxtapositional purposes consider the process of tea making. Leaves are hand-picked, selected for their quality and character. They are dried, then placed in a cup where they are quickly (and humanely) doused in a hot-water bath. The resulting flavor is more delicate, the aroma often more complex, the caffeine buzz lighter and arguably longer lasting.

Undeniably, the tea making process is more refined, more civilized. So civilized, in fact, that it has become one of the centerpieces of British culture. And there is no culture more civilized than the British (despite their most recent Olympic shenanigans).

Except maybe the Japanese.

The Japanese have ritualized their tea drinking in a centuries-old ceremony associated with healing, spiritual enlightenment, creativity, and tranquility. And sure, these are qualities I’d like to enhance in my life–that along with civility. So after careful consideration, and in an effort to further explore the kinder, gentler, more tranquil drink, I’ve decided that I will replace coffee (my chosen vehicle for caffeine delivery) with tea.

That’s right. I’m going cold turkey.

Perhaps I’m being a bit dramatic, a method writer of sorts. Perhaps I’m diving in too soon, too fast–after all, I know relatively little about tea. But who knows, if I’m lucky maybe the tea switch will bring me a bit of clarity, a dose of tranquility. Maybe I’ll have sustained artistic swells instead of flash pot creative fires. After all, I am told that L.L. Barkat drinks tea, and she whipped out a novella in no time flat. (The Novelist speaks to the delicacies and elusive nature of a cup of tea, no less.) But if none of these things happen, I hope to at least learn to enjoy a good cup of tea.

In hopeful celebration of my new-found tea habit, I issue this challenge: recommend a tea to me, and do it in poetic fashion. It’s part of September’s “Tea for Two” poetry prompt. Take your cues from any tea or coffee related source–a tea package, tea related quote from literature, or the Republic of Tea’s “Tea 101” educational email series–and create your own found poem.  Get creative. Leave your poem in the comments, or post the poem on your own blog and we’ll tweet it to the world using the hashtag #tea42.

Now, without further adieu, let’s get some creative works brewing.

Tweetspeak’s September Tea For Two Prompt.

This month’s found poem theme at Tweetspeak is “Tea for Two,” and we’re using words and phrases from tea (or coffee) related products as the prompt. We’d love you to join with is. How do you participate?

1.  Look through your pantry and grab some tea or coffee packages, or any other tea or coffee related products you may have in your house.

2.  Arrange a found poem containing words from the products. Make sure your poems touch on themes of tea or coffee.

3. Tweet your poems to us. Add a #tea42 hashtag so we can find it and maybe share it with the world.

4. If you aren’t a twitter user, leave your found poem here in the comment box.

5.  Each week we’ll share a few of the poems. At the end of the month, we’ll choose a winning poem and ask the winner to record his or her poem to be featured in one of our upcoming Weekly Top 10 Poetic Picks.

And thanks to all of those who submitted to last month’s August: Rain poetry prompt. The poems were all grand, but the grand prize winner is Chris Yokel, who turned the project on its ear (so to speak). Hoping to spin the book spine poetry prompt in a new direction, Chris created a CD spine poem, using only words from album titles in his personal collection. In “Night of Hunters,” he wrote:

Midnight on the water—
love and thunder whispers
in the wind.
Ten summoner’s tales call
an ancient muse
from the far country.

 I love what you did with the prompt last month, Chris. Keep up the good work!

Now, let’s kick off September right. Who’s first?

Photo (top) by ienjoysusi, Creative Commons via Flickr. Post by Seth Haines



  1. Donna says

    Tea is important in my house. Maybe it’s because my husband wooed me with Cowboy Junkies “Cold Tea Blues” (who can resist a man who does this?). Even our teenage sons have their favorites for certain times. We love our coffee, but we need our tea:

    when our hearts are sobbing
    when our bodies shiver
    as our brows throw heat
    when in the dark of night
    we toss and turn
    when we are mending fences
    or building bridges
    when we are waiting patiently
    or fecklessly grasping at straws
    when there is nothing more to be done
    we turn to tea

  2. L. L. Barkat says

    Seth, you are amazing!! :)

    Can’t wait to see where this takes you.

    And you must try some Betjeman & Barton teas. Their Christmas tea (to be drunk all year) is terrific. Also love their Bagatelle.

    Whatever you do, don’t go for a regular teabag. This would be the reason so many people quit tea before they start it. :)

  3. says

    The poet serves tea

    in a pot shaped like a lotus
    blossom. The pour streams

    through a net at the mouth,
    leaves caught from a fall

    to the cup like so many
    unwanted words discarded

    from the final draft. The art
    takes some practice, no little

    experimentation to get right.
    The secret is time, the ritual

    of adding in and taking out.

    • Laurie Flanigan says

      I love that you’ve compared the art of blending words with the art of blending tea leaves. It’s a nice brew, a wonderfully warm blend of depth and insight.

  4. says

    Homemade Chai Recipe

    The cardamom won’t steep unless the green
    pod protecting strangely shaped seeds
    is broken, crushed open with the back
    of a spoon, stainless, one of the twelve
    in the set neatly packaged and wrapped
    in bridal-print paper and satin bow
    you tore open, giddy, eighteen years ago.

  5. says

    When visiting my husband’s family and friends in Belgium, where he was born and raised, the locals would set down in front of me a coffee cup and pour. Everyone drinks coffee in Belgium, so it didn’t occur to them to ask if I’d like something else.

    I added lots of cream and a fair amount of sugar, and forced it down…all the while, wishing for tea.

    Over time, I’ve come to appreciate a nicely prepared cup of coffee, but I still prefer the flavor and nuance of tea.

  6. says

    Good Hope Vanilla
    burst vibrant crystal clear
    borrowing the second color of the rainbow
    the color of poppies
    streaming into the hot bath
    fruity rich leaves of roobius
    deliver a fragrant vanilla hug
    forming a rhyme on my tongue
    melting cares away
    gifting magical peaceful slumber
    good night

    (Good Hope Vanilla – The Republic of Tea)

  7. says

    chai roobius
    should come with a warning
    “consumption of this delicious spiced sweetness may result in uncontrollable fits of sleeping on the sofa”
    (which is where i found him this morning- his first words to me were not “good morning love” but “what did you put in my tea?”)

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