Tea Conversion: My “Come to Rooibos” Moment

Add this to the list of things science can’t explain, like the Taos hum or Naga fireballs.

I’m an insurance adjuster. We’re a jaded, thick-skinned lot, and no matter what names you call us or legal action you threaten, we get all our crying done the first month on the job. We chomp animal crackers while we crunch numbers, and hold Dum Dum suckers in our cheeks like Kojak, white stick hanging from our lips all day long. Sometimes we make you listen to You Can’t Always Get What You Want on the Muzak while you wait on hold for us to decide your economic fate. We take our coffee thick and dark, the most hardcore among us chain smoking between cases of Diet Coke or bourbon at our desks.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve started my workday with a death grip on my big-handled 20-ounce-deep ceramic mug, large enough in which to plant a two-year deciduous seedling. An inch of coffee-laced milk foam rounded out four shots of black espresso. I chose coffee. Coffee chose me. Coffee became my love. The deafening rasp of my espresso machine, watching the light caramel foam develop on top of deep brown, could put me into a state of mystic ecstasy. I have more pictures of my coffee on Facebook than I do my own children.

But everything changed. I can’t explain it. Science can’t explain it.

One day I was rinsing spent grounds from my portafilter, and the next I was daring a tea-loving friend to teach me the fairer art of drinking tea. I don’t know if it was the first time she let me smell the fragrant black leaves, or if it took all the way to the first steamy sip. I saw the light as tiny leaves unfurled under almost-boiling water. Five days ago I broke the leg off a small elephant-shaped cookie and flicked it into the trash. I baked a loaf of bread. I hunted on the Internet for a good recipe for scones. I looked for dark chocolate that came on a sucker stick.

The whistle of my tea kettle produces an endorphin rush that makes the espresso machine slink behind the flour canister in effete shame. I drink all day from a delicate ivory Royal Doulton cup with a sage green design rounding the edge. I hold the gold-lined slender handle very lightly between my thumb and index.

What is happening? Who have I become? So many new questions form in my tea-clarified mind. Have I been abducted by aliens? Do aliens drink tea? Perhaps it was a band of gypsies instead.

A customer called yesterday. I didn’t make her wait on hold. She told me about some precious belongings that had been damaged in a fire. I tipped a 20-ounce ceramic teapot to refill my cup with something that tasted like flowers, and it only gave up a few small drops.

“I know just how you feel,” I said, a salty tear slipping down my cheek.

Photo by Steve A. Johnson. Creative Commons license via Flickr. This post by LW Lindquist originally appeared at Chateau Rouge Tea
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  1. L. L. Barkat says

    So, you like rooibos? Good to hear. I have some I can share with you if you need any. :)

    This is totally delightful. Can science explain anything about the mysteries of you anyway? 😉

  2. Jody Lee Collins says

    Although I just confessed on the TS blog that I’m a big fan of coffee, I have come to love Earl Grey tea–with condensed milk and 2 teaspoons of sugar. It’s something about the bergamot….

    And to echo Ms. Barkat–there’s no explaining the one and only you, Lyla.

    P.S. Poetry at work poems are the 15th? 14th?

  3. says

    You might a heavy as an insurance adjuster but as a writer you can lighten the darkness of any day, with or without cream.

    Delighted to read this again.

    Jody, did you ever read about the English dust-up with Twinings over Earl Grey? The company messed with the combination of bergamot and lemon and regulars demanded the old brand be restored. There was even a FaceBook campaign. The company eventually caved. Now there’s “The Classic Edition”.

  4. says

    Thank you, Maureen – for saying ‘again.’ I thought for a moment there my marbles were definitely lost as this was delightfully familiar to me. As a lifelong tea drinker (never learned to drink the sludge stuff), I salute the new you, Lyla. Welcome to the world of delicate fragrances, subtle tastes and whistling tea kettles. Sigh.


  1. […] We talk a fair bit around here about tea. Because, well, some of us drink an awful lot of it. But some of us drink coffee too. We recommend reading poetry with a cup of either one. NPR recently finished Coffee Week, a series of programs on Morning Edition featuring coffee culture, coffee buying, even a coffee quiz. The segment with Jerry Seinfeld on how his coffee habit began is as much fun as a four-shot latte with extra foam. (NPR) […]

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