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The World is a Tea Party and We Are All Invited

Being a Chinese American, tea has always been an important part of my life: During the cold days of winter, tea brings me warmth and comfort. In the hot months of summer, it keeps me cool and hydrated. When guests come to visit,

I welcome them with cups of tea.

Growing up during hard times in 1960s Shanghai, China, tea was one of the few special treats my three sisters and I enjoyed. My mother would occasionally reward us with wild chrysanthemum flower tea with a touch of sugar, and we could never have enough of it.

My father especially loved tea. As a young child, I watched him sprinkling the bottom of a large mason jar with rough tea leaves and then pouring in hot water all the way to the brim. He waited until the entire jar turned dark red, almost the color of soy sauce, before he started to drink it. He would sip it with his eyes half-closed.

Curious about what he was having that made him so happy, I begged for a taste. When he granted me my wish one day and I gleefully took a big gulp, I instantly regretted my curiosity. It was bitter beyond belief. I hung my tongue out in shock for a long time, and never asked for another sip again. I much preferred the sweet, gentle flower tea my mother prepared for us children.

When I grew older, I learned to love tea of all kinds and in all forms: black tea bags packed in a box, loose green tea leaves in a can, flower teas in vibrant colors, fragrant roasted grain teas, and even some herbal medicinal teas.

Through international travel and friends from around the world, my tea experience has grown. I got to taste it in many exotic forms and learned about different cultures and traditions.

Meeta, my dear friend from India, taught me how to brew a lovely Indian tea of fresh ginger, cardamom, and a special kind of black tea, and serve it with milk and sugar. My Iranian friends added all sorts of toasted spices and herbs to their tea before they steeped it, making it mysterious and intensely interesting. They often paired their tea with intricate dishes of dried fruits, nuts, seeds, and pastries.

Tea is an international treasure. From China to Latvia, South America to Europe, I have learned that our world can be connected through tea. In spite of our different skin colors, religions, and cultures, we are all linked together by one tiny leaf.

With the arrival of yet another Spring, I see through my mind’s eye how tea plants are awakening on mountain slopes in faraway lands around the world, and how March’s morning dews are gently coaxing the timid young buds to poke their heads out from bare branches to get ready to grow. The world is more wholesome and our lives are richer because of tea.

By Qin Sun Stubis

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