Bits and Bites of Everyday Life

Tea, coffee and me

“May you always have a soft place to land!”

True North Perspective
Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair is the author of The Neglected Garden and two French novels. Visit her website to learn more:

Lise C. enjoys a post-tea chat with Alberte.

Judging from your response, Gaston’s New Year message was extremely popular! Sometimes we do get stuck with relationships that weigh us down or are no longer sustainable and we must break free.

I had the pleasure of viewing the movie, “The Young Queen Victoria” last Saturday. Queen Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent, groomed her daughter for the eventual role as a monarch by imposing on her a cloistered life in which she was forbidden to speak to anyone, except in Mother’s presence or that of her strict German governess.

Mother’s idea was to rule as a regent but the day of her ascension to the throne, Queen Victoria who was barely eighteen made it clear that from then on she wanted to be left alone and Mother was to back off. Victoria ruled the British Empire for 65 years. This is a perfect example of how we must sometimes impose limits on intrusive friends and family members. 

Today, I’d like to offer a complementary 2011 wish: “May you always have a soft place to land!” For me, it has always been “Home Sweet Home”… a place where I can relax, just be me and… enjoy a cup of tea. We all need something soothing when we’re tired, stressed out, bored, overworked, thirsty or feeling sick and tea has always been my magic potion.  

I started drinking tea around age twelve. Mom would make a big pot of loose leaf tea. “Trumpet” was the brand… not the best, but good enough. When I got married, I switched to more refined brands such as Tetley. For a long time, my favourite was Earl Grey. I still ask for it when I go to the restaurant. As years went by, research studies proved that I had good reasons to drink tea. Tea contains high levels of antioxidants: polyphenols, flavonoids and catechins which neutralize free radicals that can cause damage to cells and tissues throughout the body. Coffee also contains these antioxidants but when I was younger, coffee would produce heart palpitations, give me the jitters and hinder my sleep. So tea was an obvious choice as it contains far less caffeine and none at all with most herbal teas! 

It has now been accepted that six to eight cups of tea per day are beneficial and will not cause dehydration as was previously suspected. It doesn’t matter whether you drink black, red, green or white teas; they all contain antioxidants. My taste in tea has greatly expanded as more varieties have become available. For example, in the morning, I often enjoy Bija’s Yerba mate which contains caffeine and was used by the Guarani Indians of South America to cope with life in the harsh jungle of the Parana River. Argentine gauchos continue to use this tea to stay alert and energized during the day. I find this tea energizes me in the morning. For lunch, I love my Chai tea! My all-time favourite is Celestial Seasonings’ Bengal Spice. This Indian spiced, chai tea is flavoured with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and a hint of vanilla. I drink it with a touch of milk. Truly satisfying!  

At dinnertime, I have chamomile which has a calming effect and promotes sleep. I used to drink it in the evening but since falling asleep is a slow process for me, drinking it earlier, helps. Some teas go hand in hand with a special meal. I always choose Jasmine or Lemongrass tea when having Chinese or Thai food and mint tea with Moroccan food. Peppermint tea is a popular before or after-dinner tea for many who find it soothes an upset stomach and aids digestion. My friend, Juliette swears by Celestial Seasonings’ Peppermint tea which she calls “The Candy Cane tea”. Mint grows in a tiny garden bed, away from the main garden because of its invasive nature. In the summertime, I make refreshing mint tea and serve it cold. I also enjoy green tea with a hint of lemon during the summer. 

Of course, herbal teas have been used for their medicinal properties for ages. Try Echinacea during the cold and flu season. You can make a lavender infusion to help relieve the symptoms of headaches or migraines. Thyme will calm coughing and relax an irritated throat. Those are but a few I have tried and appreciate. 

These past years, tea houses have become popular. The Gloucester City Center Mall has the Nihao Tea House which offers a wide variety of teas to enjoy on the premises or bring home. I order a Chai Latte when I go there. PAM’s Coffee and Tea Co. also is favourite place as is Second Cup and Starbucks. 

Back home today, I enjoyed tea with lunch while I watched the chickadees and juncos at the feeder. The bright-coloured cardinal was there for a short visit also. I read my newspaper and reflected on Haiti’s plight: 810 000 Haitians are still homeless a year after the infamous 2010 earthquake. When will they ever find a “soft place to land”?  

Blessings to all! Enjoy a cup of tea with me!