Tea, My Valentine

Secret Lover
Secret Lover

Dear Tea,

Happy Valentine's Day to my eternal Valentine! I thought there no better a way to celebrate the most loving of holidays than to recount my feelings for one of my nearest and dearest friends.

I recall our beginning. I was 8. You were a couple thousand. I remember stealing sips of my mom's milky, sweetened cups of tea. I remember, when I finally got you to myself, shoveling spoonful after spoonful of sugar into my mug after removing a limp, soggy tea bag. I couldn't wait for the first sip... sometimes I drank so fast the sugar at the bottom hadn't even fully dissolved (which was, of course, the best part). Ah, that dilute, sweet, milky flavor got me hooked.

Throughout Junior High our relationship blossomed. You became my confidant, my partner in crime. Raising the temperature in our household's mercury thermometers, quietly helping me convince my mom I was too sick for school (you were a much tastier ally than any light bulb). Helping get me caffeinated on the days I did go to school. Helping me unwind at the end of the day. I recall my juvenile devotion... scribbling "Ceylon" or "Chamomile" and on my notebooks, encasing your names in hearts. Ah, puppy love.

Adolescence was an exciting but tumultuous time for us, but we got through it. By then, I doctored you with so much sugar I lost sight of who you really were. I had to step back, break away. We parted ways for years, giving me the gustatory reprieve I needed so 5 teaspoons of sugar tasted sweet again instead of like nothing. I began to appreciate you for you and not just as a vehicle for more sugar. By the time I was in high school, your inviting, enticing effects and friendship brought me back to you. I finally realized that the only thing that tasted better than tea-flavored sugar-milk was you alone.

Before I knew it, it was time for college. We packed up our lives on the East Coast and spent 4 lovely years on the West Coast. As they do for many, my college years brought experimentation. Lady Grey. Oolong. Berry flavors. Organic teas. Coffee. Mostly though, I was faithful to lavender Earl Grey. That wonderfully scented tea got me through many classes, exams, and study sessions. I wouldn't have survived college without you.

After college we went to work. We integrated ourselves with other corporate Americans, mingling, laughing, burning the midnight oil. Just when I thought we couldn't get closer, I discovered loose tea. As perfect as I thought you were when bagged, you were so much more so when on the loose. So much richer, fuller, better. A tiny teapot became a permanent fixture on my desk; coworkers commented on my apparent tea snobbery¬ócompany-issue brand-name teabags were not good enough for Sam, nooooooo¬óbut it didn't bother me. I held true to you in your truest form. Even as I settled down with the man of my dreams, I maintained our relationship, expanded it to include my husband, and granted you a staring role at my wedding: the role of the wedding favor. An incredible honor and testament to our friendship, to say the least.

And here we are now, celebrating our twenty-second Valentine's Day. Our bond is as strong as ever, and we still have such a journey ahead of us. I look forward to the many Valentine's days to come, because really, you are one of my closest friends. Tea, you complete me.