Tea and Me

My name is Lea Wait, and I drink tea. That’s right. No coffee. No soda (although the protagonist in my Shadows mystery series is devoted to her Diet Pepsi). And since a hot drink seems an appropriate topic for a cold winter’s day, it seemed a good topic for today’s blog.

I probably inherited my love of tea from my grandmother. A Scot from Edinburgh through and through, despite the fact that she’d been born in Boston in 1890, her life had taken her back and forth to “the auld country” often as a child. For her, no afternoon was complete without tea. It didn’t necessarily have to include shortbread or scones … but sometimes it did. And since my grandparents lived with my parents and sisters and I for most of my childhood, I have warm memories of coming home from school and enjoying a cup of hot tea (with milk and a teaspoonful of sugar) with my grandmother.

Lea Wait

Lea Wait

And we had wonderful tea.  As a young child I knew that every Christmas we would get an unmarked carton of tea (in bags) from one of my grandmother’s brothers. I was a teenager before I understood that this was, indeed, “special tea.”  I have no idea what kind of black tea it was. It was a private blend, and it wasn’t marked.  You see, that great-uncle who sent us the tea each year had (yes, I’m telling the truth) invented the tea bag. Somewhere in my family files I have a copy of the patent, which I believe was dated in the 1930s. His name was William Patterson, should you want to check it out. And Uncle Bill had sold his patent to Lipton, who, as part of the deal, agreed to send him select tea each year for the rest of his life.

That annual tea supply in my house ended when my grandmother died … but her brother lived to be 98. That’s a lot of tea bags. And I’ll admit I was spoiled. I never got used to most brands (including Lipton) of “supermarket tea.”

In high school, sitting on the floor in candle-lit darkness and listening to Bob Dylan with my friends, we all drank coffee. Me included. But I sipped it slowly and suffered shortly after from stomach pains.  It was hard to be a rebel when you didn’t drink coffee, though, so I kept trying.

By the time I got to college I was a bit smarter, and had officially given up coffee experimentation. My drink was tea, although the water in Pittsburgh, where I went to school, tasted awful, so I added Diet Pepsi to my list of approved drinks for those four years.

When I started working at a corporation, coffee, again, was the politically acceptable drink. Water (hot or cold) or tea had not yet appeared in conference rooms. It was coffee. I was already obvious enough — I was usually the only woman in the room, and one of the few nonsmokers — so I filled my cup with plain water or milk, if it was available, and at meeting breaks (“coffee breaks,” of course) if there was time, I’d head  to the company cafeteria where they did have tea.

By the time I left the corporation, 30 years later, tea was always available at conferences and meetings, and, although there still weren’t too many of us drinking it, the biggest danger was putting a tea bag in a cup and then pouring hot coffee on top of it. Usually the carafe of hot water was unmarked. When I was at Bouchercon a few years back I did that again. A fellow tea drinker watched, sympathized … and offered to share his tea bag with me. (They were running low.) A truly generous soul!  But I carry my own now. Just in case.

Today, sitting in my study in Maine, I’ve expanded my tea preferences.  I begin my day with a cup of Red Rose. (For a couple of years I only drank green tea. Perhaps virtuous, but, especially in winter, I missed black tea.) Now my noon cup may either be green or black. Perhaps Earl Gray. Mid-afternoon calls for caffeine, so that cup is definitely black tea. But any caffeine after 4 p.m. ensures that I won’t sleep well that night, so after then I move to herb teas. “Sleepy time” or chamomile when I’m trying to relax.  Red or Lemon zinger if I’m still working. Or maybe another cup of green tea.  In the summer, of course, I brew my own iced tea:  a mixture of black and herb teas. And on a very cold winter’s afternoon, I’ve been known to add a touch of brandy to my mid-afternoon black tea.

Today others have discovered the joys of tea, and any supermarket has diverse and wonderful selections. Happily, studies have also shown that teas of all kinds have varying amounts of antioxidants, and might even help in weight loss.  I haven’t noticed any major differences … but, then, tea has always been a part of my life.

I suspect it always will be.


About Lea Wait

I write mysteries - the Mainely Needlepoint, Shadows Antique Print and, coming in June of 2018, the Maine Murder mysteries (under the name Cornelia Kidd.) When I was single I was an adoption advocate and adopted my four daughters. Now my mysteries and novels for young people are about people searching for love, acceptance, and a place to call home. My website is http://www.leawait.com To be on my mailing list, send me a note at leawait@roadrunner.com
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12 Responses to Tea and Me

  1. Anonymous says:

    If you are in the Bridgton area, you might want to stop at Clipper Merchant Tea House going out of town on Route 302. Nice tea, nice people and great scones.

  2. I’m betting you were or if it’s still in operation, a customer of McNabb’s Tea House. I never went there while I was the BBH librarian, but had a volunteer who went regularly and loved the place.

    • diane schyberg says:

      mcnabbs is no longer in operation. but there is a new boothbay tea company called ‘merry auld tea’. it’s not a tea room like mcnabbs was, though.

  3. I like tea, but Diane LOVES tea. She’s especially fond of PG Tips and Typhoo for black tea, though her first cup in the a.m. is green tea (with mint on weekdays, with jasmine on weekends, for reasons that escape me.)

    Tea in its many variations is such a civilized drink. Next time I see you I will try to remember to bring some interesting variation along so we can have a cup together.

  4. Vida Antolin-Jenkins says:

    Lea, what a wonderful post! A combination of early years up in Canada and a European household growing up, I’ve also been a tea drinker for a long time. (All these johnny-come-latelys, offering their new-found knowledge are an occasional source of irritation.) In addition to traditional black tea, growing up, we also picked the wild rose hips to make rose hip tea in the winter. It is extremely nice to have such a range of tea available now.

  5. Yay for tea! I am on a very similar tea schedule to the one you are on. 😉 Wonderful story about how your great uncle invented the tea bag. Holy cats! I guess someone had to invent it.

  6. Kate Flora says:

    I am just returning everything to the cupboards after they were refinished, and my supply of tea is truly astounding! I like the Indian Chais with spice. And blueberry green tea and hibiscus, and still have ancient tins from Fortnum and Mason and Jacksons of Piccadilly that I can’t bear to throw out. So much for using this as a chance to clean the cupboards!

  7. Kay Bennett says:

    Wow how wonderful that must have been to get those “special bags of tea”. I always wondered who invented the tea bag. I love hot tea, but hardly drink it. I remember flying when I was young and seeing people getting hot tea on the plane. Some even got creamer for it. Right then, that became my plane drink. And now I have to have cream/milk with my hot tea. What a great read this was! Thanks

  8. xinef82 says:

    Fun read! I, too, am a tea drinker who doesn’t drink coffee. These days, I drink mostly green tea during the day, but that varies over time. I also don’t drink caffeinated drinks past last afternoon. If I want a hot drink in the evening, I often have some rooibos tea. I find that it has body similar to black tea (different flavour), and I have a number of rooibos blends that I love (marzipan, orange, lemon, cinnamon, etc). I take my black tea with milk and all other forms of tea as is, rarely adding a bit of sugar. I’ve also coped through many meetings where coffee was on offer but no tea, and resorted to having some in my purse in case hot water was available.

  9. I’m drinking a cup of Red Rose right now! With a touch of honey. I used to only drink tea until I lived in New Orleans for a year. One cup of cafe au lait and I was hooked! Along with the beignets. 😉

  10. My husband was always a dedicated coffee drinker, but when his Alzheimer’s developed, he decided he no longer had a hankering for it. He wanted only juice. So instead of making pots of coffee for myself, I put the coffeemaker away and began drinking tea. I had always loved it, so the switch was easy.

    I rotate Earl Grey, English or Irish Breakfast, and Chai Black tea every morning. It’s a big double mug with two sugars and half-and-half. I feel like I am reaching out to my British/Irish roots, and it’s all good.

    I am an avid watcher of “Coronation Street,” a British soap opera that I’ve followed for decades, and I chuckle every time a tense situation commences or whenever a profound problem is solved, one of the characters says, “I’ll put the kettle on.” Well, so will I!

  11. PeterC says:


    William Patterson lived in Arlington Mass. His son (or it grandson?) is still alive and that son had two daughters and one son. They are all around 50ish. The son lives in Florida, one daughter lives in Arizona, and the other is married to my brother and still lives in Mass.

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