My mother is the sort of person, who, if you are making a shopping list, needs written and detailed instructions. Not because she won't remember what you asked for. She just often remembers it...tilted. So, for example, when I asked her for tea bags, and especially Earl Grey, what arrived in my father's luggage was a brick of loose leaf Earl Grey tea that looked like a small package of illegal drugs. I could have sworn that Earl Grey tea isn't rare in the Midwest and can be found in almost any supermarket; she swore that after looking high and low without success, she finally came across this singular specimen in a middle-eastern specialty foods shop.
I've only ever used loose-leaf tea once in my life and it wasn't the best experience ever. Far from being leaf, it was more loose gratings that slid through the tiny holes of my tea strainer. Then the strainer broke and I reverted to bagged teas.
While I love my tea breaks, most Brazilians drink tea in situations of dire emergency only; teas are for sick people, not for fun. Finding a tea strainer in a country where coffee reigns might be a bit difficult...and if I remember correctly, I was a bit frustrated when I got the package, thinking I'd never be able to properly enjoy it.
But today it was cold and rainy and I was feeling a bit depressed, not to mention sick, so a cup of tea felt like just the thing to bring me out of my funk. Craving lapsang souchong (which I've never had; I was researching liquid smoke substitutes and this sounded like exactly what I wanted today), I reached for the most exotic thing in my dwindling tea cabinet: that yellow box of Earl Grey with the Arabic lettering.
Steep 3 minutes, the experts say, before removing the leaves. The water turned a delicious amber color almost instantly, and the leaves swelled up like a bit of dark green moss. The mess of leaves came out easily enough with a spoon, just a few delicate petals remaining to trail circles at the bottom of the cup.
It might have been one of the best cups of tea I've had since Russia.
Mother, I am so thankful that you love me enough to run around the city in search of tea for me...and that you followed your instinct. I'm sorry that I wasn't as thankful when you gave it to me as I am right now!