I used to dread being invited to a coffee shop. any coffee shop.
I do not tolerate coffee well. I just can’t handle that much caffeine. As such, the only times I’ve ever drunk it were when I had purposely decided to stay up all night. As I ended up feeling pretty sick after each of these times, I now just feel sick if I drink coffee.
So on any visit to a coffee shop, actual coffee is out for me.
If I wanted to still have an “adult” drink, and not feel a bit embarrassed for ordering a hot chocolate (especially when the menu at some coffee shops states that the hot chocolate is reserved for kids), I had just one option left: Tea.
Tea and I have had a complicated relationship over the years.
As a little girl, I wanted to have “tea parties” with friends and family, as did many other little girls in the ’90s. (Most notably, Michelle Tanner, from Full House, which is probably where I got the idea).
But unlike other little girls, I was not content with just pretend tea in my pink, plastic tea set. Oh no. I had to have some tea to offer my parents, and stuffed animals.
The problem was that like most little kids, I found the taste of tea to be “yucky.”
My solution was to dump out half the tea and add juice until it tasted more like juice than tea.
I have tried many, many times since those early parties, to like tea.
For many, many years, I failed.
I tried Raspberry flavored tea. I tried peach tea. It still tasted like dried leaf-flavored water to me.
I tried steeping it less, and leaving it weaker. That was worse.
I tried brewing it stronger. But I let it get bitter.
I tried adding honey. That was better, but not good enough.
I tried iced tea. I tried sweetened iced tea.
I tried an apple cinnamon tea- that was okay so long as I drank it during the few brief moments when it was not-t00-hot, not-too-cold. But I could rarely make myself finish a cup.
And then I tried sweet tea, with a generous spash of lemon juice.
It was basically an Arnold Palmer, and I loved it.
Sugar, it turned out, was the secret to me enjoying tea.
Sweet tea ended up becoming a gateway tea for me.
I moved on to various flavored sweet iced teas.
But buying premade sweetened iced tea drinks is a lot more expensive than brewing your own tea. Also, in the winter, it’s not so fun to drink a freezing cold drink, instead of a warm one.
So I gave hot tea a try again over the winter. It was drinkable, if not truly enjoyable, I discovered, with a generous splash of hazelnut nondairy creamer.
Then, I found a delicious-looking, cherry-flavored tea at the grocery store. I love cherries, and once again the urge to try again to like tea struck me.
So, on a whim, I bought the tea.
And lo and behold, it actually tasted like cherries.
Adding a sugar cube or two helped.
For the first time ever, I drank an entire cup of tea with relish.
I even had a cup or two without sugar.
While sweet tea was my gateway into all teas, the cherry tea was my gateway into the realm of hot teas.
Now I have teas for when I need help getting to sleep. Tea for when I’m stressed. A tea for when I’m not feeling well. And when I need to wake up, a nice Chai Tea is my favorite.
All of these I usually drink with 2-3 sugars.
But recently, I did find myself, feeling not so great, sitting on my couch, sipping on some tea to help myself feel better. And because I wasn’t feeling well, that was sans sugar.
Is tea without sugar my favorite drink? no.
But I can drink it now, and for me, that’s quite the accomplishment.
I’ll likely never work my way up to coffee. But at least now, when someone invites me to a coffee shop, be it a business meeting, day out with a friend, date, or whatever, I can at least order a nice tea like an adult, rather than asking for a hot chocolate.