Fourteen years ago founders Gary Shinner and Jill Portman started a teahouse in the posh San Francisco area of Pacific Heights and named it “Tea and Company.” This name conjures up one of the best elements of the tea experience. Tea is synonymous in many cultures around the world with hospitality. If you are a guest at someone’s home, inevitably out come the teacups and teapot.
On my first trip to India we were welcomed into the home of a woman whom we had befriended as we were learning about the culture firsthand from the people. She invited us in for chai, and I sat in her kitchen watching as she doled out the black tea leaves into a pan of milk and crushed ginger being warmed over the stove. She added cardamom and stirred as the milk took a warm caramel color from being infused with the tea leaves.
This cup of tea held such a special place in my personal tea journey. Watching her go through the steps to offer me a proper cup of chai showed more than hospitality – it was a sign of friendship.
Today back in the United States, I find my tea cabinet stocked and ready for that unexpected visitor, the friend with whom it has been too long since our last rendezvous. While I don’t crush ginger or stir leaves into warming milk, the bottle of agave and the jar of honey complement the loose and bagged tea that elevates a good conversation into a great one.
Tags: Tea Culture