Growing up in the Casa Travale, the scent of fresh brewed coffee was pervasive. Sometimes, my mom and dad ground their own beans, sometimes they just dug it out of a tin with a mysterious cone shaped scooper. But always, every day, morning and evening, there was the scent of coffee. Coocoolooloo and the Chief drank a shocking amount of coffee; I didn’t drink any. The coffee was not flavoured (Ghods forfend!) It was not sweetened. It had a stir of cream, until you achieved the right colour in your mug, and that was it. I still don’t drink coffee (except when a friend a-few-jobs-ago would ask me what I wanted from Horton’s, and bring me coffee anyway, alas). But I still love the smell of coffee shops and the coffee grinder/brewer thinger we have in our kitchen area at $Dayjob. So delightful to smell, so unpalatable to drink. It’s a weird dichotomy, even for me.
Also, as I grew up in the Casa Travale, the kitchen cupboard that housed the tin of coffee also housed about 37 flavours of tea. Which might not seem weird if anyone in the house actually drank tea, which no one did, until I was 16. My mom made me a cup of strawberry flavoured black tea for some reason. I don’t remember what cup it was in, or why she made it and brought it to me. I remember that it came in a plastic bag inside a balsa wood box with a sliding lid. At this point, I don’t recall the brand name of the tea, except that it was delicious. There was another tin of tea – rose petals and rose hips and black tea in a Shakespeare-themed tin that I eventually drank as well. I still have that tin, and I pined for that tea for years. Decades. Plural.
Eventually, I found some rose petal tea (despite dozens of people telling me that I meant rose hip. Yeah, no. I really don’t, though). I haven’t found a good substitute for the strawberry black tea – and not for lack of trying. I’ve had 15 variations of stupid Berry-Blast Red-a-riffic tea that have all been disappointing. I presently have a bag of Red Berry tea at home that isn’t what I wanted. Despite having told the tea sommelier/barista (or whatever the person who stirs together bits of twigs and leaves like a mad-scientist to make “blends” is actually called), “Black tea with a distinctly strawberry flavour” what I got is something that steeps up to an unholy purple decoction that’s reminiscent of Welch’s Grape Juice. That’s not it. It’s not awful, but it’s definitely not what I wanted, either. When I reach up to my own 37 flavour tea cupboard and see that one, I just feel underwhelmed. Like I got Darjeeling when I ordered English Breakfast. Not the same, bitches!
So this week, amid the usual selection of Stash tea, a cast-off tin of berry tea showed up in my lunchroom at work. This sometimes happens when someone gets tea from somewhere and it’s really not what you thought or wanted. I get it; I’ve done it. I usually know better than to trust something with an attempt at a clever name, but I was waiting for water to boil, so I opened the tin. It certainly looks like my Strawberry Black Tea of yore. No potential floaty bits or weird unidentifiable fruity-bits. So I tried it. It’s package claims the flavours of strawberry, cherry, red currant, and cranberry. Flavours, but not floaties. It’s less disappointing than some of the blends I’ve tried to fill the balsa wood box-shaped-hole in my world, but still not it.
Since the first cup of tea that started me on this path happened 30ish years ago, I feel like I might be romanticizing the sublime nature of this tea. There is definitely a non-zero percent chance that I’m pining for some mythological ambrosia of tea, and not really something that is or ever was. So how does one convince one’s self that the tea you remember isn’t the legit tea? How do I do that with anything, really? Because sometimes in a bakery or pâtisserie or walking past doughnuts in the grocery store I get a whiff of something that reminds me of a pastry I had in some long-ago carbohydrate binge. I can’t even identify the thing, but man-oh-man, I want that fictitious delicious icing-sugar-dusted thing. I want it something fierce.
So, the quest for strawberry black tea continues. I’ll continue to drink the tea offerings that appear in the kitchen, and if something looks particularly hopeful on a store shelf somewhere, I’ll likely buy that too.
Now, I may or may not also need a strawberry danish. That’s not a euphemism.