By Peter Rukavina
I came very late to coffee-drinking: it wasn’t until I turned 40 that I had my first serious cup. In the autumn of 2006 I found myself in northwestern Italy for two weeks, working at a self-styled “medieval cybervillage” high in the hills above the Mediterranean. The village had a bar, the bar served coffee, and there was little else to occupy myself; when in Liguria, do as the Ligurians, I reasoned.
Starting out with a strong Italian cappuccino from the bar there was a good introduction to coffee, and I’ve been a coffee-drinker for the dozen years since. I start each day with an espresso macchiato, and it’s become an integral part of my morning routine. It’s what gets me going every day.
But why do I write of coffee when I should rightly be writing of tea?
It’s because I’ve recently come to understand that whereas coffee means “go,” tea means “stop,” and I’ve a feeling that, all things considered, we need more stopping in our days than we need going.
I’ve had a fall cold for the last three weeks, a nagging beast of a just-serious-enough to be annoying illness that’s left me anxious and exhausted at the end of the day.
What’s kept me going on these chilly autumn evenings has been brewing up a pot of Lady Baker's Belgian Chocolate Rooibos tea as the day is winding down, my son asleep, the dog let out for the evening, the dishes in the dishwasher. I pour myself a generous mug, add a little milk, a little honey, and settle down in the big red chair in the living room; it doesn’t take long for me to slow down, sink deeper into the chair, and to feel a whole lot better.
Tea means stop. And stopping’s what I need to do at the end of the day.
For twenty-five years I’ve been dropping in, every week or two, to visit my friend Catherine Hennessey.
Catherine's always ready with a cup of tea on offer, and she has a singular way of brewing up a strong black tea that renders it thick and milky and substantial; it is as good a lubricant for conversation as I’ve ever come across.
Some of my fondest memories of my time here on Prince Edward Island are of sitting around the kitchen table in Catherine’s house on 222 Sydney Street, a fire in the hearth and cup of her tea in-hand, hearing her talk about the complex world of Charlottetown and its people; it’s where I learned how to be an Islander.
I don’t ever go to Catherine’s with an agenda in mind, or when I’m in a rush; I drop in when I’ve got time to sit down and chew on the world for a while.
Tea means stop. And sometimes that’s exactly what I need.
My tea of choice this fall, as winter is in sight, is Lady Baker's Organic Peppermint: I've brewed up pots and pots of it, blended it with other teas, I’ve been drinking it for breakfast, and for afternoon tea; if tea were sound, peppermint is the soundtrack of this season.
As the amount of daylight shrinks, and the leaves are waiting to be raked in the back yard, and the snow tires yet to be put on the car, and the weather hovers between rain jackets and winter woollens, sitting down with a cup of peppermint tea is a helpful salve.
Autumn nights are for stopping.
I’ve no plans to give up my love of a good, strong cup of coffee, but over the same dozen years I’ve been a coffee drinker–go, go, go–I have, fortuitously, also discovered the pleasures of stopping.
For a cup.