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  • Writer's pictureNancy, Hostess of Cup & Crown

Sereni-TEA in a Pandemic


A few weeks back, I posted a picture on my Instagram page of the back cover of the Downton Abbey Afternoon Tea Cookbook that contains a quote by Hugh Bonneville as Lord Grantham in the hit series. It says, “As usual our expectations are disappointed. Let’s have some tea.” I found the words apropos, especially in this time of COVID-19.


I think it’s fair to say that everyone across the globe has in some way been affected - be it medically, financially, scholastically, recreationally, and more - by the pandemic. I’m immensely grateful to say that my family has remained healthy and the set-backs we can list are minor and mostly, to paraphrase Lord Grantham, disappointed expectations. Yet there have been days when disappointment seemed not only to rule but to cast a pall over future days, leaving one to maybe forget that there is a light at the end of this bleak tunnel.


A few weeks back, when I was wallowing in frustrations from plans once again dashed by the current social scenario, I had a brief repartee with a Brit living here in the states (via one of the many British Facebook groups to which I belong). He quipped, “Brits believe that a cup of tea will make everything better!” He ended his typing with a laughing emoji.


Publicly, I typed back something like, “Were it true, that and a well-jellied scone would cheer me no end!”

Privately, I could only muster a smirk.


But maybe the Brits are right. What if tea-drinking really could help us rise above the frustrations produced by this unprecedented pandemic? What do the Brits know that only few of us tea-drinking Americans are finding out?


I am often asked why I like drinking tea. Among the many reasons I can offer is “because it’s like having a long, hot bath on the inside.” Feeling the warm elixir travel past my lips, down my throat, and into my core has nearly the same effect as slipping into a warm bubble bath on a cold day. My muscles seem to relax and the jumble in my mind feels less overwhelming. Of course, the ritual of preparing my tea also serves to calm me because it requires a halt to my never-ending task list and forces me to focus on the tea. And tea is never the hurry-up-and-get-it-down beverage; on the contrary, it’s the take-a-quiet-moment-for-yourself drink.


Some months back, I wrote about the health benefits of tea. It’s worth repeating that tea contains L-Thianine, an amino acid that assists in altering one’s mood and helps calm anxiety. The internet is filled with articles explaining the benefits and types of tea that help reduce stress, such as chamomile, peppermint, lavender, and green teas.


Black tea drinkers can also derive the calming effects of tea. According to an article on elitedaily.com, “In a 2010 study done by researchers from University College London, drinking black tea decreased people’s stress levels over a six-week period. What's more, when the participants in the research did come head-to-head with a stressful situation…their levels of cortisol (aka a hormone that regulates stress) dropped significantly. In other words, drinking black tea not only helped them feel less stressed overall, but it also enabled them to deal with sudden stress more easily than those who didn't drink black tea.”


This aligns with the theory shared by my British friend, since the majority of tea consumed in England is of the black variety (and good news to me since most of my own tea repertoire is black).


Each morning I awake to brew my first cup of the day. Then I read or listen to the news in hopes of hearing the pandemic is nearly over; that a vaccine is on the way; that my children can return to normal schooling and being surrounded by their friends and peers; that we can once again make plans to visit distant family; and that we can finally take the vacations we previously and tearfully had to cancel. I know the day will come. I also know that until then, there will still be moments of disappointed expectations. But in the words of English playwright Arthur Wing Pinero, “While there is tea there is hope."


I’ll drink to that.


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