I’ve been reading some articles recently about how “modern conveniences” – everything from packaged foods to cameras to social networking – have made people lose touch with actual experiences in favor of simply checking the box and moving on.  When I was in Paris a couple years ago, I saw this phenomenon in every museum – instead of stopping to look at and absorb the beauty of the paintings and sculptures, people simply paused long enough to take a photo and move on.  I spent a lot of time wondering what, exactly, they were going to do with the photos – bore their friends and family with a slideshow showing the backs of peoples’ heads looking at famous art works?

More recently, I’ve read a few pieces noting how social networking may actually make people less connected with their friends and family – they’re so wrapped up in updating their statuses that they don’t take the time to sit down and talk with the person who is right there in front of them.  There was also a great – if rather long – article in the New York Times discussing how we’ve moved from a culture of people who cook to a culture of people who open boxes and cans and call it cooking, but love to watch cooking shows on TV.

With all of this information percolating in my brain, I went off to make a pot of tea, and realized that even as there is a “slow food” movement happening as a backlash to all these “conveniences”, tea is the perfect “slow beverage”.  Although there are ways to speed up the brewing of tea (I haven’t found a good one yet), taking the time to make tea is a refreshing pause at any time of day.

Many others have written about the mindfulness that brewing tea evokes, as well as the calm that comes from taking the time to sip and enjoy a cup of tea.  But what I love about tea goes beyond those aspects – I think that having taken the time to explore and enjoy good-quality loose-leaf tea, I enjoy seeking out foods that complement my favorite beverage.

I’ve always had a huge sweet tooth, and liked nothing more than sitting down with some cookies and tea.  But since I’ve moved almost exclusively to loose-leaf tea, I’ve found that packaged cookies don’t seem to match the tea in delicacy of flavor – and so I usually end up making them myself.  Shortbread is incredibly easy to make, and always goes well with tea (I wrote before about pairing rosemary shortbread with Darjeeling tea).  Or a lovely lemon pound cake with some Earl Grey tea makes a great snack when chatting with a friend.  Not to mention how well home-made mushroom quiche goes with a lovely amber oolong.

So as I continue in my tea journey, I’ll enjoy the time it takes to brew a proper pot of tea, because it gives me a bit of time to think about the food – slow or otherwise – that I can make to go with it.