Those who know me know my wanderlust as well as my affinity for tea. Some also know I love a good story. While on a recent Caribbean cruise (not a tea tour this time), I began to suffer from a prolonged period without some good tea. Oh, there were teabags. Lipton obviously had the contract for this cruise ship, and no aspersions cast on their products. But I left that world behind a long time ago. 

It had been seven long, lonely days at sea (actually only three) since I’d had some “normal” tea. I had left the comfort of my tea cave — with all my precious caddies — and boarded a floating metropolis bound for the open seas and warm tropical ports of call. Once the initial glow of excitement began to fade and I realized that the daily “afternoon tea” that was advertised in the brochure was just a cruel ruse to lure in those afflicted by the caffeinated curse, the whispers of tea-withdrawal-induced panic started to tickle my subconscious. I tried to assuage my “needs” by acquiescing to using a tea bag. “I can just use two” I justified to my inner Smeagle. But soon, I caught myself needed to use three or even four. And sometimes (tea gods forgive me) resorted to adding sugar and even (gulp) milk.

Amid the tightly packed assortment of tea bags at the 24-hour restaurant, I even mistook one red foil envelope (Apple Cinnamon) for another (English Breakfast). Imagine the horror! Expecting an insipid brown infusion to leach out from the paper bag but instead seeing blood red tendrils seeping into the clear water. It seemed like the whole ship started spinning like one of those Psycho movies. Okay, so the boat was gently rocking and it was a bright sunny day. But inside…..! 

It seems a bit obsessive, but I often bring a secret stash of tea and a tiny travel tea set when I’m on the road. This time, I had tried with all my strength to not let my tea addiction show, but I could endure it no longer. Staggering, I made my way through the unending labyrinth of identical hallways back to my cabin. I got on my hands and knees and reached under the bed where I had carelessly shoved my backpack. Without any disguise of gentleness, I pulled it from its hiding place and, like a wild animal, tore open the zipper and plunged my hand deep into its heart – fingers searching for my salvation. 

I felt the familiar shape and pulled it close to me. That which had sustained me so many times in the past would save me again. My portable gongfu gaiwan tea set in its comforting red pouch! I felt better just holding it. I was soon able to stand squarely on my feet again and with renewed strength marched courageously back up to the lounge chairs on the top deck (actually only up 2 decks, and I took the elevator).

I sat down at my throne and spread my holy utensils out upon the altar in front of me (a comfy lounge chair with a little table in front). I opened up the precious pouch of strong-roast, aged Rou Gui oolong tea and inhaled deeply the rejuvenating vapors. My heart raced. My spine straightened and my muscles surged with newfound strength.

I charged over to the self-service beverage bar, looked down at the feeble tea bag assortment, and then with a dominating scowl took two clean mugs from the rack, filled them with boiling[-ish] water, and returned to my seat. With one mug of water I washed the long, black leaves and rinsed the gaiwan and cups. I inhaled the aroma of the moistened leaves and my spirit began to soar. 

The second cup of water was poured onto the leaves and within a few moments, I was sipping the elixir of immortality (some really good tea). I gorged on cup after tiny cup, refilling the water time and time again until I had consumed the full essence of the leaves’ power. I was whole again. My former weakness just a vague memory. I knew I would survive the next few days.

Oh, and the whole family and I had a great time in Honduras, Belize, and several places in Mexico. I found a cute tea shop in Costa Maya and paid way too much for a glass of fruity iced tea. We swam in the sea, walked on the white sand beaches, and ate way too much. We visited the Mayan ruins in Tulum and had such a great time that I’m thinking of going back for a visit in March for more fun. (I will be bringing my tea set.)

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