Poetry tea time is an activity that gets a lot of social media attention in Charlotte Mason circles. It comes in bursts, with flurries of posts during the coldest, dreariest months. Tea time is not an essential part of a Charlotte Mason education, but for some families, it does provide a nice way to focus on poetry, picture study and/or composer study. The following articles are a good synopsis of what a Charlotte Mason tea time is and isn’t:
We Latter-day saints have another obstacle to deal with when it comes to tea time—the tea itself! In the words of one of our (lesser-sung) hymns: “Tea and coffee and tobacco [we] despise!” Granted, we Mormons could have a perfectly lovely tea time with juice or cocoa, but what about herbal tea? How do you even make herbal tea? Can it taste good? Who defined hot drinks as coffee and tea, anyway?
I’ve done a lot of thinking on the topic of tea. I served a mission to Russia. Russians don’t drink water—it’s almost always tea, even in the summer heat (yes, Russia gets hot in the summer—I was surprised, too). We were given specific instructions not to drink black or green tea. Herbal teas were fine. As I’ve compared notes with missionaries who served in other tea-loving countries, they were told a similar thing. Our consensus was that anything coming from the actual tea plant (Camellia sinensis) was the prohibited tea, and anything else was okay. Now, I would never assume that I have the right to dictate which kinds of tea are against the Word of Wisdom and which aren’t. The best way to understand what the “hot drinks” section of the Word of Wisdom means is for you is to seek your own revelation on the matter through prayer.
If you are interested in adding herbal teas to your tea-time offering, let me offer some tips. The easiest way to introduce tea time is to buy a box of tea from the grocery store. Celestial Seasonings is a ubiquitous brand (and offers a fun factory tour if you’re ever in the Boulder, Colorado area). Other good brands are Traditional Medicinals and Bigelow. Always check the ingredients! Green tea (and green tea extract) love to hide in all sorts of food and beverage items these days. If you don’t know which flavor to get, here are some recommendations:
- Lemon & Honey
- Sleepytime Tea
Popular Flavorful Teas
If you are a tea novice, you will want to flavor your teas with honey or sugar (especially the flavorful teas). I drink most of my tea unsweetened, but that’s an acquired taste. You can make the tea in individual cups or in a teapot. Add the teabag(s) once the water is hot and allow it to steep (sit) for 5-10 minutes. Remove the teabags and then sweeten to taste. You can drink the tea warm or put it in the fridge (or add ice) for an iced tea.
If you are feeling a bit more adventurous, you can make make loose leaf tea. This is the type of tea I prefer, as it allows me total control over what goes into my tea. The general rule is to use 1 tablespoon of dried flowers and leaves per 8 oz of boiling water. There are a few ways you can contain the tea while it steeps. You can buy empty teabags and fill them. You can use an infuser. These come in a variety of shapes, sizes, materials. I’ve tried a few and this one is my favorite by far. It fits in either my single mug or my little teapot. A third option is to use a French press.* These are traditionally used for making coffee, but I use mine when I need to make tea for a group or for when I’m sick and will be drinking tea all day. It keeps the tea warm from morning until the late afternoon. For all three methods, let the tea steep for about 5 minutes and then strain. (Some teas can steep longer without becoming bitter. It depends on the tea.)
Favorite Basic Loose Leaf Teas
- Star Anise (add 1-2 pods to 4-8 oz boiling water and let steep—no tea bag required!)
- Chamomile & Mint (1 heaping teaspoon of each per 8 oz water)
- Stomach Soother (2 teaspoons dried mint, 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, pinch of dried ginger per 8 oz water)
Many of the leaves and flowers used in teas are easy to grow in your own yard (chamomile, mint, lemon balm, sage, etc.). Perhaps even some of the things already growing in your yard can make great tea (peach leaves, for example). With a little research and know-how, tea time can influence your nature study! But if it all seems too overwhelming, there’s another little trick I learned from the Russians—a spoonful of jam in hot water can make a fabulous tea substitute.
*A French press is also great for making Crio Bru, which is ground up cocoa beans that are brewed like coffee. I have friends who swear by it. The first time I tried it I thought it was terrible, but it’s growing on me.
Jessi Vandagriff loves learning, teaching, and spending time with her husband and two young children. She runs a variety of websites, including this one. Her free, Charlotte-Mason-inspired website for teaching children to sing can be found atwww.singsolfa.com. She has ambitions to become a decent gardener, hiker, and nature journaler.