I'm one of those annoying people kindly referred to as A Morning Person. Sometimes it takes a little caffeine to get me going, but I would much rather get up at 5:00 in the morning than still be up at that time from the night before. (But I only get up at 5:00 when I have papers to grade.) There's nothing better in my world than morning light, when the sun doesn't offer any warmth and it's the most wonderful thing to curl up in a blanket with a cup of tea and just be. Depending on where I am, that means opening the blinds and curtains on my patio doors, curling up with the green fleece on my couch or making a mug and hopping back under the electric blanket in the Scamp or making a mug and going for a walk down along the shoreline of Lake Huron, with the Mackinac Bridge catching that rare angle of morning light.
They say that smell is the greatest link to memory and I think they're right. This morning, in my office, faced with research papers and the prospect of two more classes turning theirs in in the next three hours, I find that my stash of tea is lower than I thought it was. It's getting towards the end of the semester, after all. Yesterday I finished up the Earl Grey I had in the drawer and I'm almost out of Assam. I open the tin of Maritime Mist and I have enough left for one mug. Better than nothing. So I fire up the electric kettle, pour the tea into the strainer and shake out the dust.
This tea is the best tea in the world. I first discovered it up in Kalamazoo, Michigan on a road trip with my friend AMR and her husband FDR to see our friends G. and M., who had moved there the year before. We'd gone out for breakfast and and on the way out of the restaurant, there was a little gift shop type alcove and like a magnet, I found the tea first. The company is called Great Lakes Tea and Spice and they sell not only tea but spices too (ironic, right, considering their name?) but I smelled the Maritime Mist and immediately called AMR over: "You HAVE to smell this!" I've been a fan of Earl Grey for a while, but this Earl Grey Creme is on another planet of wonder. I don't know what they add to it to give it the creamy flavor, but it's incredible. I also made the mistake of sniffing the Organic Sunburst Ginger too closely and those of you who've gotten too close to ginger know what I'm talking about. But that tea is amazing as well.
As much as I like supporting small, independent businesses, I have had to bow to the practicality of price. It's a little spendy to buy it from Great Lakes. But one day, my sisters told me that Teavana sells the same tea. For my birthday last year, they sent me a giant tin of it. When we're all together, that's the tea we pull out of the cabinet first. (Though our father will make disparaging comments about it. For him, straight Assam.) We like our Maritime Mist with a little simple syrup.
But anytime I'm confronted with this tea, more than any other memory that's associated with this scent, I'm back in the kitchen in the Scamp, on my maiden voyage. I'm parked in the driveway of friends, up at their cottage in Michigan. It's not exactly camping, but I'm trying to work out the kinks before I go elsewhere. Nobody else is up. The morning light is thin and yellow through my curtains. I boil the water, make my tea, and I take my tea, my book, and my blanket to the lake side of the house and sit there for a while, absorbing the morning through my palms, cupped around my mug. It's been years now since that morning, but one whiff of this tea will always put me back in that spot. Since I'm moving in a few weeks and may never physically be in that place again, that kind of teleporting is essential.
On a separate note, as a public service, after many, many years of trying to find the perfect travel mug, I have found it. And with the fervor of a new convert, I must tell the world. I got mine at Target (and then ordered a second one from Amazon), but Contigo is the greatest mug in the world. Stainless steel, double-walled, absolutely airtight, so it absolutely does not spill. It's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.