I knew I had to do this post just as much for myself as for anyone else out there who might be going through something similar. I’ve found that grief is something that comes in waves. It is a process. It doesn’t have a rule book or manual. It is an individual experience, and it takes however long it takes. Going through it alone however is a kind of self-induced torture.
During this time of covid-19 and human rights atrocities, we’ve lost so much: structure, outlets, human contact, jobs, income, security, respect, freedom. Some have lost their lives or people they love or beloved pets.
In a time where we are asked to stay alone or in small groups our grieving process has been taken too. Funerals, wakes, gathering together to celebrate the life of another, are limited if they are available at all. This makes it even more important to create new rituals and to soothe ourselves. It’s also extremely important not to become emotionally isolated. A phone call or video call may not substitute for a hug and an actual shoulder to cry on, but they’re better than being alone with cycling surges of loss.
I’ve had two personal situations during this time that made me realize how important it is to engage in self-care and to reach out. Someone dear to me thousands of miles away is being cared for in a facility, but no one is allowed to visit. I don't know how much time she has left. The powerlessness. The uncertainty.
Then my beloved cat fell ill and deteriorated. This magical creature that has been a part of my life every day for years was in pain. Not getting better. Having to make a decision when or if to end his life before he was in excruciating pain is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Watching the light leave his eyes felt like light was leaving my life.
Waves still hit me.
Rituals like tea and conversations with friends don’t eliminate grief, but I’ve found they help me process it. That’s the goal. Not to wallow in grief, not to reject it and have it haunt me later, but process it, get on the other side of it, and continue to live.
There have been some days that looking forward to a cup of tea is what got me out of bed. When so much of life feels out of control, making a cup of tea the way I like it reminds me that I do have choices. The calm from the L-theanine and the energy from the caffeine are a feel-good combo. They help my focus when my mind wants to fly away or just put me to sleep.
Video calls with friends over tea (and sometimes something stronger) give me a feeling of connection. To share something positive with those I love and who love me in return does more than ease grief, it builds relationships, continuing the story until the next time we can take hands and breathe the same air.
I don’t believe we are meant to be islands. Though it is difficult to be vulnerable in front of others, handling emotional pain alone isn’t heroic. It doesn’t save the world. Vulnerability isn’t shameful. I encourage you to reach out to someone you trust.
Perhaps you feel everyone in your life is currently so burdened you don’t feel comfortable talking to them about your pain. I get it. Perhaps you don’t feel you have someone in your life you can be that vulnerable in front of. I get that too. If you’re surrounded by empty platitudes rather than people who actually show up you can still show up for yourself. You can also reach out to a third-party like a professional. Sometimes it is easier to talk about something emotionally heavy with someone who is completely uninvolved. They’re not someone you will see on a regular basis, their opinion of you matters less, and they’re not emotionally attached to the issue.
Now I’m not a counselor or psychologist. I’m just a person learning to manage my own sadness during this time, and sharing what I hope will be helpful to you managing yours. Even though I do have people who are in a good place to reach out to (and who I appreciate immensely for supporting me), I do occasionally use a couple of the resources below. I hope that they are helpful to you when you need them.
Whatever your loss or grief I wish you healing and that love and joy win the battle for your heart.
Grief and Mental Health RESOURCES
Anxiety and Depression Association of America
Video resources, therapist directory
No insurance, low cost:
Messaging therapy (fee based/weekly), paired with a therapist
Crisis Text Line
Free 24/7 resource in US, Canada, UK, Ireland
Pet grief resources
Multiple resources including a forum, chat, coping suggestions for children and adults and more
The Rainbow Bridge poem: https://www.rainbowsbridge.com/Rainbow_Boutique/Rainbow_items/Poem_upclose.htm
Though I started this in May, I needed time and clarity to complete it. This is not a sponsored post. Resources were just those I've found and/or used.
Yes, this is a tea blog. I don’t want anyone getting scared. But I’ve never been one for beverage bigotry. Being open minded about what can be done with tea opens up new realms of adventure. I was contacted by Howard Sobel (Ohio’s Bean Brain) of Crooked River Coffee out of Cleveland Ohio about pairing his coffee with tea. Tea and coffee together is an adventure I’ve been wanting to go on. Because I know the quality of his coffee is stellar, having had it before, I was even more jazzed by the idea. I’m going to share recipes I tried, benefits of drinking tea and coffee, and details from my chat with Howard on getting the best flavor out of your coffee.
Tea and Coffee Together
Tea and coffee blends aren’t new, they just aren’t super common. Now, tea is of course my best friend, but I‘ll hang with a good coffee sometimes. If you like both combining them is a new taste exploration.
There are benefits to imbibing both tea and coffee. There’s a great (and funny) article by Dave Brummert over at Evolv about the positive impact of chlorogenic acid in coffee and how the benefits in green tea are given a bump with coffee intake.
Another article by Heidi Hackler at the Chopra Center talks about the immunity and other boosts that come from both beverages.
Pairing the right coffee with the right tea is key. Howard sent me three blind samples (I think he was testing me on what I remember about his coffee. It was fun, though I wasn't spot on.)
Beans: small, dry, a medium cocoa brown
Taste: winey with a sweet start and citrusy finish
I thought it was: Tanzania Peaberry
It was really: Ethiopian
I had the right region but the wrong country. Howard said that my taste description was right on for coffees from that region of the world. I used this coffee in a coffee and green tea mix (see recipes below)
Beans: larger beans, dry, medium brown
Taste: fuller bodied, woody, smooth, more of a pleasantly bitter finish
I thought it was: South American. I had a fleeting thought it might be Sumatra, but dismissed it.
It was really: Sumatra!
I should have stuck with that fleeting first impression. This is very versatile coffee. I used it for the Down and Dirty, Dirty Chai and Customized Chai (recipe below)
Beans: mixed sizes, dark, oily
Taste: smooth, initial sweetness gives way to chicory, charred wood, leather, easy finish
I thought it was: a blend, but that’s all I got
It was really: ?? They forgot what they sent me, lol! So it’s the mystery coffee blend of a dark roast and an African coffee.
Here is what I played around with. With the Sumatra, I decided to try a variation on the famous ‘dirty chai’. Chai tea, with all of it’s warm spiciness and creamy deliciousness is a good fit for a coffee blend. A strong, full bodied black tea and spices stand up to the boldness of coffee without getting lost. I did two variations.
Down and Dirty, Dirty Chai
When all you have are basic chai tea bags and brewed coffee, you can still have a take on this more common tea and coffee blend. This is aimed at a 12-16 oz mug. (Does anyone actually drink a 6 oz. cup anymore?)
Customized Dirty Chai
make coffee by preferred method: espresso shot, french press, drip, cold brew….-( I like making a cold brew concentrate, then heating and adding to the chai. I enjoy cold brew coffee best. The lowered acidity means no stomach issues for me.)
Note: You can make the chai in one pot. Simmer spices in water. Then add milk and sweetener. Bring to simmer again, then turn off heat and steep tea in it. Strain into cup and add coffee.
Spices to try for a customized chai:
*These spices don’t do as well with long steeping times. They can become overpowering or change in flavor
Green Tea Coffee
This combo was trending a few years ago. This was a combination I thought could go either way. I mixed Sample A, the Ethiopian coffee, with a Ceylon sencha tea that had matcha in it. I thought the winey and citrusy notes of that coffee would pair well with the green tea, or be the best bet of the three.
It completely surprised me. I enjoyed the mix of the two. I brewed the coffee in a pour-over style and made the tea separately to honor the different water temperatures and brewing styles for each. After brewing, I mixed approximately three quarters green tea with one quarter coffee. The unique personalities of both the tea and the coffee came through the blend.
Then I made a green tea coffee latte:
Similar to the green tea coffee, this is a simple blend. I used a loose black puerh, steeping one teaspoon for 3 minutes. I brewed coffee Sample C, the dark mystery blend, in a pour over style.
I also liked this one mixed 50/50. This puerh has enough body and flavor to stand up to the bitterness of coffee without getting lost. I’d say the puerh even mellowed the coffee.
A Bit About Howard
and Crooked River Coffee
Crooked River roasts their coffees in-house. You can’t ask for fresher unless you pick the beans yourself beforehand (but leave this to the professionals and you can just enjoy the pristine beans.)
Old Fashioned B2C Personality
CRC sells wholesale of course, but also has retail clients they sell to via a farmer’s market and directly. They vend at their local farmer’s market because that is the place they get to engage with the consumer. Howard tries to take new customers from a lackluster experience to a great coffee experience. “We try to get into people’s palates and encourage them to experiment a lot. I like to be a teacher. That’s part of the joy of being in the business for 28 years.” - Howard
They have a website, but the way to order retail through Crooked River Coffee is to call the office at (440) 442-8330 and have a chat. They have a low retail minimum of 2 pounds of coffee per order.
Howard's Tips for the Best Coffee
Starting with fresh beans and grinding before brewing yields the best cup. Make sure the fineness of the grind fits the brewing method. Store beans in an airtight container away from sunlight. Don’t put them in the freezer.
Check out this coffee grind graphic from The National Coffee Association (Note: coarse is good for cold brew too):
If you don’t have a quality water filtration system at home, buy spring water. It’s a quick fix. Though it costs more it ensures you don’t have chlorine, lots of bacteria, scale, or sediment (which will damage your coffee maker).
Keep temperatures between 195 and 205 degrees to avoid scalding
A Note on Blooming: When coffee is fresh it gives off quite a bit of carbon dioxide when brewing. The gas pushes the water away from the coffee as it releases. If you pour a small amount of hot water over the grounds and let them sit for 20-30 seconds before brewing more flavor is released in the brewing process. Give it a try!
If you love quality coffee like you love quality tea check out Crooked River Coffee for some of the freshest, most delightful coffee you can get. Then go wild! Use herbs and other tisanes like chocolatey cacao husk and orange peel to enhance your creations. If you take a dive into this blending fun let us know on Facebook and Twitter what you create.
Thanks to Howard for supplying the coffee for this adventure. There was no other sponsorship or affiliate links in this post.
The adage that there is nothing new under the sun is especially true today with tea. I mean, it takes a lot to surprise me. I’ve seen everything-but-the-kitchen-sink type teas all over the place for a while now (Teavana for example. Is there actually any tea in there?) There is ant tea too...and I accidentally created a tea that tasted like bugs, but don’t worry, I have no intention of marketing my tea fail. Still, I did a double take when I saw this tea hit the Trader Joe’s shelves a couple of weeks back. I love watermelon. It does go well with mint. Mint goes well with tea. Yet, the idea of all three of them dancing in a cup together seemed like something that could go very well or terribly wrong. After having a discussion with one of the awesome employees at my local TJs (I won’t change my TJs because the people there are particularly awesome) I decided I had to make my own assessment.
The black tea was a medium bodied one to my taste. As is often case in the world of shelf tea the ingredients list didn’t help with any origin or other detailed info. It just included ‘black tea’ in the list <sigh>. I think it would take a more deeply trained palate than mine to identify the black leaf behind everything else going on. Oh yeah, the ingredients also include orange peels, the ever vague ‘natural flavors’ and licorice (?!). So I wouldn’t recommend it hot by itself, but once I added honey the sweetness of the watermelon emerged. It was still a little weird, but interesting and fun to taste. I decided to do the full dressing and add milk. It wasn’t gross as some might guess, it was just... not helpful.
My gut instinct is that this tea was made to be iced, but it was in small single serving bags, not pitcher sized ones and included “hot tea by the cup” and “iced tea by the pitcher” directions. I thought I’d start traditional with a hot steep. Even though I would have taken a bet that it needed sweetener to have the best effect I did try it without to start. It tasted more like sucking on watermelon rind with a splash of mint rather than sweet watermelon.
Next I did an iced tea from a hot steep. Again, plain was not the best but I think plain iced was better than plain hot. This time I added amber sugar and it was quite good this way. The mint added a refreshing coolness that went beyond the ice and the sugar was a better fit to the watermelon sweetness than the honey I used in the hot steep (it was a raw honey with a definitive flavor that kind of competed with the watermelon rather than just enhanced it).
Lastly I did a cold steep for 8 hours. I think this was the best of all methods. Though I have come to love some of the tannin release in a hot black tea with milk (and sometimes sweetener) and prefer it to the milder cold brew, with this tea the milder brew allowed the fruit to shine brightest. I dissolved some amber sugar crystals in a little warm water for a quick and dirty simple syrup-like sweetener and added it to the cold brew. Both my friend and I agreed this was a great addition and made for a unique iced tea. I’d toss in the idea of making a spiked version with vodka perhaps or even using it in a cocktail with other fruit flavors.
If you have a curious palate and these flavors are ones you usually like, give this tea spin. Make it for your next cookout or other summer event. It may inspire some interesting conversation.
I am a natural night owl. Well, at least until 12-2am. But I also love the beauty and energy of early morning. I’m talking when the sun is already out not that pitch black morning crap. I only get up that early if there is a really sweet carrot in it for me. I’m talking 7ish. The tricky parts for me are late morning and early evening. I kept trying to coax myself into earlier nights just to get the mornings on track consistently rather than just for projects, but it always failed. Then I discovered polyphasic sleep. As the name implies it is sleeping in multiple stretches of time rather than just one long one.
I had found a video of someone who had tried it and gave a detailed account of his experience. I thought it was a really clear account and very encouraging (I'll post the link below). There are many polyphasic patterns you can choose like one long period with other shorter periods or just a series of short ones. Now this guy went in bold and immediately dropped his nighttime sleep amount to four hours and added two 25 minute naps during the day. Like he said, it is hard on the body and he walked around like a zombie for days.
I wasn’t on board with that. For me it made more sense to do a more gradual dip. Usually I would sleep between 7 and 8 hours at night unless I was ill or had a particularly demanding day. While I was thinking about trying this polyphasic sleep I found myself naturally moving into a 6 hour nighttime sleep period from 2/2:30am – 8/8:30am with one nap during the day in the early evening. It wasn’t hard because it wasn’t drastic, but the reboot feeling I got from the nap and the consistency of when I would sleep and when I would wake made me feel like I was getting two days in one. I know this is mainly psychological, but greater productivity, clear focus and satisfaction were what I was going for rather than just a huge time gain. Now, technically my schedule was biphasic sleep as I was sleeping in two periods of time not more, as in polyphasic. I just felt this naturally worked better for me. I tried moving the nap to late morning sometimes instead of early evening. I was just listening to my body and taking it when I needed it most depending on schedule demands.
Now how does tea factor into this, you might ask. Well, I had always been able to drink tea whenever I wanted to, even late at night, and I would still be able to sleep. I know that is not the case for everyone and it may have had to do with my constantly changing schedule. I felt that to be successful with this test it would be best if I stopped my tea drinking in the 5-7pm range. So, I would have my last cup of tea after my nap (if I took it in the evening). This kind of gave me the feeling of a second day even more. I found it worked so well that I started to wake up just before my alarm. That’s something the man in the video mentioned, that he had gotten to a place where he no longer needed an alarm.
He also continued to drop his nighttime sleep amount until he was only sleeping two hours per night along with his two daily naps. He said his productivity was amazing. I have not gotten that far. I am going to try to gradually reduce my nighttime sleep period to about four hours and see if that works for me. The time gain is attractive, just so long as I don’t feel deprived.
I am also curious to see if a tea done in a Bulletproof coffee style would give a more sustained caffeine release to make my mornings even more effective. For those who are unfamiliar, Bulletproof Coffee was designed by a man named Dave Asprey. He was inspired after being rejuvenated by Tibetan yak butter tea while in Tibet. The basic idea is adding high quality fats (like MCT oil derived from coconut oil and grass fed butter ) to the coffee which allow for a more effective use of the caffeine and slower release eliminating the crash and extending the brain boosting energy effects. I have tried some variations using tea and did find I enjoyed it. I will have to report back on how well it works with polyphasic sleep. I might even compare the Bulletproof Coffee effect against a tea-centric version.
Now there are some challenges to this kind of sleep pattern. As most of our society doesn’t function this way it is a bit of an isolating experience unless you are in a tight crew of people all taking this on together (which sounds brilliant!). The naps are key but it may take some planning to work them into your schedule. For 9-5ers a nap during lunch and/or a nap after work may suffice. Working around children’s schedules in addition to work schedules may make this a no go for some. Also, it is easy to fall off the pattern. All I needed was one day where I missed my nap and I got off. Also, if you get sick or have the occasional 16-20 hour workday, like us crazy creatives, it can shake the schedule. Still, I feel like I want to see how long and far I can go with this as it really felt right for me. It was like I finally found a sleep pattern that fit my life rather me trying to fit it.
There are many videos and articles out there but if you’d like to watch the video I referenced it is on Youtube. Interested in trying polyphasic sleep or do you think it sounds too radical? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook. Wishing you great sleep and great tea!
by Cassandra Vincent
This is not a sponsored post
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