Southern & Jewish
Southern & Jewish celebrates the stories, people, and experiences – past and present – of Jewish life in the American South. Hosted by the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, posts come from educators, students, rabbis, parents, artists, and many other “visitors-to and daily-livers-of” the Southern Jewish experience. From road trips to recipes to reflections, we’ll explore a little bit of everything – well, at least all things Southern and/or Jewish. Shalom, y’all!
Sweet tea is the official drink of the South, but truth be told – I’m not really a sweet tea drinker. However, I do enjoy the comfort of a nice hot cup of tea. Lately, my interest in tea has overlapped with my professional life – and sweet or not, cold or hot, tea connects all aspects of my life.
I have sipped on my fair share of teas over the years. Each phase of my life has ebbed and flowed with new flavors and new experiences. Each type of tea and each stage of life shows me that there’s something powerful about sharing a cup of tea. In some ways, this truly is a Jewish and southern ritual – coming together over tea, even if it’s not sweet or iced.
Early in the morning during high school, my mom would make me a caffeinated tea with frothed milk as a special treat. When time allowed, we would frequent different tea shops, sharing pots of tea and delicious scones. Tea time was our special ritual, which I associate with warmth, love, and support.
My best friend’s family drank so much black tea that as I shared in their teatimes, over the years my tea-drinking habits evolved from lots of sugar and milk, to no sugar and some milk, to nothing but the straight-up tea itself. As my tea drinking habits matured, so did I, growing and learning not to sugar coat things (literally or figuratively).
In college, I drank some of the most caffeinated tea I’ve ever had with new friends I made in Chile. Even when I couldn’t communicate through a shared language, I could connect over a shared love of tea. Throughout my time in college, I also worked at a coffee shop where creating different seasonal tea lattes allowed the baristas and customers to connect deeply, sampling each other’s concoctions and giving constructive feedback.
Now, in our shared office as part of the Community Engagement Department at the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life in Jackson, Mississippi, one of my coworkers and I have a communal basket of teas in our shared office—we call it CommuniTEA Engagement.
We have accumulated a variety from Celestial’s Bengal Spice to Trader Joe’s Earl Grey, and we like to share our tea treasures with the rest of our organization (unfortunately, we do not have any iced sweet tea on- hand). As people take the tea, we’ve started correlating what tea they choose with things about their personaliTEA. Here’s what we think:
- Earl Grey: A royal choice! Not only are you classy and put together, but you also are a loyal friend to the people in your community. Even your excitement is calm and centered, and yet no less intense or passionate than more upbeat enthusiasts.
- Chai: You are grounded and kind-hearted. Your charm is inviting and warm and you are the friend that can bring anyone’s mood up. You love to live life fully and you like to do so with others right there next to you.
- Traditional black tea: You are direct and honest. You need nothing special, nothing extravagant. You can definitely trust a black tea drinker, but they are not always the most spontaneous sort… which is cool.
- Fruit Tea: The fruit tea samplers are a surprising bunch. They tend to be quiet and calm, but sometimes full of surprises.
- Bengal Spice: These are a rare group. They tend to be bored with the status quo and want to challenge those around them. This tea really fuels that sass.
- Digestive Health: We work in a Jewish office…need I say more?
- Chamomile: This tea drinker definitely stresses out but has their cool down methods. They are very put together and enjoy yoga, deep breathing, and a good book with their tea. We also get a few who turn to this when they are feeling sick. All to say that these drinkers are very in-tune with their self-care.
Tea brings us together. It has helped me find comfort during times of discomfort and helped me find a way to connect my past experiences to my present. Sharing tea with new and old friends in different places around the world allows me to connect deeply both with the greater world and deeply within myself.
If you feel like sending us your favorite tea or suggesting a good one and telling us what it says about you, email firstname.lastname@example.org.