Another Superior Tea

Cup of hot tea

For many years, I’ve served most visitors sharing a pot of tea with me at my house my favorite British tea, Typhoo. A longtime champion of this excellent tea, I will probably continue to offer it to visitors as the default brew.

However, from now on, returning visitors may be astonished to hear me offering them the chance to try another British brand besides Typhoo: Yorkshire Gold.

This tea isn’t totally new to me, and before I discovered Typhoo on a trip to England, Yorkshire Gold had for several years been my favorite, ever since I first ran across it in a tea shop in (of all places) Akron, Ohio.

Before the Yorkshire Gold era began at my house all those years ago, my tea preferences – we’re talking hot tea here – had bounced around from one tea to another until I’d accumulated quite a hoard of different brands. Here’s what my crowded “tea shrine” looks like today:

Mostly Christmas 2014 073

And there’s a similarly over-stocked wall o’ tea at the cabin.

A few years ago, the extent of my home tea collection had gotten so unwieldy that, for a brief time, I handed visitors a typed-up tea menu to select from. That scheme seemed to annoy rather than delight most of my visitors, however, so I quickly abandoned the menu method of selecting the brew du jour and returned to serving various different types of tea according to my whim or mood at the moment…until that trip to Akron.

Yorkshire Gold then reigned supreme at my house until that fateful trip to England, and it’s been Typhoo, Typhoo, Typhoo for me every morning since, and for everyone else who’s wanted hot tea at my house. (I keep on hand a stash of decaffeinated Typhoo for the tea taken after sundown.)

This past Christmas, however, a friend gave me a box of Yorkshire Gold. It had been many years since I’d purchased a box of YG teabags, but I remembered the way the box looked from having seen it so often in local grocery stores – which for some reason are far more likely to stock YG than Typhoo. And I remembered, too, that I had once preferred YG to all other British brands of tea. So I duly and gratefully re-arranged my already-crowded tea shrine to make room for this gift box of YG tea bags – my stash of Typhoo having its own privileged location on the Lazy Susan atop my microwave oven and next to the electric tea kettle my friend Roger had given me for Christmas in 2013.

When I added the box of YG to the dozens of other teas in my tea shrine, I wasn’t planning to make a cup of it any time soon. One day early this month, however, I impulsively decided to brew myself a morning cup of YG as a sort of New Year experiment, expecting to return the following day to my old standby. But morning after morning, I have found myself reaching for my box of YG instead of Typhoo.

The truth is that Typhoo is stronger than YG – or, to put it another way, YG is “smoother” than Typhoo. A cup of YG has not even a hint of a bitter aftertaste. If I want a rich, full-bodied pot of tea – especially in the afternoon, or along with a proper breakfast with a visiting friend (the only time I eat breakfast at home), it’ll most likely be Typhoo that I’ll choose. But on those breakfast-less mornings when I want to start the day without something quite so strong – but with something still extremely flavorful – I may keep on preferring YG! That’s what’s happened thus far this year, anyway – and it’s already mid-January. (Incidentally, both brands are best with sugar and a splash of half-and-half.)

This recent run of morning YG has gone on so long now, I’ve begun to wonder:

• When the gift box of YG runs low, will I replace it with another box, or will I lazily return to the also-excellent Typhoo?

• If YG ends up occupying a permanent place in my crowded tea shrine, will I end up alternating between Typhoo and YG every morning?

• How many of my visitors will end up preferring the latter to the former, once they’re given the choice?

Stay tuned!

Meanwhile, you might want to give YG a try yourself, next time you espy a box of it at your local grocery. Like Typhoo, YG has an interesting history. And, like Typhoo, you can obtain it online. Finally, you need not take my word for the claim that YG ranks up there in the Top Five British Black Teas: the internet is full of dozens of reviews. Last time I checked, there were over 50 screenfuls of reviews for YG at Amazon.com, and that’s merely one review-laden site.

Yorkshire Gold Tea

Some Thoughts for the New Year about Spirituality and Religion

religion spirituality venn diagram

My spirituality-related ruminations are primarily supported by my own reading – my reading lists for the past 30 years invariably feature a  “Spirituality” or a “Religion or Anti-religion” category. I also occasionally poke around in several relevant Internet sites (listed in my blogroll over there in the sidebar under the heading “Atheism”). I monitor the often-intriguing postings of members of the Facebook  group that calls itself Atheism: Take the Step That Changes Everything. And my quarter-century’s worth of continuing involvement with the local Quakers and with Gay Spirit Visions reliably provides numerous prods to my spirituality-related thoughts, habits, and decisions.

So I was rather surprised to read, this first day of 2015, some interesting reflections on the relations between spirituality and religion at an Internet site operated by the gay-focused White Crane Institute. Because I’ve learned so much from the Institute’s daily digestible emailed tidbits about gay and lesbian history (with the occasional nugget of “gay wisdom” thrown in), I was pleased to see in this morning’s automated email from the Institute its re-posting of an interesting excerpt from the transcript of a conversation with Bob Barzan, a founder of the Institute’s White Crane Journal. 

Herewith is my own abridged version of that excerpt:

Often when people try to understand something that is not understandable they personify the situation and create gods, goddesses, and other supernatural being like angels, spirits, and devils to help them grasp the mystery. These beings help them understand creation, love, evil, pain, sickness, and death, among other things. For some, god can be the personification of forgiveness or judgment or compassion. This is not necessarily an unhealthy way of living, but there are traps. Where we get into trouble is when we believe that our projections are real, that our personifications are beings separate from our own minds and that these projections communicate with us. Actually we are just communicating with ourselves, telling ourselves what we want to hear. And too often what we hear are unhealthy teachings on how to live in the world. Too often our gods personify and validate compulsive behaviors of all kinds, hate, bigotry, exclusion, and injustice or tell us lies about love, sickness, death, or other aspects of life.

There is also a problem with people using religious teachings including images of god that are two thousand years old. For some reason many people believe that our ancient ancestors knew more about spirituality than people know today. There is no evidence for this belief at all, in fact there is a great deal of evidence that the ancient beliefs were at best superstitious and often unhealthy. We know that our ancestors had little understanding of the ways the world works. They held irrational and harmful beliefs about medical care, biology, sex, geography, and astronomy. We easily dismiss these aspects of their worldviews but accept their teachings on spirituality. The fact of the matter is, however, they were just as misguided and wrong in their beliefs about religion, ethics, and spiritual experiences as they were about anything else….

…We really need to get beyond god-ness…[in the same way most of us]…got over the Easter bunny, tooth fairies, Santa Claus, and the belief that our parents are all-powerful and all-knowing. It is part of the process of growing up, part of maturing, and it can be difficult because it challenges our worldview. Realizing our gods are projections is a beginning. Then it is important to continue to ask questions about our personal beliefs and understandings, and not accept pat or irrational answers.

God-ness has helped us understand great mysteries, but it is a limiting concept or notion. In fact, I think that god-ness is now a hindrance to personal and community development. It prevents us from using the full force of our intelligence and creativity in solving the ethical, political, social, and environmental crisis facing us today….

…The fact of the matter is that religion has inspired both good and evil, and I think we have reached a point where the trend is more evil than good. There are other reasons, not religious, for treating people well, for creating art, for sharing resources, and the other goods that religion is often credited with. Recent research…shows that the more religious a community is, the more that community suffers from murder, infant mortality, teen pregnancy, abortion, and sexually transmitted diseases. Other studies show the more religious a group is the higher their divorce rates and rates of teen sex….

…It is commonly accepted that anything done in the name of religion is good and beneficial, and that personal beliefs are sacred and beyond critique by anyone….It is vital that we not blindly accept the irrational, dangerous, and caustic religious beliefs of other people, no matter who they are. Religion deserves no special privileges; it is not beyond criticism. I believe in the right that anyone has to his or her own personal beliefs, but the line is drawn when those beliefs lead to actions that are dangerous to themselves or others….

Many people hide their bigotry, hate, and lack of compassion behind their religious beliefs. They have the right to do that, but I will not hesitate to call them bigots and their beliefs bigotry. One of the things that bothers me is when people call themselves conservatives when what they really are, are bigots. I was talking to a man once who said his parents are against same sex marriage because they are conservative. I corrected him, pointing out that to believe you have a right that other people don’t is to be a bigot, and that his parents sound like they are bigots. He looked at me in a shocked silence for a moment, and then agreed. His parents are indeed bigots….

…[Spirituality]…exists in every context. I like to think we are rescuing spirituality from its exclusive claim by religions. Religion is only one tiny aspect of spirituality.

As the Quakers say, “this man speaks my mind.” Thank you, Bob Barzan, and thank you, White Crane Institute, for making the first day of 2015 a more reflective day than might have otherwise been the case.

Text Source: White Crane #67, posted January 1, 2015 at Gay Wisdom for Daily Living by the White Crane InstituteImage Source: Taking Charge of Your Health & Well-Being.