I take my tea sweeter than I used to, when I take it with lemon and honey instead of black. This is interesting to me, especially given the list of things I have rejected just this week for being too sweet (pad thai, Russian apricot cheesecake, lemonade). When I was younger, I took my tea bracingly acidic, half a lemon squeezed into a mug with only a scant teaspoon of honey to temper the sourness. I could tell I had achieved the appropriate quantity of lemon juice when the tea bleached out.
My voice teacher, who introduced me to the practice of tea with honey and lemon, made me a cup almost weekly over the course of two decades. He’d put a moderate squeeze of lemon and two or three teaspoons of honey in the cup–styrofoam when we were at one of the Baptist Churches where he was music minister, sturdy ceramic when we were at his house or the university. It was usually too sweet, and I would add an extra squeeze or two of lemon when I’d drunk enough for there to be space in the cup.
Of course, in high school I used to peel limes and eat them like oranges. It’s amazing that I have any enamel left on my teeth at all.
My family would say that I come by it naturally. One of my father’s sisters was once pulled over by a cop who suspected her of drinking while driving. He wanted to know what was in the cup she was drinking from. She explained that it was lemon juice. He didn’t believe her, so he took a swig.
It was definitely lemon juice. Undiluted lemon juice, poured straight from the Real Lemon bottle.
She didn’t get ticketed.
She also didn’t have any enamel on her teeth by the time I was around.
I don’t know when I started preferring my tea to be a little more balanced than a hot lemon punch in the face. Maybe in Scotland, when I discovered heather honey, which spread like jam and clung stubbornly to the spoon in my cup. Or maybe it was that Thanksgiving during my second master’s when I spent the whole weekend in the lab drinking lemon tea until I ended up in the ER with listeria (I have avoided entire classes of things I ate that weekend). Or maybe it’s just that now I only make tea with honey and lemon when I am feeling particularly cold or sick, and in need of a little extra soothing.
I guess sometimes we all need a little extra sweetness.