Several months ago, I was chatting with Ilona Andrews and mentioned that my husband liked Oolong tea, but I didn’t. Her first question: Well, what temperature do you brew it at? Me: Uhh, whatever temperature the Keurig spits out under the “hot water” selection.
Ilona: Eeeeeek, you’re doing it wrong!
Friends, I had no idea that this chat was the beginning of new addiction for me, let alone a new name that Ilona will forever be known by among my family members.
At the time, I told Ilona that I couldn’t be bothered to worry about temperatures, and no, I didn’t have a tea kettle, and no, I didn’t want one, and no, I didn’t buy any tea other than Lipton or Bigelow, and no, I wasn’t interested in trying new brands. Little did I know that such statements were like waving a red, tea-stamped flag at a tea connoisseur like Ilona. She didn’t argue with me. She just said “Expect a package.”
I forgot about this until two weeks later, when not one, but SEVERAL packages arrived. The first was a counter-top programmable tea kettle with six different temperate settings marked with things like “Oolong,” “green tea,” “white tea,” “delicate,” and “boiling.” The next box contained a glass tea kettle with a removable transfuser for loose leaf tea, and the last two boxes contained five different Harney & Sons teas, most loose leaf, but two satchel tins as well. I laughed when I called Ilona and said “Thank you, but this is too much! I told you, I don’t really drink tea.”
Her response: Just try it.
Since Ilona had gone to all the trouble of sending me this tea extravaganza, I brewed my husband a cup of Oolong at the specified “Oolong” setting, and myself a cup of the herbal peach tea. I’ll sum up my taste buds response:
So, I then tried the rest of the flavors over the next couple days. Then, I ordered some new flavors. And then a few more, and a few more. After all, my husband started drinking a cup of tea nearly every morning after this, and I began adding tea to my afternoons almost every day. After less than two weeks, I sent Ilona the below image of my then-current tea collection:
It’s, um, grown a bit since this picture. Hey, variety is the spice of life, right? Plus, now it’s summer, so I HAD to try the iced tea versions (Passion Fruit for the win, btw!) My family made fun of me for my new addiction…right up until they came to visit and I sat them down and practically force-fed them some tea. My niece immediately bought some of the same flavors, as did my sister. Now, in my family, Ilona is no longer known as “the author.” She is called “the tea lady,” and they keep asking me if she has other flavors to recommend.
Ilona finds this hilarious.
So, if you see me calling Ilona the “tea lady” online, now you know why. And, in a nod to #ThrowbackThursday, here’s a picture of me, Ilona and Gordon from maybe 10 years ago. Gordon thinks it’s from the time we were all in New Orleans. Ilona and I can’t remember, but hey, it looks like we’re enjoying ourselves either way.