When I moved to San Francisco seven years ago, the rental market was a mob scene. Apartment showings were flooded with prospects, and people whispered stories about slipping landlords cash on the sly or paying six months rent in advance to secure a place.
I was lucky; I got the second apartment I looked at. It was in a gorgeous old building on Jackson Street, and let me tell you: every time I walked into the lobby, I felt like Holly Golightly. I had to pinch myself when I stepped inside the elevator and the wrought iron cage whisked shut behind me. I loved everything about my apartment: the gleaming hardwood floors, the tile work in the bathroom, the intricate crown moldings that graced the ceiling.
Several months after I moved in, I was standing in the lobby when a man walked through the door. He was tall and handsome, with a devastating smile and an accent that made my ears tingle. We got into the elevator together, only to discover that we were going to the same floor. By the time the doors opened, we had learned that we were neighbors. In fact, we shared a wall.
I walked away from our meeting feeling… intrigued. The next morning, I opened my door to find a delicate white orchid plant sitting outside. A tiny card was attached. “Welcome to the building,” it said, with his signature. My heart skipped a beat.
Over the next several months, we gradually got to know each another. Every now and then, he invited me over for Moroccan tea. “Did you have trouble getting a taxi?” he would ask, when I knocked on his door. He assembled the tea in front of me, on a large silver tray, and slowly poured it into beautifully etched glasses. We sipped tea as we talked, sharing our stories, comparing the differences between our cultures.
We stayed on opposite ends of the couch, the silver tray between us. Talking. Sipping tea. For months – nay, years! – we kept each other at arm’s length. The timing wasn’t right. Months went by when we didn’t see each other or even speak. Every time I caught a whiff of mint, I thought of him. Eventually, I moved out of my precious apartment and into another, more than a dozen blocks away. I loved the second place just as much, even though the elevator wasn’t nearly so swanky.
Months passed. Every now and then, he called me or I called him. We had tea once or twice. Things changed, as things do.
And then it was the right time.
Now we have tea together most mornings; we don’t stay on opposite sides of the couch anymore. We occasionally argue about how much sugar is too much, but we've learned to keep the sugar bowl handy so that he can add more without giving me a toothache. We reminisce about our Jackson Street days, and smile over life’s happy serendipities.
Happy Valentine's Day, my love. I’d rather have tea with you than anyone else.
Very cold water
1-2 heaping tablespoons gunpowder tea
4-5 stalks fresh organic mint
Raw sugar to taste
Heat the water in a kettle just until it reaches the boiling point. Pour a splash of the boiling water into the teapot and swish it around to warm up the pot; toss. The amount of tea you use will depend upon the size of your teapot; for a 4-cup teapot, use about 2 tablespoons. Put the tea into the pot, and place the mint stalks on top, bending them to fit into the pot. Don’t separate the leaves from the stalks – a lot of the flavor comes from the stalks! Pour the boiling water over the top, and steep for 4-5 minutes. Add sugar to suit your preference.
To serve, pour the first glass, and then immediately pour the tea back into the pot. Repeat twice. The Moroccans do this to ensure that the tea is uniformly blended, an even mix of minty sweetness. Pour the next glass, raising the pot high to allow air to blend in with the tea as it falls through the air, creating a crust of bubbles that float on the top.
Enjoy it by yourself, or with someone you love, or with someone you think you might love someday. Sip slowly; breathe deeply.