I decided to continue with our summer tradition of driving to the mountains of North Carolina to visit my best friend’s farm. I knew it would be different this year. 2020 is not the same world I have grown to know and love. I am accepting 2020 and all of its quirks and inconveniences. All that I have learned and experienced in my life has prepared me for this adaptation. Part of this acceptance has been allowing the feelings to come and go. I’m sad for so many things happening in the world, while I am also embracing the moment, knowing that we can still live fully given our circumstances.
We set off on our journey to the Carolinas discussing the ways this trip wouldn’t be the same but how we would embrace being in cooler weather, seeing our friends, and being active in the mountains. On our way out of town, we stopped at our local coffee shop, Karma Cream, for tea lattes to go, wondering how we would be able to live without our regular delicious cups of tea. We planned adventures for the week during our drive. Hiking, swimming in lakes, kayaking, berry picking, and tubing were on the agenda. We felt free and ready for anything different than staying at our home in hot, humid Florida.
We learned that Dobra Tea House, in Asheville, was only open for take-out service. This lovely place is unique in their tea offerings, décor, and healthy foods. The downtown location used to delight us in the scenery alone. The aroma of freshly made tea and spices filled the air. You walk in, choosing the section that calls to you. Low and round tables are surrounded by floor cushions in a room that is elevated by three short steps. Leave your shoes at the bottom of the stairs and perch yourself on a pillow, choosing the fabric that appeals to you.
The tea menu is a book that reminds me of a hymnal from Baptist churches in my youth. It is brown and worn with laminated pages describing the benefits of tea, the ancient stories of tea, and all of the ways they will prepare and serve you tea. My girls loved to order a pot of tea, deliberately choosing one or two flavors. I enjoyed the never-ending gourd of yerba mate with fresh, local Appalachian honey. A metal straw with a built-in sieve at the bottom, allows me to drink continuously while the tea leaves float on top. The round, wood gourd feels delightful in my hands. It comes with a glass teapot of water, perched on a stand with a lit tea light candle below, keeping it the perfect temperature.
I am hopeful we can have this experience again one day. On this trip we stopped at the West Asheville location, avoiding the tourists and crowds of downtown. We ordered our tea at the window, wearing our masks. Waiting in the sun, we could feel the cool air-conditioned air blowing on our faces. I could smell fresh baked goods and wanted to step inside with all of my being. Instead, we walked away with tea in hand, in paper cups with plastic lids. I enjoyed every sip in the car, driving back to our friend’s farm up the long and winding mountainous road.
On day two of our vacation, we drove two hours to Blowing Rock, NC to kayak at a peaceful lake. Each adventure we went on was achieved by taking two Prius’, as we drove separate from our friends to social distance. We wore masks to rent kayaks and wait for our turn. After we were in our own kayak and had paddled away from the shore, we dropped the masks to our necks and breathed in the fresh air and the magnificent scenery of tall trees and water.
Paddling for the first time in a year, I became one with the water in the way I cherish. Holding the cold paddle in my hands, I moved rhythmically left and right, splashing water onto my skirt. I can’t contain my smile when I see the beauty that is everywhere. The trees and branches and turtles and floating logs are incredible. But the scene of two kids, the same age, laughing as they navigate through the water to find a hidden area to “accidentally fall in,” is magical in a way that has become foreign. They were living in the present moment and being mischievous by removing their life vests and rocking their boat. These kids grew up together as cousins, only two months apart.
We left the lake and drove nearby to a tea shop we enjoy called Marmalade. The shop owner opened just for us, as my friend called ahead days ago. Joy has created over thirty different blends of tea. She has them beautifully displayed and packages them in little tin canisters to take home.
She will make any tea you choose, hot or cold, to drink in one of her lovely tea rooms or out on the patio of this quaint little town. You will find every type of tea accessory in her shop from teapots, tea towels, to teacups. She baked blueberry cupcakes for our visit with homemade strawberry and violet-infused frosting. We enjoyed them separately from our friends on the patio, separated by a glass wall, in an adorable room with green and pink chairs and little white round tables.
I can imagine a tea shop called You, Me, and Uni. When you step inside the doorway, the scent of lavender fills the air. Shelves line the walls with blends for relaxation, for energy, for health and healing from all that ails you. Feminism: A Journey to Equality is on display. Artwork depicting tea ceremonies and strong women fill the walls. An art room leads children to create crafts related to herbs, health, and empowerment. Parents sit nearby in cozy chairs, surrounded by plants, sipping tea, and connecting without distractions. When the teacup empties, a pleasant person fills the cup full of delicious tea from a delicate teapot and walks away with a smile.
As we stay home more than ever these days, let us be reminded of our travels and find ways to get outside safely to enjoy all that nature offers us. Supporting local tea companies and master herbalists allow us to create a tea ceremony at home. I am inspired by vacations. I have a different mindset and can see the world with a new lens. Let us bring these rituals home with us to surround ourselves with beauty. Create at home that harmonious feeling of being one with everyone in this world.
Consider ordering tea from You, Me, and Uni, hand-crafted by a master herbalist, Jennifer Vollbrecht. Drink it hot with honey, make it cold, or mix it in a mocktail for a non-alcoholic treat. Purchase Meditative State of Mind or Know Your Gut, Trust Your Gut for two amazing tea blends already prepared for your benefit!
Anastacia Elizabeth Walden
Freelance writer and editor at Walden Writes For Women, in Gainesville, Florida