Nothing like a hot cup of tea on a cold night


By David Lindeman

Contributing columnist

There’s nothing on a frozen winter’s night like a nice, hot cup of … tea.

No, not coffee. No, not hot chocolate. Tea.

You see, I am married to a tea connoisseur (that sounds so much better than tea snob). I’m not talking a little bit of Lipton’s now and then. I’m talking a whole cabinet full of all kinds of teas, souped-up chai in the morning, decaffeinated at night, and who knows what in between. It doesn’t seem possible that there are that many flavors of tea but there’s no way to deny the evidence in my wife’s tea cabinet.

Years ago when we went on vacation in South Carolina, one of the stops had to be the only existing large tea plantation in the continental United States. I got Fort Sumter, she got the tea plantation. It seemed like a fair trade.

It’s not like she’s alone in this. Worldwide, the experts say three cups of tea get consumed for every cup of coffee. When it comes to drinking, tea comes in second – to water.

This fascination with tea has its good and bad points. The good point is, whenever I’m stumped for a birthday or Christmas present, I know I can go to tea. The bad thing is, it’s getting really hard to find something different.

So last December I found myself frantically scouring the Internet for a different kind of tea. Then, with a stroke of luck, I stumbled upon Wissotzky Tea. It sounded kind of Polish, which was a plus since that’s where my wife’s grandparents were from. Another plus, it said “family owned since 1849,” so it must be good. Extra plus, the tea bags came in a cool box. Extra extra plus, the flavors were things like Green Tea With Wild Berries and Passion Fruit, Green Tea With Lemongrass and Verbena and Nana Mint Tea – man, I was going to be a tea superhero.

Having never heard of Wissotzky tea, I had to look it up. Oops, not Polish. Lithuanian. Poles and Lithuanians are not necessarily the best of friends, but that’s OK because it turns out the original Wissotzky actually made his fortune in Russia. All those Russians filled their samovars with Wissotzky tea. In fact, early in the 20th century, the Wissotzky Tea Co. was the biggest tea manufacturer in the world! So what happened? How could I never had heard of them?

Well, part of the problem was the Russian revolution. The other part was that Wissotzky is Jewish, which was not a good thing to be in Russia at the time, and probably isn’t real safe today. There even was a derisive little slogan at the time of the Russian revolution: “Tea of Wissotzky, Sugar of Brodsky and Russia of Trotsky.”

Those guys were all Jewish, and you probably know what eventually happened to Trotsky, so the Wizzotzkys got out of Moscow. They took their tea-making skills with them, going to London and Poland. In the 1930s, one of the Polish family members looked over the border and saw the Nazis coming to power, so he decided it was time to move again. He went to Palestine and eventually the company located its headquarters there. It has managed to survive revolutions, pogroms and the Holocaust and is still pumping out tea.

It’s a fascinating story. So fascinating, in fact, that I almost forgot to place the order. I came to my senses in time to get it shipped to us in time for Christmas.

So, you ask, how did it go? Well, actually it went great. My wife loves the tea and loves the story behind the tea. We have the cool little box, which sits on the counter because there is no room for it with all the other tea in the cabinet, and I will be able to order refills to restock the box, which may take care of presents for many birthdays and holidays to come.

And how do I like it? Well, actually, I’m not much of a tea guy. If you load it up with a ton of cream and other stuff, I’ll drink it, but it’s not really my thing. If my wife ran away tomorrow to take a job at the Wissotzky tea factory, I would have enough tea on hand in her cabinet to last me about three centuries or so.

But if a little cup of tea can make her happy, then I’m happy, and a little happiness goes a long way on those cold, winter nights.

David Lindeman is a Troy resident and former editor at the Troy Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected].

No posts to display