Malawians love to drink tea. We start by collecting leaves that produce a black colour when steeped in hot water, creating a mixture that is commonly taken with a fistful of sugar. In America, it is different.
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American families are very welcoming. They always offer visitors something to drink. I choose tea because it is what I am familiar with. In Malawi, not only do we cultivate this crop but also export it to other countries. As a proud countryman, I have always embraced the thought that I am a tea master. Only to be humbled the day that it was offered to me in North Carolina.
"So what kind of tea would you like?" I was asked.
"Tea leaves please." I replied expecting to have a black, sweet, hot drink on the table.
"We have got green, white, matte, iced, chai, herbal, rooibos, peppermint, laxative, orange pekoe, black, or tea with candy flavour. What would you like?"
My head was lost in making the choice. After a while, I chose green tea just to see if it was going to look green and took a seat.
"What kind of sugar would you like?" She persisted. "We have got white sugar, coconut sugar and stevia."
"Whatever is sweetest." Not knowing the difference.
Finally the tea arrived on the table. I sipped it slowly, letting it run down my throat, feeling every part of my body, soul and spirit, come alive.
As I continue to try different teas with less sugar, I am beginning to appreciate subtleties of taste. When I go back home, I will share with people the entire experience in hope that our sugar coated tongues will one day taste the real tea, in all of its glorious flavours.