Creating a tea blend to honor an inspiring and influential woman
Poet, Author, Dancer, Actor, Singer, Activist, Teacher … Maya Angelou was a true Renaissance Woman. Born Marguerite Johnson, Dr. Maya Angelou has inspired millions around the globe. Her honest, witty, insightful books and her uplifting poetry and prose give us a fresh way to look at the world around us.
Her numerous speeches, writings and interviews offer us the gift of her intelligence and grace to carry with us throughout our years. In a May 28, 2014 interview Dr. Angelou said “What I really want to do is be a representative of my race. The human race. I have a chance to show how kind we can be. How intelligent and generous we can be. I have a chance to teach and to love and to laugh and I know that when I finish doing what I’m sent here to do I will be called home and I will go home without any fear…”. We couldn’t have gotten a better ambassador for kindness and generosity than Maya Angelou!
I was introduced to her writing when I was 24, living fairly close to where I had grown up in Westchester County, New York, and I thought I knew everything. I was so sure of my perception of life until I discovered I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and learned that I knew very little. I quickly devoured everything Dr. Angelou had written and craved more. I will forever be grateful for losing that arrogance and realizing that, however much I seem to know at any given time, the journey is ongoing and there is always so much to learn. In 2010 Dr. Angelou wrote on Twitter “I’m blessed to be excited everyday, because this is a day I’ve never seen before.”. That’s a really wonderful way to greet every sunrise!
Now in my 50’s, and with the approval of Caged Bird LLC to create this blend, I re-visited the novels of Maya Angelou. Looking with older, and only slightly wiser, eyes I am even more impressed with the courage and tenacity with which she grabbed life. Her hunger for knowledge and her poise and grace serve as a road map to how to navigate this world. “Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told: “I’m with you kid. Let’s go.” ” (Dr. Angelou Twitter 2013).
Creating a blend to honor Dr. Maya Angelou has been a nerve wracking task. How do you honor the sun, the stars, the moon, a goddess? To create her blend I looked to the writings of Dr. Angelou and found inspiration from I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and, or course, from the cookbooks she wrote. One of the flavors in this blend is pineapple:
“… for every bad judgment, the fine was no silver wrapped kisses, the sweet chocolate drops that I loved more than anything in the world, except Bailey. And maybe canned pineapples. My obsession with pineapples nearly drove me mad. I dreamt of the days when I would be grown and able to buy a whole carton for myself alone.”
Our next flavor inspiration, vanilla, came from young Marguerite’s interaction with a lady in her town, Mrs. Bertha Flowers:
“The odors in the house surprised me. Somehow I had never connected Mrs. Flowers with food or eating or any other common experience of common people. There must have been an outhouse, too, but my mind never recorded it. The sweet scent of vanilla had met us as she opened the door. “I made tea cookies this morning.” … The sweet vanilla flavor was still on my tongue and her reading was a wonder in my ears. I had to speak. I said, “Yes, ma’am.” It was the least I could do, but it was the most also.”
The rest of the blend fell in to place once those two main flavors appeared. A little natural orange flavor, a few cloves, some hibiscus, orange peels and blossoms …. et voila! The brewed cup is a delicately balanced blend with a reddish amber color and a fruity, heady, sassy taste. The combination of pineapple, vanilla and orange dance playfully on the tongue. The addition of cloves brings a new depth to this taste, while the hibiscus adds to the fruity flavor and adds a reddish tinge to the amber cup. There is a mild astringency and a lingering fruit/spice taste on the tongue.
I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to create this blend to honor this phenomenal woman.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
– Maya Angelou – excerpt from “Phenomenal Woman,” 1978