If a Rose by any other Name/how should Tea Taste?
Vol. 2, No. 8
Today, I looked out the window at my spearmint growing and that prompted a memory from long ago. By now you may know that I crashed in an Amish family’s hay field in a hot air balloon approximately 24 years ago. I started to form a friendship with two of their daughters in particular and with the entire family in general. Twenty-plus years later, I consider some of them family. If you don’t know the story, you can click on it here: Where the Wind Takes You.
I thought of a day years ago when I was still a new visitor to the farm. I was seated with the two little girls at the table in the large room that still serves as a combination kitchen – dining room - family room, talking to their mother, Rebecca*, who was consistently busy in the kitchen. She asked me if I wanted a glass of iced tea.
It was a hot, non-air conditioned, Amish summer day. I said yes and thanked her.
I was stunned at what happened next: she took a pitcher from the propane powered refrigerator, poured a glass of yellowish-green fluid into a glass, and set it down before me. This strange looking concoction certainly wasn’t tea! It looked very ominous to me, but I knew I couldn’t offend her. I needed to taste it After all, I didn’t know her very well at the time. But how was I going to get this down?
So I took a cautious sip. Sweet, very sweet. And cold! Then the captivating, familiar taste of mint swirled across my tongue. This was a marvelous Mojito without the rum or lime! (To be honest, I didn’t know about Mojitos then.) Somewhere in my relief, I said something like, “Oh! This is a mint punch, not tea!” Rebecca, ever reticent but friendly, just said, “We call it tea,” with a smile.
After my return home to the suburbs, I visited my parents and told them my strange story. How could one group of people call something mint, and another group call it something completely different? That’s when my father lit up with a strange recognition. His Pennsylvania Dutch grandmother lived with his family when he was a child. He said, “Oh! That must be why Nana used to tell me, ‘Artie, go out to the garden and pick me some mint tea.’ She used both words together and I used to think that was strange. Somewhere along the way, the word mint must have been dropped!”
There you have it. When you visit Lancaster County, if you’re offered some tea, ask if it’s Meadow Tea, as some call it. If it’s not, just enjoy the regular iced tea we all know and love. But if it is, know you’re in store for a minty, sweet, delicious treat! If you want a recipe for this simple refreshment, you can find it in two of our cookbooks: An Amish Table or The Best of Amish Cooking.
⃰ The events described are all true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.