Thoughts on tea, minorities, and family – from the BC wilderness

As a child, I often sat at my grandma’s kitchen table drinking her rosehip tea, and eating warm, fresh bannock and dried moose meat.  She would pick rosehips from the local area, which was along Moberly Lake, BC, in the territory of the Saulteau First Nation and the West Moberly First Nation. The rosehips would then be dried, boiled in water, and usually served with bannock. 

There was always a pot of tea waiting for whomever dropped in – and the visitors were many. My grandparents’ cheerful kitchen welcomed everyone: relatives, friends, children, pets, and even stray animals. Guests were often sent away with a fresh loaf of bread. While most people gathered around a pot of tea at the kitchen table, my grandpa preferred to relax in his easy chair in the living room, greeting people who came through the front door.

They were highly respected Elders in the northeastern area of BC. My grandma spoke four Native languages fluently and raised over 160 children (her own, plus foster) over the course of her lifetime. My grandpa, who was fluent in Cree, was born and raised in a tipi and didn’t even set eyes on a non-Native person until he was an older child.

I wish I had been able to spend more time with my grandparents when I was a teenager and young adult, but their minds were slowly lost to Alzheimer’s. I wish I could sit at their kitchen table again drinking tea, listening to stories about life in the bush in the early 20th century, and getting advice on how to navigate life in a world that is so radically different from theirs when they were young.

Sitting at their kitchen table with a cup of hot tea gave me a sense of comfort, as well as a sense of continuity. I knew where my tea came from. I knew where I came from. And I knew that countless generations of Native people before me met in their grandparents’ homes to share stories, knowledge and laughter while gathered around a pot of tea.

Perhaps that is why I identify so strongly with JusTea’s mission. Now that I have my own kitchen table, knowing where my tea comes from continues to give me comfort, and reminds me of the generational continuity I felt at my grandma’s kitchen table. JusTea seeks to build a relationship between tea and its drinkers, just as my grandma’s pot of tea did for those of us sitting around it.

Tea brings people together in times of happiness and in times of sadness. It creates a meeting space for people to come together. Tea is an excuse for relationships to flourish and a wonderful reminder of how good it feels to come together with loved ones, and remember those who are gone. I encourage you to think about tea and its function in your relationships. My kitchen table is always open, and I’d love to hear your story.

~Sarah Robinson

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