I have given up drinking coffee. It was a decision prompted by the realisation that a substance that leaves me with a nasty nagging headache within forty-eight hours of my last cup can’t be good, no matter how much I like it.
It’s not that I consumed excessive amounts of coffee. Most days it would be two or three cups, and the first creamy cappuccino of the day, often taken in my local cafe, was a special pleasure. But going cold turkey on even a modest coffee habit will produce a low-grade headache, the kind that rumbles along beneath the radar of off-the-shelf painkillers, so I had prepared myself for a month of unpleasant symptoms.
One week in, the initial headache has disappeared and I am much relieved; I have also begun to discover pleasurable replacements. The first of these, fresh cumquat tea, came in a moment of inspiration during a morning walk when I spotted a heavily laden tree that had been left to rain its ripe fruit onto the footpath.
Cumquats ripen in winter – what a gift to the dull grey days, mature trees lighting dark corners as if decked in fairy lights. To ensure future supplies of the gorgeous tea, I have planted five cumquat trees in my own garden. In the meantime, I make sure to walk past the neglected tree each morning and slip four cumquats into my pocket.
Cumquat tea: nothing could be simpler. Quarter two of the tiny fruit and put them into a teacup. A gentle press with the back of a fork will release juice and essential oil. Cover with almost boiling water and while it steeps, pick a sprig of mint from the garden. I have Morrocan, and the delicious chocolate-flavoured mint, and already they are beginning to put on new growth.
Although I love winter, it’s been going on for a while and I am looking forward to the warmer days of spring. That’s why I’ve put up the photograph at the top of the page – it’s something to look forward to, those perfect mornings when the garden has recovered from wintry austerity and begins to burst forth again. Then, I can take breakfast outside, and fuel my writing mornings with beautiful pots of tea.