Last March, I trudged through the snow of downtown Portland past chic shops and bearded men to a cafe I’d seen recommended online. Unassuming on the outside (in the winter, anyway), Homegrown Herb & Tea opened up like a bear hug inside: several nooks in which to tuck oneself, local pottery and art lining the walls and a bar I immediately bellied up to. I ordered an ayurvedic Vata Grounder tea (“soothing and centering blend of chamomile, St. John’s Wort and dried lemon peel”) and was served a bowl-like cup about the size of my face. After letting the flowers steep, I inhaled the steam and goodness and settled in to listen.
Sarah, the tea brewer, owner, freshly sunkissed from Mexico, wise cracking, advice slinger, seemed to know everyone that walked through the door. I was the exception, the shaggy conspicuous fly on the wall. I listened as a man described a retreat that disallowed speaking and how day-long meditation can trim an appetite. A young man came in to pick up a large order of teas to gift to his girlfriend and her family. A deep-voiced woman conveyed the struggle of maintaining custody of her daughter away from her abusive ex. Sarah listened to it all and dished out tea as medicine.
Hours passed and I too eventually told my story to the room- visiting Portland on a whim, aiming to surprise my corporate accountant boyfriend. There was a surprise hitch when he didn’t respond to his phone for the whole day and I began to worry I’d not only miss him but be homeless. New-found friends helped me hitch a ride to my boyfriend’s hotel. I stepped into the -3′ air, without a clue if I’d find Mick, but filled with cheer and warmth from the little tea house in Maine.