There’s something about tea that brings to mind warm, sunny days. Probably because my first experience with tea was the iced form, a refreshing treat on a hot summer day. Tea is no longer used just as a cold beverage on a hot day. It’s something to warm you when the weather is cold, something to make you feel better if you’re sick, a drink with dinner, or afternoon snacks. Something to take to work in the morning. Tea is just one of those multi-purpose wonders in my life.

My husband jokes about my tea taking over the house. He’s not really kidding. I have an entire shelf in our small pantry for my tea stash. I have loose-leaf tea in canisters and bags, boxes of tea bags–in many flavors, medicinal teas, and teas specifically for serving cold. More than just the tea itself are the tools–I have tea pots, tea cups, tea strainers, and even a travel tea cup complete with mesh strainer for making whole-leaf tea on the go.

My children learned from a very young age how to prepare the tea pot and measure the tea, how to strain into cups and choose the right sides to compliment (milk or cream for spicy teas, and sugar or honey for fruitty teas). Tea parties take on a whole new meaning in our home—we get out the flowered tea pot and the fancy tea cups, we carefully choose the tea we’ll brew and what snacks (if any) we’ll serve. We create our space and put down a nice cloth, lay out our snacks, and when the water has boiled, the tea steeping in the pot.

Even on a cold winter day, a cup of tea brings to mind sun and warmth. I can tailor my tea to my mood–something spicy and warm like chai, a strong black tea like assam, an earthy green tea. I can have my tea iced, or hot, or warm with honey. However I choose to serve it, I can have my cup of sunshine any time of the year.