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Drinking Tea in Times of Quarantine

As we all try to replicate the tearoom (or cafe, or coffeehouse) experience at home, we at Te would like to propose a few things. But first things first. For those of you who are new to tea, use our brew guides to help you through brewing our teas at home. Throw on one of these three playlists which our resident jazz musician Kenji created, and settle in. Now it’s time to set your intention–yes, just like yoga class. Whether you’re looking for a distraction, ready to contemplate philosophy, or just can’t stay away from the coronavirus, we have you covered.

Over It

For those just trying to enjoy themselves for *one* hour during this godforsaken house arrest. Nothing is a better distraction than art, reality tv, and exercise...maybe The Internet. But let’s try to pretend we’re reading on paper rather than liquid crystals behind glass.

Learn about the recent exhibit Seeing Chicago, curated by the London-based Nigerian fashion designer Duro Olowu at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Just like his clothes, which present a bold vision of pattern and color, this daring exhibition is truly breathtaking.

Let’s be honest, though. All we want is another season of Love Is Blind. Though we can’t pull that off, unfortunately, we can introduce you to perhaps the only person alive who is sympathetic towards Jessica. Yes, that Jessica. The novelist Miranda Popkey wrote about the show for the New Yorker; hear her out.

It’s time to go old school: real books on real paper. The iconic chronicler of life in New York Vivian Gornick is a great place to start. The Odd Woman and the City is a must read for anyone missing the chance encounters and vitality of the New York streets. For the literary types, Unfinished Business: Notes of a Chronic Re-reader is the way to go. Deborah Levy’s novel Hot Milk, a subtle psychodrama set in a sunbleached Spanish town, achieves the perfect combination of thrill and high literature to keep you absorbed–at least until your next steep.

The Thinker

Are you someone who often thinks of ways to better yourself? Do you read philosophy for fun? What about theory? Is the highlight of your week that universities are offering free classes online? If you answered yes to any of these questions, this section is for you.

In the interest of full disclosure, I (Nika, the server who you may have seen bumping into all the tables) have been known to fall into this category from time to time. You may be wondering why this matters, and it doesn’t. However, it does explain how I learned about the Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx and why I spent half an hour excavating the reading lists across all my devices to find this article from 2016. When none of us are allowed to go outside, what better antidote than reading about gardens? Plus, look at this amazing photograph of him from a 1974 trip to Ecuador!

In New York, a Retrospective Breathes New Life into Roberto Burle ...

Alternatively, lose yourself in the brilliance and erudition of Valeria Luiselli with the slim essay collection Sidewalks. Accompany her bicycling through Mexico City, sharing a cigarette with her doorman in New York, and searching for Joseph Brodsky’s grave in Venice’s San Michele, as she wanders between thinkers, places, and ideas.

For a book that’s a little more on-the-nose, read Yoko Ogawa’s The Memory Police, the latest of her novels to be translated into English. Don't worry, it’s not a pandemic novel à la Severance, but the increasingly surreal and menacing circumstances the protagonists find themselves in offer much to contemplate.

James Baldwin’s classic work of queer desire and selfhood, Giovanni’s Room, is another great choice for reflecting on how we live and exist in different spaces. Pro tip: read it together with Hilton Als’ recent essay for T Magazine revisiting the novel in the twenty-first century.

Looking for something smart but unrelated to the current situation (read: fiasco)? The London Review of Books just launched a new near-daily newsletter called Diverted Traffic that brings pieces from their archives to your inbox. The catch? The paywall is only lifted for 24 hours on each piece, so read it or lose it.

Spectating As Sport

Refreshing the New York Times coronavirus live updates isn’t a competitive sport, but sometimes it feels that way. We’re not saying we condone - because, you know, mental health - but we understand. This is for those who just can’t stay away.

We’ll ease into it with this fun piece on Apartment Therapy collecting French illustrators’s drawings of their ideal quarantine homes and the Social Distance Project. Fun fact: both started on Twitter.

By now, it would be a surprise if you haven’t seen all of the quarantine journals circulating online from various publications. We like the first installment of Kevin Noble Maillard’s series on testing positive for coronavirus and quarantining at home for the New York Times. If you’re looking for a global perspective, the New York Review of Books’ Pandemic Journal includes entries from around the world. Lastly, The Point magazine updates its Quarantine Journal almost daily, and delivers a newsletter to accompany the journal every day.

These days, it’s impossible to speak of disease and virus without also mentioning Susan Sontag’s classic work of critical theory Illness As Metaphor. While we can’t get that for you, writer Paul Elie reflected on Sontag’s thought in light of the coronavirus in this article for The New Yorker. If you want to read some of her original work, check out this essay entitled “Disease as Political Metaphor” from the NYRB archives.

We’re taking a bit of a left turn, here. Rather than give you pandemic or doomer lit, we’re focusing our book recommendations on staying home. More specifically, staying home when ‘home’ is a fraught place. In Yuko Tsushima’s novel Territory of Light, which centers on a young woman recently separated from her husband and her infant daughter, the light which floods her new apartment is her only respite from stigma and loss. On the other hand, The Vegetarian by Han Kang explores what happens when the claustrophobia of societal norms and expectations overtake a person’s impulse to conform.

Out of Body, Out of Mind

Are you a tea to-go kind of person? Perhaps an activity is a better fit, though we still recommend a real mug.

House arrest is a great excuse to get started on some cooking projects. Do like Eri, and work on projects that require few ingredients like this lavash, which should be rolled even thinner than recommended, oatcakes, yogurt, or even elderberry syrup. Once you're comfortable with those, you can try your hand at our pineapple linzers with this recipe, and let us know how it goes!

For those inclined towards psychosomatic symptoms, a deep clean is the way to go. That way, you’ll know you’re healthy, and your house will be clean, which is a plus. Start with the oven (for your newfound cooking abilities) by making a paste that’s 2:1 baking soda to water; rub it in, drink your tea while it soaks in, and then spray it with white vinegar and remove with a non-abrasive pad. If you’re still feeling the cleaning bug, follow this guide for an all-over clean.

Or exercise! It’s a great way to blow off steam, and you’ll feel better once you are allowed outdoors again. There are exercise videos galore at your fingertips, so use them and try to ignore the dishes your flatmate is piling up in the sink.

Finally, this is a great time to start a new hobby. Whether that be knitting, drawing, or Words With Friends, take advantage of all the time you have now that you’re not waiting on the F train to arrive.

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