It’s December 2006. I have stacks of assignments for my counselling course. I also have chunks of annual leave to use up (gosh, leave! That’s definitely a while ago.). Cue extended Christmas break. And peppermint tea.

I had a former colleague who seemed to drink nothing but peppermint tea. She was very calm. And very kind. I was looking for a heated beverage that would keep me alert, but not be too many coffees. Peppermint tea sounded like a good idea all round.

When I make it now, I breathe in that smell that is both toothpaste-and-intense-sweetness. And smile. I am back in that holiday, not really a holiday, but it felt like it because I was off work for three whole weeks.

In the first week, Dan went off to work, and I stayed home and got on with the assignments. There were so many, it seemed, I could swap them round. When I got stuck with one, I’d go on to another.

And in the evenings, after Dan came home, we’d sit and watch Firefly. Don’t remember who made the recommendation. We loved it. Still do. Space AND cowboys? It’s been done more, recently, but I suspect that the particular style of dialogue – plus insults in Chinese – aren’t part of it. Their loss.

There was a wonderful rhythm to that week. Work, rest, drink tea. Often the tea would get ignored while writing, and I’d drink it luke warm, when the flavour intensified. The aroma was stronger, more insistent. Calming and strong, together.

I have also done the more Middle Eastern peppermint tea thing, once or twice. I love the silver teapot, the pouring the tea from a great height, the use of fresh peppermint. I find the insistence on lots of sugar more complicated. (Same deal with pre-sugared tea from an urn, back in my first stint in Poland.)

Perhaps I can work on the fresh leaves tea ritual at home, skip the sugar, and focus on the taste. I am not a spearmint girl at all – too many unhappy toothpaste incidents when spearmint is the flavour – so too much sweetness tastes of that.

But the energy of mint – that I can take. Particularly if it’s quiet energy. Just the thing for the darkest month, routinised behaviour, and the need for warmth. Cup your hands round a mug of peppermint tea, and you’re done.