Hygge in the South: A Southern Girl’s Guide to Drinking Hot Tea

“Some like it hot, some like it cold.  But everyone wants it fresh and fragrant.”

  Gaynor Maddox Biloxi Daily Herald, 1940.

I think Maddox has the right idea in his column’s description of the tea drinker. The sentiment still fits 78 years later.  Hygge in the south certainly is strongly connected with iced tea.  However, I do believe hot tea is slowly making  a comeback among young southerners.  Sitting down with a cup of hot tea is certainly part of the hygge in Scotland.  It is there, I learned to love hot tea.


Making tea is a great way to begin organizing!

My journey to drinking hot tea.

Growing up, I was strictly a water only kid.  My family didn’t have tea in any form in the house and mainly drank Coke. (Yes, Coke not just some other soft drink.)  Sodas were too sweet to me, and I drank water for the first sixteen years of my life.  Ed’s family, when I began dating him at sixteen, would have iced tea in the fridge.  I would drink this, and began drinking sweet tea out with him at restaurants.  When I moved on campus at the University of Southern Mississippi everything changed.


A traditional cup of English Breakfast complete with a sugar cube!

The water on campus in Hattiesburg was absolutely awful.  It tasted like rust everywhere on campus!  I began drinking sodas in the commons, and bottled water in my dorm.  My freshman dorm had a sink in the room that would get so hot it boiled water right out the tap.  Seriously, we would put our Cup of Noodles under the spout and it was ready to go.  My roommate enjoyed hot tea and I was intrigued to try it. The dorm was built in the fifties and the ceilings were high giving it a lot of character.  Therefore, the room would get drafty.  I bought a few herbal tea boxes for super cheap and placed them under the spout of our thermal sink.  I couldn’t stand it!  It tasted weird and bitter.  Later I would realize this was because the water quality greatly effects the taste of the tea.


I stomached hot tea while studying abroad in London by loading it down with milk and sugar.  Still nothing could change me from my soda and coffee drinking ways.  Three years later, I moved to Scotland to complete my Master’s degree at the University of Edinburgh. Another student, who happened to sound and look like Jamie from Outlander, teased me about my continued devotion to coffee in the student lounge.   After that comment, I began trying tea out with friends.  We also had the convenience of the electric kettle in my student housing that made water hot enough to steep the tea at the right temperature.

Just writing this, a wave of happy memories washes over me.  We spent many afternoons meeting in book shops and enjoying hot tea together.  We would debate about the best T.V. shows we binge watched, books we were reading, and how much we needed to go to the library.  It was the ideal  hygge feeling!  Now I usually drink coffee in the mornings and tea throughout the afternoon into the evening.  A cup of English breakfast with milk will bring me back to the fairytale land that is Edinburgh.


Tea with lunch.

The Perfect Cup of Tea

Again, hygge is all about the contented feeling certain situations, things, and environments bring to your life.  Before writing hot tea off completely, make sure that you try it properly.  Firstly, do not make the same mistake as I did.  Use filtered or good quality water that has not already been boiled.  Not distilled either!

It is important to not steep the tea too long.  Food columist  Mary E. Dague suggested no longer than five minutes in her 1934 article.  She states anything longer will extract the tannins that give tea it’s balance flavor.

I quick note about heating the water.  Either use an electric kettle or one over the stove.  Not the microwave.  The microwave does not heat the water properly and will leave your tea tasting odd.

Types of Hot Tea

There are hundreds of varieties, brands, flavors and styles of hot tea!  Here are my main categories with a few suggestions on types.

Black Tea: The strongest of the tea family.  It has the boldest favor and highest caffeine content.  It is popular in Early Gray, English Breakfast, and a pivotal ingredient in chai.  This the main tea found at the British table.  It is also the main player in our southern iced tea!

How I like it:  I like Twinnings English Breakfast, and Earl Grey the best.  (The amount of cups of Early Grey I drank working on my history thesis cannot be counted.)  I drink Earl Grey plain and black like a good quality coffee.  English Breakfast is great after a decent steep with a splash of whole milk.

Green Tea:  Green tea has received a lot of attention for it’s recently touted health benefits.  Pinterest boards have sparked like wildfire in it’s honor.  Green tea has half the caffeine of black tea.  It is blended with every flavor imaginable from blueberry to licorice.  Ground green tea known as matcha is also becoming extremely popular in bubble tea shops and even Starbucks.

How I like it:  After my time in Vietnam, I have grown to love green tea based jasmine.  It is served in every setting instead of water.  My favorite flavor is green tea with coconut by Harney & Sons Fine Teas.  It has the perfect light coconut flavor without any bitter taste.  (Find it in the cute pink tin in the Target tea aisle.)

Herbal Teas:  Teas such as chamomile, peppermint, and others are not actually made with tea leaves.  They are fragrant and flavorful herbs that are made similar to tea.  Most variety are caffeine free, and offer a range of happy benefits.

How I like it:  I drink a lot of herbals because I drink tea later in the evenings, and love the calm they bring.  My favorites are both by Traditional Medicinals.  I love their raspberry leaf tea for women, and their chamomile lavender for bed time.

Other varieties:  Chai can have it’s own post, and probably will.  The varieties of oolong and white tea are also low in caffeine with emerging health benefits.  There is even an herbal blend from Celestial tea that tastes like a sugar cookie!  Just look online for whatever flavor you desire.


Tea with treats.

High tea or a cup in the backyard?

An article by Gaynor Maddox that ran in the Biloxi Daily Herald inFebruary of 1953 warned that a reckoning could be coming to the coffee industry.  The article brings forth the statistics that tea drinkers had risen in the U.S. based on pounds of tea sold.  It was not certain if this increase was due to the growing cost of coffee or a culture becoming aware of the proper way to prepare a cup of tea.

Today, Teausa.com states that over 158 million Americans are drinking tea.  The article also mentions that iced tea is still the majority of tea consumed I the United States.  I am sure the popularity of the show Downton Abbey  has also caused an increase in drinking tea in the United States.

I have seen more and more places locally begin serving tea.  My favorite spot for lunch is in downtown Ocean Springs.  A cute little cafe called Martha’s Tea Room.  It does serve hot tea on it’s menu, but their mint iced tea is the best!  So are the desserts!  (For real, the white chocolate bread pudding will change your life.)  It has been a joy going there with my grandmother when she was still alive, and more recently my closest friends.

pineapple dessert

One of the amazing desserts available at Martha’s Tea Room! Pineapple pound cake with pineapple ice cream.

According to Destination Tea, there are tea rooms in Bay St. Louis and Pass Christian as well that I hope to check out very soon.  Wherever you go, I say embrace the tea and treats.  The cakes, scones, and sandwiches are all part of the experience.  Some places will even have a special package where items are included with your tea.

On a budget? Quality tea can be purchased for four dollars, and vintage tea cups from thrift stores for under fifty cents.  Get a fun table cloth and have a tea party in your own backyard or porch on a nice day.


Tea in vintage tableware.

Remember,  the tea taste can be  altered by water, quality, and time.  Whatever way you decide to enjoy your tea, make sure to pause and absorb the experience!

What is your favorite tea?


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Disclosure:  Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission is you click through and make a purchase.

Hygge in the South: My Winter Candle Recommendations

I have a confession.  I love the sound of a crackling fire.  My first week in Ho Chi Minh City was so loud in my hotel room that I downloaded a recording of a crackling fire and listened to it all night!  So wooden wick candles are the best.  They make me feel like a fireplace is in my house.  However, I do not discriminate against candles.

It is a very hygge atmosphere after I clean my house for the week, and light a fancy smelling candle that sits proudly on my counter.  In The Little Book of Hygge, Meik Wiking stresses the overzealous use of candles throughout the winter months in Denmark. They rarely light scented candles because they are considered “artificial.”  What a difference from the south!  We spend hours in Bath and Body Works or Yankee Candle finding the perfect matching pumpkin scent for our home.  I find sweet scents particularly daunting when finding the right smell.

Studies claim the link between smell and memory is the closest one.  (Check out this cool article at  Fifth Sense.)  There is also an apparent emotional link as well.  Southerners crave the past.  We want to smell maw maws fudge, or laundry on a summer line.  I think this is a driving force for scented candles even if it is subliminal.

Seasonal Scents

Although I like candles year round, I do not like the same scents year round.  The first cool night of Fall, I want am in the mood for apple cinnamon and pumpkin spice.  The first December frost, I want something that reminds me of Christmas.  I want scents that conjure cozy nights, festive drinks, and twinkling lights.

Favorites this season

’tis the season-Bath and Body Works

Scents: red apple, cinnamon, cedar wood

Why I like it:  This is the most festive candle!  It smells fantastically bright and sweet.  I even have this scent as a car freshener as well.  It reminds me most of sweet mulled wine in a crock pot.  (A fun past time we discovered a few years ago.)

Marshmallow fireside-bath and body works

Scents:  toasted vanilla and cedar wood

Why I like it:  This formula has been reworked.  The marshmallow scents in candles has not impressed me.  However, this one with the hint of wood is fantastic!  It was my favorite of their new camp line candles this year.

champagne Toast-bath and body works

Scents:  champagne, berries, tangerine

Why I like it:  Like the name notates, I love burning this candle to ring  in the new year.  When I am finished with the Christmas scents this candle fills the void.  It’s citrus note also gets me pumped for new year resolutions!

ember glow- timber wick

Scents: wood, juniper, cinnamon, patchouli, vanilla

Why I like it:  This is certainly the longest burning candle on the list.  It has that amazing wick that makes the crackling sounds.  It’s scent is the perfect balance of musk and sweet.


bonfire nights-nature’s wick

Scent: Wood

Why I like it:  This candle is a great value option from the Timber Wick. I got it on a buy one get one deal at Target for seven dollars.  It burns quicker, but the flame is very bright.  It is all woodsy and no sweet in the scent.

maple tree inn wax melt-johnson glade

Scent: maple syrup, cinnamon, and pancakes

Why I like it:  I use a wax melt in my office since I feel like my books and messy desk are a fire hazard.  I have nothing against wax melts, and they are convenient. The flames on a candle are just so nice.  This melt came from Big Lots a few years back, and went back a week later and bought three more! It smells like a mom and pop diner.  (It is what I imagine heaven smells like!)

Other favorites…

I have other candles I have loved in the past.  A friend’s uncle makes fantastic candles from home.  He is temporarily closed, but you better believe those candles will make a post as soon as he is back in business!  They have the scents pumpkin brûlée, creme brûlée, eggnog, and tobacco caramel that are dreamy. For the awesome price they burn longer than any of the candles on this list.

I also wanted to mention that I do like the wax melts, and use them frequently as well.  I use them when I had my school library to chase away the musty smell before the carpet was changed out or to brighten the students experience.

What is your favorite winter candle?  Let’s talk in the comments!

Disclosure:  Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission is you click through and make a purchase.

Hygge in the South: Is it possible here?

Enjoying the fireplace at a shop in Tennessee Smokey Mountains

What is Hygge?

I recently discovered this concept on a Winter Board Pinterest search.  My first thought was, “How in the world have I not heard of this?”  Hygge (pronounced Hee-ga) is the Danish word that roughly means a “worship of coziness.” (According to Jack Lind in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel February 27, 1963 edition.)  Web searches will crop up hundred of pictures of fireplaces, woolen socks, hot drinks, and sweet treats.

The Danes have a track record of being some of the happiest people in the word.  Hygge is a multi-meaning and faceted concept that the Danish people live by throughout the year.  Actions both during the working day, weekends, and holidays are guided by personal hygge principals.  I, for one, love a Saturday morning with a  blanket reading a book or watching Netflix.  However, hygge is more than just these stolen moments.


Hygge in the American south

I recently finished Meik Wiking’s book The Little Book of Hygge.  (Considered a little hygge textbook.)  It made me wonder if hygge can be lived in the South, or if we actually have our own version.  It is something I will not be able to answer in just one post, but would like to explore this year on My Sassy Starfish.

We do celebrate many of the same joys here with company, the sweet side of life, and slowing down the pace of life.  However, we have such short and disappointing winters it is difficult to  recreate the comforting atmosphere of a Danish cabin.  Here is where I would like to compare and contrast some basic hygge concepts.

Coconut Cake made by bestie based on the book The Coincidence of Coconut Cake

Looking at the Decadent side of life

The south’s love affair with sweet treats is not a secret.  Many afternoons are spent enjoying cobblers, cakes, and cookies in the kitchen with grandmothers and aunts.  We pass down dessert recipes like they are state secrets through are families.  Nothing can beat a cup of coffee, a kitchen table, and a little old southern lady telling you her stories.

According to Wiking, Danes use cake in order to bring “casualness to meetings.”  Cakes can be found both in and out of the professional setting in Denmark.  Sounds like any big event at a  southern place of work including retirements, weddings, and baby showers.  Well any major or minor event in the south period.


Some like it Hot others like it sweet

To go along with the sweets, the Danes enjoy hot beverages with coffee being king.  It does fit with the South.  We prefer our tea cold and sweet.  No family barbeque  is complete without a pitcher tea with enough sugar to cause diabetes.   Until, I went to university in Scotland I only had one friend who enjoyed hot tea.  Since then, I have learned to enjoy hot tea as well of all varieties.  I would say it is part of my nighttime hygge routine.

I, like many Americans, will always prefer coffee.  I love the smell, and the feeling of the warm mug on my hand.  I love the little whiff of steam that rises off the top.  It is the fuel for lively conversations, and deeper thoughts.

Friends and friends that are family

The thoughts on friends, and time spent with friends is where the Danes and southerners differ.  The feeling of hygge is created with a close group of friends and the feeling of comfort. Meik Wiking mentions in his book that a circle of friends in Denmark is a difficult thing to be inducted into.  It is the opposite of the south.

The best thing about the South to me is the fact that you can become part of the family in an afternoon.  Once you go to Maw Maws birthday party or supper after church you are in.  It may seem that our friendships are not as serious, but it is not true.  We build the concept of friends as family in our lives.  We support each other and it is not abnormal to have half dozen friends in your phone you can call in an emergency.

It make gatherings even better as they are a big array of friends and family.

Winter is Here or is it?

Hygge speaking, winter is king.  It is a concept the Danes live with every day, but Winter with it’s cold temperatures is the peak season.  It is a shame because in the South we usually get about twelve days of winter period.  I talked myself out of the Southern Shirt Company Sherpa jacket this year as an unnecessary expense.  (Only to realize we would have a slushy snow day a few weeks later.)  So much of the year is so sweltering is it difficult to imagine the need for wool sweaters and socks.

I find days cool enough for me to sit on the back porch is enough for me.  Lounging in a breeze is something to enjoy just as much as a crackling fire.  I would vote October as the most hygge month in Mississippi.

Campfire Cozy

Nature Calls

Life becomes simple outside.  The stillness and quiet turns nature to the portal of hygge.  A lot of Danish interior design includes natural light and wooden elements.  I keep thinking of the deer head in daddy’s den.  Also, all the early mornings southerners escape to hunt, fish, or sit in nature.

Don’t get me started on s’mores and campfires.  Ed and I made a homemade fire pit for our tiny backyard.  Many nights are spent enjoying company and the crackling fire.  I also use the candles with wood wicks to create the feel of a fire place.

Hygge the new shabby chic?

This article is just a few of my initial thoughts as I learn more about hygge.  I am seeing more similarities in my life and hygge concepts.  It is not surprising the concept is beginning to catch! I saw gnomes, Danish designed decorations, and wooly patterned socks all over this past holiday season.   I plan to explore this more throughout the year.  Articles about candles, hot coffee, seasons, and other hygge thoughts are in the works.

So grab a blanket, light a candle, and join me!

Disclosure:  Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission is you click through and make a purchase.