Growing up white and middle class, to me tea was always something that you make for granny with a generous quantity of milk and a couple of “family assorted” biscuits on the side. As I moved through my late teens and early 20s, I discovered the powerful study aid of coffee. Now that I’m in my late 20s, I’ve learnt to appreciate the calming effects of tea again.

Like anything that’s given the benefit of time, tea isn’t like it used to be. Where the caffeine from coffee seems to have mutated into a weird hybrid soft drink that promises to stimulate and insult you in the same can, tea has become a vast range of plant material that can be “infused” with water to unleash an array of medical effects (mostly beneficial, but depending on your source, can cause or cure cancer).

It’s a good thing that tea is relaxing — major chain outlet T2 (other brands of tea are available) boasts shops around the country and have more than 180 varieties of tea, all with intricate brewing rituals. Several times I’ve stood on the threshold of the store, daunted by the thought of walking in, living proof that too much choice can lead to no choice.

During my initial visit, I stumbled out an hour later, vaguely high on herbal aromas and clutching an infuser and three different types of green tea. Travelling home in a haze of good feelings, I prepared myself for an evening of content feelings and general goodwill.

My kitchen bench top quickly resembled a science experiment that evening. Bubbling liquids, percolation, and vapoured smoke filled the house. What resulted was a beverage that was relaxing to brew and drink. Four months later, and I find myself relaxing just by thinking about going home at the end of the working day and drinking tea.

If you’ve ever had tea before, but are constrained by the concept of a black earl grey tea bag, some milk, and two sugars, then I have a proposition for you — branch out to a different tree, give it a shake, and see what falls into your mug. If you’re looking for a way to relax, or the perfect companion to a book in the evening, then tea is the way to go.

*Matt Smith teaches media studies at La Trobe University and blogs at The End of the Spectrum