Excerpted from Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust:
After waiting a minute, I would go in and kiss her; Françoise would be making her tea; or, if my aunt felt agitated, she would ask instead for her tisane, and it would be my duty to shake out of the chemist’s little package on to a plate the amount of lime-blossom required for infusion in boiling water. The drying of the stems had twisted them into a fantastic trellis, in the interlacings of which the pale flowers opened, as though a painter had arranged them there, grouping them in the most decorative poses. The leaves, having lost or altered their original appearance, resembled the most disparate things, the transparent wing of a fly, the blank side of a label, the petal of a rose, which had all been piled together, pounded or interwoven like the materials for a nest. A thousand trifling little details– a charming prodigality on the part of the chemist– details which would have been eliminated from an artificial preparation, gave me, like a book in which one reads with astonished delight the name of a person one knows, the pleasure of finding that these were sprigs of real lime-trees, like those I had seen, when coming from the train, in the Avenue de la Gare, altered indeed, precisely because they were not imitations but themselves, and because they had aged. And as each new character is merely a metamorphosis from something earlier, in these little grey balls I recognised green buds plucked before their time; but beyond all else the rosy, lunar, tender gleam that lit up the blossoms among the frail forest of stems from which they hung like little golden roses– marking, as the glow upon an old wall still marks the place of a vanished fresco, the difference between those parts of the tree which had and those which had not been “in colour”– showed me that these were indeed petals which, before filling the chemist’s bag with their spring fragrance, had perfumed the evening air. That rosy candleglow was still their colour, but half-extinguished and deadened in the diminished life which was now theirs, and which may be called the twilight of a flower. Presently my aunt would dip a little madeleine in the boiling infusion, whose taste of dead leaves or faded blossom she so relished, and hand me a piece when it was sufficiently soft.
I prefer loose-leaf tea over the convenience of those little pre-made bags for the same reason. There’s something about seeing the leaves and flowers uncurl and regain their original colors that makes the experience much more engaging. It involves all of the senses, and the imagination as well; not just the taste buds.
Marcel Proust’s original works, and a few early translations, are in the public domain and may be downloaded or read online for free at Project Gutenberg, HERE.