Sobremesa and Pennyroyal Tea

Relationship: Child of im/migrant
Pennyroyal tea is now sold in grocery stores everywhere.
Pennyroyal tea is now sold in grocery stores everywhere.

“Sobremesa” is a term with no literal English translation, but refers to the time that one is sitting at the table after eating. “Sobremesa” stands as one of the pillars of Spanish culture, and has historically influenced social interactions in Hispanic communities. Being the son of a Spanish and Mexican immigrants, the presence of sobremesa is subtle yet natural when at home. My grandfather Manuel in Spain introduced the habit of drinking pennyroyal and cinnamon tea during sobremesa, which is quite unusual in Spanish families, who normally prefer coffee. Apart from its health benefits, the process of preparing and drinking tea allowed for conversations of all sorts at the table, from national politics to familial gossip. When my family immigrated to the United States, they realized how countercultural sobremesa is. Even in the Chicago of the 90’s, the technology and amenities at the time impeded a naturalness in post-meal conversations. Similar to my current experiences as a college student in New York, getting tea or coffee was unassumed when grabbing a meal, and such events deserved a time of their own. Sobremesa since then became a highly and strictly respected custom in my family’s immigrant story, in which we even invite guests to participate in and honor. The smell of tea and animate discussions have a special place in my personal memories, encouraging me to maintain sobremesa and all it entails. Sobremesa is not simply a tradition; it is the single most important nonmaterial treasure of my family, and deeply foundational in my understanding of my Spanish heritage.

Place(s): Gibraltar, Spain, Mexico, Chicago
Year: 1995

– Benjamin Jaimes

Relationship:  Child of im/migrant Child of im/migrant