Tea For Two

Today I’m doing a mini-post as I have been traveling and haven’t had the proper time to write but wanted to briefly share a recent experience with you all because although I’ve been accused of being verbose (using more words than necessary), I’m quite reticent naturally. Bahaha.

Not that you asked, but the history of tea is quite extraordinary, and the way it spreads across multiple cultures over the span of thousands of years is the same as it spreads today. It is introduced by tea lovers to their friends and neighbors as an extraordinary beverage of choice, something that will enhance one’s experience of living, and transform an ordinary day into a sacred ritual.

What’s not to like?

Most of you probably already know that tea originated in southwest China, likely the Yunnan region during the Shang dynasty as a medicinal drink, because as I found out on Monday you actually feel better while consuming the dark, fragrant, slightly bitter beverage.

Drinking tea became popular in Britain during the 17th century and has remained a staple of English society every since. In fact, after water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world. Hello, what rock have I been under?

An attractive box of Yorkshire tea came to me through a fellow blogger named Pete Johnson, who resides in a small town in Beetley, England with his wife Julie, and beloved dog Ollie. Pete thought tea might be an superior alternative to my obsession with coffee as a more refined beverage and flavorful experience. He took the time to purchase the type of tea that would be easy for me to brew without the normal tea paraphernalia, boxed it up, sealed it with tape, addressed to Campbell, California, and handed it off to the postal service with the hope that tea wouldn’t get caught up in customs. You all heard of the Boston Tea Party?

“Coffee—a barbaric drink. That poor, tortured bean. All that fermenting and husking and roasting and grinding. And what is tea? Tea is dried leaves rehydrated. Just add water, Mrs. Strickland. All living things need water.” Guillermo del Toro

After making the long voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, the package miraculously landed on my doorstep while I was out of town, and my observant neighbors, Ron and Debbie, graciously stored it for me until my return.

I decide to share the tea with my sister Nancy as having tea seems like an activity for two, not to mention one of our favorite authors, Alexandra Stoddard, claims, the ‘art of tea’ is a spiritual force for us to share.

I arrive at Nancy’s midmorning on Monday of this week with my precious box of Yorkshire tea in hand, she greets me as I walk through the back door without knocking, holding up my prized possession as if a five year old who scored a box of Oreos.

On her counter, Nancy had laid out a teapot I purchased for her decades ago from Nordstrom, and on the bottom, it says it was made in Portugal! It came with matching creamer, and sugar bowl. What foresight I had? She selected two delicate teacups from her collection and set them out on a spacious white tray. It all felt so mature.

My adorable sister Nancy

We haven’t seen each other for a few days, she cared for my dog while I was out of town, and the least I could do to thank her was to share my Yorkshire tea that came all the way from England!

We feel a little giddy as we wait for the water to boil and slowly began to understand the ritual nature of sharing a cup of tea. She pours the boiling water in her exquisite teapot, I add the delicate tea bags, and we set my iPhone for three and a half minutes as Pete instructed so the tea would have time to steep.

We decide on which teacups we prefer while I fill the creamer with fresh milk and Nancy fills the sugar bowl.

Finally, the timer sounds and as instructed I squeeze all the goodness out of each bag into the teapot with a dual spoon technique I made up on the spot. Yes, I can be innovative when necessary. We make a show of pouring our tea, adding cream and sugar, but can’t stop ourselves from giggling like schoolgirls before the first sip.

Magnifico! It is smooth, pungent, and instantly addicting. The second sip is even better!

There is something in the nature of tea that leads one into deeper discussions, relevant chatter, and definitely good cheer. It’s ritualistic by its very nature. One has to heat the water, add the fragrant tea, allow for it to steep properly, and then pour it with reverence into delicate teacups usually made of opaque porcelain. The process alone is enchanting.

Then your taste buds come alive, the soft warm steam assaults your skin, as the fragrance ignites the olfactory system in your nose. My hand naturally caresses the delicate pattern of the teacup with each lift to my lips, sip, and return to the matching saucer. It’s so damned refined as if a substance in search of like corporeality.

As Alice Walker claims, “tea to the English is really a picnic indoors.” So true.

The process inculcates one with a sense of harmony, the mystery of mutual adore, and the drive to perfect the imperfect. We spent the next hour reordering several of Nancy’s rooms, assessing the well-being of our mutual relatives, and planning for the future should we ever be able to move about the world again.

Tea does not insight idle chatter, it feels more like worship, an attempt to accomplish the impossible amidst the deterrents of a complicated life. As Phoebe Stone says, “a great idea should always be left to steep like loose tea leaves in a teapot for a while to make sure that the tea will be strong enough and that the idea truly is a great one.”

We discuss making this a regular event, maybe adding some cucumber sandwiches to our experience, I even found a delicious recipe online which includes, bread, cream cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes, avocados, olive oil, and balsamic. Pete kindly sent enough tea to last me at least six months!

“Tea. I find that both settles the stomach and concentrates the mind. Wonderful drink, tea.” Cassandra Clare

There are many things that distract us in this life, cause worry, and distress but as Kakuzo Okakura says, “let us have a sip of tea. The afternoon glow is brightening the bamboos, the fountains are bubbling with delight, the soughing of the pines is heard in our kettle. Let us dream of evanescence and linger in the beautiful foolishness of things.”

I offered Dante a cup of tea after he returned from work today, truth is I wanted another cup, but also wanted to share the magic with my son. The thing about tea is it’s slow, to steep, to cool, and especially to enjoy. We sat on the sofa waiting for our cups to steep before I rang the “goodness out of each bag.”

Dante says, “it takes a long time to cool but the flavor is good.”

This makes sense to me because good things take time. Thank you Pete Johnson, I’m ever so grateful.

Anecdotes:

“Tea is the magic key to the vault where my brain is kept.” Frances Hardinge
After a cup of tea (two spoonsful for each cup, and don’t let it stand more than three minutes,) it says to the brain, “Now, rise, and show your strength. Be eloquent, and deep, and tender; see, with a clear eye, into Nature and into life; spread your white wings of quivering thought, and soar, a god-like spirit, over the whirling world beneath you, up through long lanes of flaming stars to the gates of eternity!” Jerome K. Jerome
“Who would then deny that when I am sipping tea in my tearoom I am swallowing the whole universe with it and that this very moment of my lifting the bowl to my lips is eternity itself transcending time and space?” Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki

57 Comments

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  1. Lovely story and pictures, Cheryl. ❤ I bought some Yorkshire tea for my partner to try this week…I may even try some myself (as a hardened coffee lover!) I hope you are feeling better after your boat fall, my lovely? Xxx ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jane! Thank you, Nancy and I had so much fun preparing, steeping, and enjoying the tea, as both of us are also “hardened coffee lovers.” We thoroughly enjoyed the experience and absorbing flavor of the tea and plan on making this a regular event. I’m feeling so much better, thank you for asking, almost back to normal although I feared it would never happen! Love and hugs, C xxoo

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Cheryl. Looking at the photos from your sister’s house, you got it exactly the right colour! And I am pleased that you had a teapot available to make it the full ‘English experience’.
    (That small box of teabags I sent you would just about last one week here. We buy larger boxes with 160 bags in them.)
    Best wishes as always, Pete. x

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Oh my Pete, Nancy and I had such a lovely time enjoying your tea and catching up with each other. We were so delighted with the entire process we decided to make it a regular event and maybe add a few treats just to make it last longer. I can’t thank you enough for sharing your English tea with me, such a kind gesture, and much appreciated by all. Warmly, C xxoo

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much for the reblog Pete, I was wondering why my stats were exploding? I think you’ve started a new California trend as several of my friends want to join Nancy and I for our next tea party! Such a delightful ritual, ever so grateful, warmly, C

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank Fraggle, Nancy had to dig deep in the hutch to find it, but so glad she did. It definitely added to the experience. Wish you could join us as we’re adding cucumber sandwiches next time! Warmly, C

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah cucumber sandwiches! Cut the crusts off the bread, use butter not margarine, and just a teeny tiny sprinkle of salt on the cucumber. Also cut into squares not triangles if you’re having them with Yorkshire Tea, only southerners do triangles. 😃

        Liked by 4 people

    1. Hi Kim, thank you, we enjoyed ourselves immensely! The tea set helped for sure. Nancy also asked about you as she noticed your comments on my blog, I filled her in on your blog, I think you have a new follower as she loves to read. Warmly, C

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I had a close friend in Palm Springs that shared tea with me in her home when our toddlers were playing together. She had tea leaves, not tea bags and a gorgeous tea set. You brought back wonderful memories of the time we shared over tea.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mary, thank you, my sister and I thoroughly enjoyed the tea, but more than that, the whole experience. Very gratifying. The teapot was key! She had to dig deep to find it! So glad she did. Hope all is well with you, warmly, C

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m a newer arrival to tea time and loved this post, Cheryl. I love that you and your sweet sister, Nancy, convened over a tea set from you (it’s beautiful!) and that you got the tea from a friend across the pond. All of this is so lovely–for myself, it’s as much the ritual as the taste of the tea itself that draws me in. One more good reason to slow down, sip and savor. Thanks for this one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Mary Ellen, it was such a generous gesture of Pete to share his favorite tea with me, and that it made it through customs was a miracle! Nancy and I so enjoyed the ritual we’re planning another on her next day off! I agree, it’s the best reason to slow down and savor the moment! Looking forward to our call soon! Warmly, C

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  5. I think coffee is more for hardcore workers and tea is for those who want to relax and be of good cheer. Canada and America are the world champion coffee drinkers, where tea is relatively rare, and it is there that we see the pursuit of the almighty dollar the most intensely. Not surprising once the correlation is made.

    — Catxman

    http://www.catxman.wordpress.com

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    1. Interesting correlation Catxman, between coffee and consumerism, or maybe more entrepreneurial types? Coffee is a stimulant but so is tea? Maybe the process of making tea stands between the preferences. Interesting question. Thanks for reading and commenting, much appreciated, all my best, C

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  6. Oh my Goodness, what a wonderful post! And the smiles? Brilliant!

    Welcome to the club neighbor! How could you have missed the delicious aspects of sharing a pot of tea?

    I can’t imagine my dear mum, Maureen, not having you over for a ‘cuppa’. . . oh well, better late than never. 😉
    You will have to bring Julie and Nick up to speed. That kitchen is certainly missing it, I’ll put a bet down on that! Tea is so ‘steeped’ in my family’s culture, and the essence of steeping tea has certainly seeped into the framework of that abode. Anyone walked in the door? Mom put on the kettle. Simple as that.
    When mom did a custom wedding ensemble? She would invite the bride, the bride’s mom, the flower girl, and the flower girls’ mom, and all the bridesmaids over for tea, for the final fittings. They all loved it.

    When we got to London for the summer? Tea was the first thing we did upon arrival at my Nan’s flat. Then, we would make the rounds to all the relatives over the next few days to a week and. . .have “tea”. Marvelous!. Later in life, I would be in London ~every six weeks like clockwork, but not planned. It just worked out that way for ~7-8 years running through the ’90s 🙂 I would ring up my favorite cousin Lynne, and say I was coming, but don’t tell anyone. I had to tell Lynne, or I’d be a dead man. Then, after dinner with Lynne and her husband John, I would pop ’round to one of my other dear beloved cousins for the evening, and. . . have ‘tea’. . . I took Terrie and the kids over umpteen times in between, and after. The girls loved being British, and they love their British Cuz’s.

    When Shelby graduated high school in 2016, we sent her and Shannon over to basically “go have tea” for the summer. And boy, did they. We have relatives and friends all around Britain, Belgium, France, and Spain. Everywhere they went, it was for “tea”. for a day, or for a week.
    Shannon is quite the Sharkspere fan, so tea on the upstairs patio overlooking the Avon was a must for her before seeing the Royal Company perform “the Merchant of Venice”. On top of that, they researched and found tea houses all over and had. . . Tea. I could go on and on. . . really! I know, shocking! 😉

    Okay then, last bit.
    Bet you didn’t know that I start my day with tea to this day. Not always. Did coffee for quite a few years at the office because someone made a pot, and things were just berserk most of the time. And tea? . . . Tea takes time. And, what passes for tea in an American restaurant would get them sited in the UK.
    But one day? “Bugger” that! Tea Please! Never looked back. To this day, when I go play golf in the morning, which is often, it is ALWAYS with an 18oz tumbler of Twinning’s English Breakfast, with organic cream. I’m useless without it. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Chris, you’ll be relieved to know Nic is a tea lover, he usually brews a cup in the afternoon. He’s a coffee man in the morning but always tea in the afternoon. I knew you went back and forth to England but I didn’t know how often you went as you were growing up! What a fabulous way to be raised, steeping in two cultures, taking the best of both wherever you go! Love that you also introduced your girls to the same influences, cousins, and culture I’m sure those trips are part of their most prized memories! So, I’ve been thinking (I heard that snort), about all these snippets of stories you write about of your youth, philosophy, your faith and I think you need to start a blog! The Chronicals of Chris! Think about it. You write beautifully and you have an extraordinary upbringing! Do it! The world needs your voice. Warmly, C

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for the kind words Neighbor. xxxooo
        Blog, Humm. Seems I do better with writing once my memories are stirred. . . Yes, apparently, and pathetically, I’m still getting cheap ‘double entendre’ mileage out of the tea posts. I must put that genie back in the pot, er, eh ‘bottle’. I’ll speak to my analyst, Harley, as Labradors know best about these things.

        Seriously though, I spend so much of my ‘thought time’ in the here and now, dealing with the thoughts needed in the moment until something jogs me, like a FB post, or the engaging prose I have been exposed to here. I will give it some thought, promise.

        Cheers, CT

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      2. Got my Yorkshire tea via Amazon, day before yesterday. Brewed a cup this morning. Wow, spectacular. It is definitely going into a ‘tea-off’ with twinning’s English Breakfast.
        🙂

        CT

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yup, mine is from the UK too you know! But, instead of being given the “Royal” mail treatment? Mine is a bit more common box to be sure, as It was likely packaged with 143 other identical boxes, then put on a container ship with various chocolates, tea biscuits, and cases of Guinness beers.
          But when it showed up at the Amazon warehouse, the 144 identical siblings were gutted, as almost immediately, one by one their brethren were torn away from the family, quickly disappearing into little boxes with an evil smile on them, never to be seen or heard from again.
          After a few days, the remaining 72 boxes chatted that with the very next box to disappear there would be less than half of them left. Sadly, as my box shipped, they all wept. “Once upon a time” and not very long ago all 144 of them had been so tight in that big bloody cardboard box. Then suddenly that first day at Amazon, an angry boxcutter tore their world apart! As they disappeared, one by one, and sometimes two at a time and even three at a time on occasion all the others could do was to wait patiently in the warehouse hoping someone would choose them for display, rather than consumption.
          Mine hoped and prayed to be returned, not able to meet the expectations of his new master. Though not returned in its original cellophane wrapper, the little box of tea hoped to be returned to the shelf with the others forever.

          But when it arrived at its destination, the Amazone box was opened and the box of tea was put on the shelf next to the Twinning’s English Breakfast Tea Box. “How do you do”, said the Yorkshire Tea. At first the tWinnings box just glared at little Yorkie. . . THen, Twinnings spoke, and the Yorkshire Tea Box’s little world was Shattered: The superior acting Twinning’s Tea Box said: “He’s going to rip you open with his bare hands first thing in the morning tomorrow!” Unfortunately, Twinnings wasn’t teasing: indeed, the little Yorkshire box watched in horror, helpless as his cellophane was stripped from his carboard and a part of him was plucked out and boiled alive! This happened the next day too, and then again the next day, and the next and the next!

          MY little Yorkshire Teabox wasn’t that good at figures, but he realized at this rate he would be depleted in less than 3 months. All he could think about was warning the other boxes back at the warehouse but then he realized none of them knew how to write, or the address of the warehouse, or even the shelf number they were stored on at Amazon. It sucked to be a box of tea he thought. Cell phones have it all: long shelf life, clung to by their owners like they were the most important thing in the world! Ahhh, to be an iPhone, or even an LG droid.

          Then, about 20 days into his misery, one of his box mates from the warehouse showed up. He was overjoyed to see one of his 144 siblings but dejected just the same when he realized his sibling’s turn was soon coming.

          The little old man had the same routine every morning: once finished boiling one of the Yorkshire Tea’s parts, he wrung the life out of them, then simply and unceremoniously dropped the spent boiled bag in the trash, then he poured “Organic Cream” on top (sacrilege I’m told. . .), and stirring ever so carefully, would smile an evil tea slurping smile, muttering “This is so damn bloody good! I must remember to thank Cheryl and Pete for getting me to try this! Whomever those two tea killers are. . .

          But he never did thank them properly.
          After all, he had to purchase a box himself, which isn’t anywhere near as magical as having a box specially mailed to you to be enjoyed with family and friends, from a very cherished box that has a story built-in, as its very origin was from the land of Yorkshire, in the middle of jolly old Blighty!

          Yeah, I had to buy my own box. . . Which kinda sucks. Makes me kinda sad. . .

          Not really! Damn bloody good tea!

          Practicing my blogging.

          Hope you enjoyed that. Just a short story about a short subject with a short life: the “Tea’ boxes of Yorkshire. . .

          😉

          CT

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Chris it’s time to get your blog up and going, your audience awaits! And as for those poor departed tea bags I salute their “steeping” service in my time of need, which seems to be around 3:00 pm! And BTW I found some of that “sacrilege” cream ~ Yum! Now I hear the Girl Scouts are bringing around some tea dipping cookies to my front door. I consider it my community service, I do what I can! xx, C

          Liked by 1 person

  7. A lovely post Cheryl. My spouse and I went on our honeymoon 25 years ago with his parents. It was fine with me. We went to Sweden to visit his family for the majority of the days. He left Sweden as a child and hadn’t been back in years. I sat and smiled as they reminisced. Everywhere we went tea was served in lovely tea services. As I cannot drink coffee or tea they were often frustrated at how to entertain me. I had many a cup of warm water in the most lovely cups I had ever seen. It was a slow paced talking time with his family who spoke no English. I still loved it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Lauren, wow, you are a saint! Spending your honeymoon with your in-laws? I could not have done that in a foreign country where I didn’t even speak the language. You are the most patient and flexible person I ever known! What an interesting conundrum ~ how to entertain someone who doesn’t drink coffee or tea? I never considered that issue. I suppose it’s like hanging out with wine drinkers when you don’t drink. I’m glad you loved it, you’re a better woman than me! Thanks for sharing your story, warmly, C

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Congratulations, Cheryl! Now, you a little bit more British, than all the other Americans. Lol Thank you for the great historical overview. Honestly, i love coffee too. 100% Arabica, and refined in Italy. Only real Arabic mocha can surpass Italian espresso. 😉 Have a nice rest of the weekend! xx Michael

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Michael, I adore coffee too, but I thoroughly enjoyed being “a little bit more British,” with my sister! I tried Italian espresso and it is magnificent. I have to say the British are generous in sharing their treasures! I’ve been sharing my prized Yorkshire tea with a few friends and

      Liked by 1 person

      1. For sure, if it has to be tea, the British tea is the best choice. Here in the ruraliest rurality, also called “Bavarian Siberia” Lol – most people are only on beer. In found out, he only way not to have to drink beer, and stay awake here at meetings is espresso. Lol Have a nice rest of the weekend, and enjoy a beautiful new week! xx Michael

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