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.
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.
“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