Friday, November 07, 2008

Give the U.S. a cup of tea

While there's tea there's hope.- Sir Arthur Pinero

If you have been around be any length of time you will have observed that I am a tea drinker. I like it hot with milk and sugar. Any other way just isn't 'British' to me. I can drink iced tea, but only if it has so many other ingredients combined with it that it bears little or no resemblance to the 'Hot Cuppa' I know and love.

If you have spent any time in the U.K. you will have no doubt been surprised by the amount of hot tea you are offered to consume. This is more than just a quirk. We British believe that Tea is imbued with Mythical Powers.

For example -

If you've never met and are struggling over conversation - offer a cup of tea.

If you are under extreme shock over a situation - offer a cup of tea (preferably sweet)

If you are grieving a loss - offer a cup of tea.

It's not just the act of drinking this ambrosial beverage of the gods either. Everyone has their own rituals on 'how to make a proper cup of tea'. The type of tea, bag or loose leaf, style of brewing, length of brewing, mug or cup etc are all factors for rigorous debate.

What is it about my Tea Rituals that I cling too so tenaciously, after all if I don't get my cup of tea after I emerge from the shower it feels that the day is already doomed.

1) Tea is a 'slowing down'.
I stop what I'm doing and I breathe as I brew. It's a 5 minute vacation for my soul. When I was at University writing Papers I would often drink 5 or 6 mugs of tea whilst working. It helped my Creative Process.

2) Tea is a 'clearing of the mind'.
As I engage in my tea ritual - whether formalized like the Chinese or not, the simple act of repetition becomes one of stillness and centering.

3) Tea is a 'connection to the past'.
The rituals, the taste and the smell brings memories of my childhood back.

4) Tea is a 'Perspective Bringer'.
I've heard it said "Come in and sit down, it will all look better after you've had a nice cup of tea." The act of slowing down and drinking causes some emotional distance between whatever is upsetting us. The concentration required to hold a hot steaming mug without spilling it on yourself is enough to focus your energies away from your immediate emotional reactions.

Maybe I should invite all of the U.S. over to my kitchen and give them a nice cup of tea - it really will make things look better.

The first bowl sleekly moistened throat and lips,
The second banished all my loneliness
The third expelled the dullness from my mind,
sharpening inspiration gained
from all the books I've read.
The fourth brought forth light perspiration,
dispersing a lifetimes troubles through my pores.
The fifth bowl cleansed every atom of my being.
The sixth has made me kin to the Immortals.
This seventh...I can take no more.

-Lu Tung,Chinese Poet

With each sip I taste
the fire that gives its heat.
The water that gives its wetness.
The leaf that gives its spell.
The pot that gives its emptiness.

With each lingering sip
I cannot help but see
all that makes tea
as well make me.

-The Minister of Leaves


Deidra said...

Aw Peter. You stirred my love of tea, made the right way, the first time I came to see Cliff after we met in Dallas and I have hsd a cup every morning to start my day since and seriously always think of you. I love this tradition and have now passed it along to Zack. He has tea with me about four times a week. Love it thank you. I also remembered the first time you met my family and they offered you ice tea and you said it was a bastardization of all things pure and holy in front of my grandmother I was mortified but they loved you and didn't care. I think we took you caving that weekend too. Seems so long ago. Love Ya

Ginger said...

I do love tea - Especially English tea (and clotted cream and yummy scones)! But last time I was in England, the only tea that was offered was green - and by a true Brit too!! What. A. Scandal! (Sigh)

But there is something very lovely about tea. :)

Ginger said...

And then this was delivered today from the very man who offered me green tea in London:

Jerry said...

Hot tea is quite popular here in Victoria... there are a smattering of tea houses (like the James Bay Tea Room, the Blethering Place, and Murchies'), but many people just get their daily hot tea at the local coffee shops. A common concoction at these establishments is the London Fog (hot Earl Gray tea, steamed milk, and vanilla syrup). Hot tea is also common in the local Vietnamese & Chinese restaurants.

Perhaps we'll have tea if you visit Victoria in the future. :)