“(Tea) is not a drink, it is meditation; it is prayer. Listen to the kettle creating a melody, and in that listening… become more silent, more alert.” ~ Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh
The kettle splutters and rumbles to a halt. As water falls on to the teabag, ethereal tendrils of steam spiral upwards and the voyage, the ritual, the alchemy begins.
The liquid blushes honey and cherry amber, deepening then to golden brown.
I wait. Patience, time, slowness. Tea cannot be brewed in a hurry.
I pour in the milk. Pockets of creamy cloud billow outwards to create a miniature weather system, a tiny stormy sky in my china cup. A gentle stir clockwise and calm is restored.
I cradle the cup in both hands and bring it to my lips. I close my eyes and taste the hours of sunshine and the fat drops of rain which nurtured the tea garden; the dance of the elements and the seasons which brought us to this moment.
Wonderful tea: bright, comforting and refreshing. You remind me to be thankful. You freshen my perspective. You restore me to myself.
“Tea is drunk to forget the din of the world.” ~T’ien Yi-heng
I first inhaled the soft smell of you on my mother’s breath as I lay as a baby in her arms.
As a child, guests in our home were no sooner through the door than a cup of tea would be offered. And so I grew to learn that you, dear tea, mean hospitality. As Ben Okri has said,
“Hospitality begins in the soul… it is a way of being. We are all guests in life.”
In a culture where the rites of womanhood are seldom afforded due prominence, drinking you with the grown-ups was a passage into adulthood. In times of celebration, upheaval, loss and great loss: on went the kettle.
I drank you green in the far east, red in South Africa, thick with sugar and mint in north Africa and spiced and tooth-achingly sweet in India.
You warmed my hands and my heart on the chill, misty Himalayan mountainside and I walked on green hills where you grew, watching in fascination as women in brightly coloured clothes picked your leaves. I will always cherish the wisdom of strangers and of long-lost, treasured friends made around the chai shop. And I will never forget the welcome call of the chai-wallah after a ropey night in second class sleeper: “Chai chai chai!”.
You were always there to welcome me home.
When the nurse brought me my first cup of you after I gave birth, my new life as a mother began. It may have been average, hospital grade tea in a not-particularly-generous cup – but it was relief, joy, immense gratitude and exhaustion all at once.
Gentle summer rain on the parched earth of my lips.
In the haze of early motherhood and the sleepless nights which followed, you were both balm and tonic, ally and trusted friend.
Like most grown-up relationships, ours is a complicated back story. You tell the tale of a journey from the east, used as medicine, currency and ceremony; ancient magic brewed for the gentry and the priesthood. It’s a story of trade and colonialism, shadowed with the darkness of slavery – even of war.
And yet to me, today, you speak of peace. You beseech calm and reverence in a frenetic world. You offer delicious moments of solitude amidst the noise and haste. You gently urge us to pause, turn inward for reflection, come together and wonder at the preciousness of everyday things. You are made with, and of love.
You are a thread in the tapestry of my life. Plants are healers and you, my dear, are a queen among them. The world needs you now, perhaps more than ever. Because, in the words of a fellow tea drinker:
“Where there’s tea there’s hope.” ~ Arthur Wing Pinero
This post originally appeared on Be You Media Group at http://beyoumediagroup.com/2014/10/27/a-love-letter-to-tea-caroline-mellor/
Have a look at the rest of the site beyoumediagroup.com – some gorgeous pieces to inspire and enlighten.