Poetry often involves pathos, the Greek word for suffering. While today’s post is not poetic, the story is pathetic.

Imagine having the opportunity to serve tea to the most knowledgeable tea guru you have ever met. This person doesn’t just love tea, he lives tea: he sells it; he writes about it; he looks at itty bitty tea leaves under a microscope; he follows and reads the research that is done on it; he’s gone abroad to study it . . . in short, tea is his raison d’etre.

(You cannot imagine the care I have taken to serve tea to teenagers: invitations; clean cups and pot; quality tea; bottled spring water; low lights; privacy; comfort. After each Tuesday Tea, I fastidiously wash the cups and pot. They are wrapped in paper towels and carefully carried back to my classroom.)

“You’re boiling the water,” my guest reminded me, as I worked on the computer.

“Naw,” I insisted, “I’m making Oolong; I’ll let the water cool a bit.” As I waited for the water to cool, I gloated to myself, silently: here I am, a mere tea rookie – a novice – and I am serving tea to Sandy Bushberg! I poured Frozen Peaks pellets into the basket of the pot I had carefully rinsed with boiling water the day before. In two minutes, the tea was steeped, and we each quickly threw down a cup. I poured another.

Sandy took a sip, grimaced, and asked,

“What kind of water are you using?”

I showed him the gallon jug from the refrigerator. He shrugged. I took a sip of the second cup. “Yecch!” A thought suddenly occurred to me. I pulled the strainer from the pot: ten ounces of lovely Oolong was tinting one of those school grade paper towels that I had stuffed into the pot the day before to dry it. These are the paper towels that you commonly find in airport restrooms, the ones that are treated with every anti-bacterial known to man, warding off such maladies as chicken pox, staph, SARS, and the epluribusunum mumps.* And, they taste like it, even after being steeped for four minutes in Frozen Peaks Oolong.

Sandy was kind enough to laugh about it, “Hey that’s the first paper towel tisane I have ever had!” I am sure he is still fighting the taste of paper pulp and antiseptic. Admit it, that WAS pathetic.

Tell me please, dear readers – if you can bear to revisit it – your most embarrassing tea moment.

*Mark Twain, from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn