Tea has taken me on a journey to many actual destinations, but, above all, to a place of calm – quiet, restorative, relaxing, and solitary. The mere act of taking time to brew a proper cup of tea from fresh, premium-quality leaves calms me, centers me, and focuses my attentions away from the stresses, intensities, and din of the day. Instinctively ensuring that the water temperature is just right and counting the minutes until the tea reaches its peak of extraction is the start of that journey away, erasing much of the quotidian reality of the day and leading me to a sanctuary, to a place away from the proverbial “all”.
After the perfect cup has been brewed, I sit down in a comfortable chair, inhale the aroma of the tea, feel the heat of the liquid radiating from the cup, and embark on that journey, emptying my mind of thoughts that might short-circuit the visual, olfactory, and gustatory pleasure awaiting in the cup. In my mind’s eye, I envision the verdant terraced slopes of the tea-growing regions I have visited and conjure up the earthy perfume of the tea-manufacturing plants. Most of all, I remember vividly the warm smiles on the faces of all whom I have met over the years who are engaged in bringing the leaves that have infused the liquid in my cup from garden to local vendors’ shelves.
When I think about the generous and thoughtful tea estate managers, the accommodating members of their households where I have been hosted (“Bed tea, sir?” was often the last question before I retired for the night), and the radiant faces of the colorfully garbed sure-handed tea pluckers, I sigh gratefully, sipping tentatively at first, and then imbibing a bit more quickly, while the fragrant liquid is still hot. I can then look forward to repeating the same ritual the next day or later that same day, energized but not at all jittery, expectant of where the next cup of tea may take me.