As I sit here, this first Saturday of September in my back yard, trying to compose a coherent piece of tea prose, I initially (as often happens) come up empty-handed. So, I get up from the patio table and head indoors to find a cup of inspiration in my cluttered cupboard of tea samples. The first box of tea my eyes fixate on is Steve Smith’s No. 45 Peppermint – sample box sent to me by the man himself. Nope, not quite what I was looking for right now. I need stimulation during this time of day and although I love fresh peppermint, I reserve it as a before-bed or after-a-late-evening meal settling remedy.
I suspect I am looking for a black blend, something that harkens me back to the tea I quaffed in the high arctic with the Inuit, a tea with those rich malty notes that you find in Indian and China blacks. As I continue to shuffle bags around and dig deeper into the back of the cupboard, a Teaguy label moves into the scrum. Handwritten on the bag is “East Frisian Sunday Tea.” Ah-ha, that’s the one. I pull it down and go fill the kettle.
Less than 10 minutes later, I’m back out in the yard nestled behind my Mac and listening to the song of Black Capped Chickadees and Spotted Towhees fluttering around in the four majestic Sequoias that rim the back. It’s a lovely place really – transitioning into West Coast Mountain forest. The space comes alive every summer morning. The choral symphony starts around 5:00 AM, so some neighbors close their windows, but for me it’s a slice of heaven drifting through my wide-open patio doors.
I digress… Back to the post and what exactly is on my mind today. I don’t know if you noticed, but I’ve been away for four months. Life got too hectic in the spring and I wasn’t inspired to put my thoughts on paper anymore. What could I write about that has not already been bantered about a dozen times in this blog? What tidbit or diatribe could I impart on the readership? What experience could I share that might prove beneficial or even enlightening for a very enlightened audience?
The fact is very little, I surmise. I can only delve into my own life in tea thus far as I continue to try and shake up the status quo. We all have a life in tea here, and those experiences shape our perception of this vocation we muddle through year in and year out. From the painfully slow summers that I possess a love-hate relationship with to the frenetic weeks around Christmas when all you do is long for is a little downtime, a life in tea is not a get-rich-quick scheme, nor is it as entirely fulfilling as we so often make it out to be.
All pontificating aside, I sell tea for a living. It’s better then selling Kirby vacuum cleaners door to door (yes, I have done that too), but the truth is that I have to get up every morning and think about how to get more people drinking my tea if I want to achieve my desired life. Not entirely how I want my association with the leaf to play out day in and day out.
There is one certainty, though, which we can all agree upon: a good cup of tea provides much-needed inspiration and reflection on one’s daily life. From Emperor Nong to Lu Yu in 780 AD to modern-day saints and poets, the leaf has a wonderful ability to allow us to dig a little deeper, to sit back, reflect, and absorb the wisdom of the ages, to tune out the chaos that surrounds us, and to delve into our inherent gratitude we all share for being introduced to this wonderful plant.
As I take the last sip of my pot of East Frisian Sunday Tea (without the traditional lump of rock sugar and heavy cream on top), the sun has finally poked its head out from behind the Sequoias. The warm rays of late summer sun are causing me to squint at the screen, and after looking closely in the mirror last night before bed, the last thing my face needs is more creases.
The Frisian tea did the job – even if it was not consumed on the Sabbath. I hope the tea gods forgive me for this.