I must confess that I often make my tea in a rush. Life is very busy and I imagine that I’m like a lot of people in that regard . . . rushing from one task to another. I spent the last few days at the coast of Oregon and had an opportunity to slow down a bit. I came to learn something very interesting about my tea ritual during that time.
It is my habit to brew tea in small pots; be they glass, tetsubin – cast iron – or clay. I’m often frustrated by the leaking liquor as I pour it into its awaiting cup. What I discovered, when I wasn’t rushing, was that the tea pours perfectly into the cup, without spilling a drop. I was the one responsible for the leaks by pouring the tea too quickly! It seems the ancient makers of classic tea pots understood the dynamics of the pour. Whether it was a pot maker in China, Japan, or America: the key is the speed of the pour. By rushing the process, too much tea was forced to leave the pot, causing the liquor to spill out prematurely. Patience has never been my strong suit. Even with my beloved tea, my impatience compromised the experience.
I am delighted by the beauty of this simple process. It forces the drinker to s-l-o-w down. We have written about the ritual of tea and the impact it has on our health and wellness. I believe that we need to embrace the slower pace that tea encourages. Whether we utilize the humble tea bag or the small tea pot, we need to slow down and savor the pleasure that tea affords us. Each element provides an opportunity for beauty; visually, gustatorily and as an olfactory pleasure. I have come to value the pleasure that each cup brings to me. Of course I brought my tea selections and my brewing pots to the condo on the coast – assuming that of course there would be many cups and mugs that I could use during my brief stay. There was another lesson learned. The mediocre tea cups that were available were just not as lovely as what I drink from each day. The feel of the cups in my hand and the experience of my lips on the rim of the cup somehow negatively affected my experience of the tea. I had clearly undervalued the impact of the cup in my ritual of tea. Intellectually I knew the importance of a beautiful artisan cup, as I’ve grown a considerable collection over the years. I just didn’t realize the impact it would have for me, as I sipped my favorite teas watching pelicans and seals playing in the pacific ocean. Next time I’ll be sure to bring along a favorite cup to complete the experience of savoring tea while on vacation.
This post first published on the blog 25 June 2008.