I came to tea drinking later in life than most, despite coming from a family of tea drinkers – my gran in particular would feed you tea until you burst if you were too polite to tell her to stop.
Over the last few years I’ve developed a thing for loose leaf teas, culminating in my getting a tea pot – with filter – for my birthday a couple of years ago. Until I had a teapot of my own, I’d never really understood the whole tea-making-drinking as ritual thing, with steepings and timings and the rest. I had plenty of experience of the ‘tea as cure-all’ thing, though honestly even then there’s only one friend of mine who defaults to feeding me tea when I’m distressed and she makes the best tea in the world as far as I’m concerned – only from her will I always take a cuppa unquestioningly whenever offered. (Oddly enough she’s the only other person I know who owns a teapot – who owned one when we were students! – even if she makes it with tea bags and milk) But here I am as an adult, discovering the process of tea making as meditation. Of time spent in contemplation of the process, focused but unfocused, forgetting the rest of the world and its stresses and strains, to take a little time for oneself. Soothing and necessary. Time to rest and unwind, refocus on the things that matter.
I’m drinking Yunnan tea today, out of a little set of mini-tins of Chinese teas I got as a present. (Proper, curling dried leaves, that look like plant when they’ve been brewing for a while, none of this dust nonsense you get some places. Leaves you could read a fortune in if you were so inclined.) It’s rather pleasant.
One of the most useful craft projects I’ve ever undertaken was to make myself a tea cosy. Years ago, I came across a book of tea cosy patterns, a delightful blend of kitsch and charming, and fully expected it to spend its life much admired and un-used. With the arrival of my own teapot, the necessity of a tea cosy became apparent. It was fine if I made a pot of tea to share, but if I was making tea just for me, by the time I went for a second cup it was cold. Also, frankly, I didn’t particularly like any of the cosies in my mum’s collection and so it was make my own or be mildly irritated every time I made a pot of tea. My tea cosy is blue. Well, actually, its turquoise cable-work with a dark blue – with sparkles – trim at the top and bottom. Largely because the turquoise was left over from another project and I feared I might run out and the dark blue is an almost perfect match for the teapot. It looks cute and quaint wrapped in its cosy, and more importantly, the cosy keeps the tea at perfect drinking temperature for me. So I can spend an afternoon working away – on college work, crafting, writing articles or just curled up with a good book – and never need to move further than to reach over and pour another cup of tea.