On Tea – and its Ritual Trappings

Give us time, we said. We’ll try we said. Three days of wrestling with the plastic-wrapped tea really was us trying. Turns out the old saw about Anglicans and lightbulbs is absolutely true; you need one to pour the sherry, one to change the bulb and one to complain about the superiority of the old bulb. Being neither mechanical or keen on sherry, we clearly fall to the complaining. Swap in tea for lightbulbs and it works a treat.

The thing is, it’s not just that the plastic is different. It’s that its badly designed. In spite of assurances that the bag contains ‘two perfect spoonfuls,’ the opening  of the packaging is engineered to be at peek narrowness. Consequently any heaped teaspoon emerging therefrom scatters gaily across the kitchen counter. We then sweep the leaves into our hands, and thence into the tea infuser. But since we can’t hold the infuser in one hand while spooning stuff out of a hopelessly narrow bag, that too empties on to the counter. We gather it up. We take out a second spoonful. It spills across the counter. We combine it with the leaves we are now sheltering in the palm of one hand.  (Pause here to say a quick prayer that it staysin the confines of one’s hands and doesn’t, say, overrun on to the floor.) We portion the combined lot back into the tea infuser and weep for fellow tea-drinkers partaking in the  24 Days of Tea /Advent Calendar That Isn’t. Are you keeping up? No? Don’t worry, neither are we and we’re living this experience.

Please. For the love of this tea-drinker’s sanity, reinstate the silver and gold tins.

Scrap that. The tins can be whatever colour the cosmos fancies. Blue, green, multicoloured with leprechauns and gremlins. Just bring them back.

Today’s tea was ‘Let it Snow’ a lovely green tea that is the tea company’s newest and latest take on our beloved Crumble Tea. As you’ll appreciate, we took great pains not to let that scatter counter-wide. It’s a bit sweeter than the Crumble Tea, maybe not quite enough spice to balance out the apple flavour. But it’s good all the same and we’re guarding the current supply rather jealously. Even if we do have to tip it into a recyclable tin to ensure its used to its full potential.

And for a tea that tastes like an old favourite, here’s a lovely and well-worn poem to go with it. We’ve always skirted it on the blog, thinking it’s probably the obvious tea poem, and everyone familiar with it. They almost certainly are, but it’s lovely anyway.

Tea

Carol-Ann Duffy

I like pouring your tea, lifting
the heavy pot, and tipping it up,
so the fragrant liquid streams in your china cup.

Or when you’re away, or at work,
I like to think of your cupped hands as you sip,
as you sip, of the faint half-smile of your lips.

I like the questions – sugar? – milk? –
and the answers I don’t know by heart, yet,
for I see your soul in your eyes, and I forget.

Jasmine, Gunpowder, Assam, Earl Grey, Ceylon,
I love tea’s names. Which tea would you like? I say
but it’s any tea for you, please, any time of day,

as the women harvest the slopes
for the sweetest leaves, on Mount Wu-Yi,
and I am your lover, smitten, straining your tea.

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