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November 7, 2009

Victorian Tea

I have written before about my love of tea; I have never been ashamed of my “tea granny” status, despite being a mere 26 years old. I love not just the flavor of the tea, but the process: boiling the water, selecting a beautiful china cup, waiting for the tea to steep … it’s part of a ritual I have come to associate with times of stress, times of joy, times of celebration and times of heart-to-heart conversations with loved ones. Some people laugh at me, particularly for my love of using actual bone china tea cups as opposed to mugs from Ikea (my DBF prefers Ikea over Spode, I’m afraid – but I will forgive him), but I feel sorry for those who have not realized the simple, beautiful joy of the ritual of tea.

On Saturday, my mother and I had the opportunity to attend a “Victorian Tea Party” at my beloved Aunt’s church; it was a social activity for ladies in the community who share a love of tea and time together. We put on our sundresses, and some ladies even donned hats and gloves. Perhaps to some it seems silly, but getting into the spirit of the event is part of the fun! We were seated in a room at the church, with 10 round tables: each one decorated with a floral centrepiece, plates of scones and sweets, little pots of clotted cream and strawberry jam, and a cup and saucer with matching side plate was in front of every chair. Each table had a “hostess” who poured the tea, and we all sat together at our tables and enjoyed the tea and good company.

It was a beautiful way to spend an afternoon; more than one person remarked that it was nice to get dressed up, enjoy some good food and tea, and sit with friends – old and new! As plates were passed and tea was poured and consumed, stories were shared and hearts were unburdened. It’s amazing how quickly the words come when they are accompanied by warm, soothing tea out of a gorgeous cup. How restful, how restorative, how it reminded us all of the importance of taking a moment for ourselves now and then, rather than constantly being distracted by the rush-rush-rush of our world today.

Sure, it might be “easier” or “more convenient” to grab a tea to go from the Starbucks or Second Cup or Timmy’s around the corner, but as you’re gulping it down in its unattractive, waxy paper cup, what are you getting out of it? Do you notice the beautiful, dark amber colour? Do you notice the delicate aroma wafting from under the ever-annoying plastic lid? Do you take the time to pause, allow yourself to rest, and engage all your senses in the cup of heavenly flavour before you?

Let me leave you with two of my favourite quotes about tea:

“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.” (Thich Nat Hahn)

“Teaism is a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence. It inculcates purity and harmony, the mystery of mutual charity, the romanticism of the social order.” (Okakura Kakuzo)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I hear my kettle boiling …

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