The Tea Ceremony

For all this talk of tea ceremonies and the Tao, or Zen, or Way, or Path of Tea, I usually put it in a pot and add hot water to it. How much more ceremony do you need?

Yesterday I baked some buns and biscuits and used the best china, but it was still a pot of hot water with tea leaves in it, decanted into cups.

But there is one tea of the day that is a real ritual for me, and that is the first cup.

Sometimes, but rarely, it starts with poetry or prose.

That’s because the radio station my clock radio is tuned into has some sort of Australian Cultural Spot at about 5.45, which is when my alarm is set for. I am hardly ever still asleep by then, but if I am, I can count on a few lines about the joys of mulga, brolga or sweeping plains until such time as I smack it one across the top and it shuts up.

“Well, Davo and me were droving a thousand head of cattle toward the Murrumbidgee stockyards when this galah decided to hoist his jocks up the bollock dray pole..” SLAM!

Not the most elegant of starts. It hardly ever happens , though.

Often I wake up well before the alarm and then have to extract myself from the bed without waking Lady Devotea, who does not believe that there even should be a five o’clock in the morning; let alone that it’s a suitable time to get up.

Before I move, I need to do a cat count. We have three cats. The chances are that there are up to two on the bed, and a sudden movement can ping one across the room, like an unwilling and surprised trampolinist, to its intense and noisy discombobulation.

Often, between me and the edge of the bed is Skyla, sleeping peacefully, but ready to move if I awaken before her.

Should I not awaken before her, she solves that problem by reaching out and digging precisely one claw precisely two millimetres into my flesh, very slowly. Very deliberately. Very effectively.

Regardless of who wakes whom, she stays curled up until I have levered myself out of bed, then jumps up and runs past me, out of the door and down the hall.

She stands outside the bathroom door, as she knows that will be my first destination of the morning. Once I emerge from there, she races to the kitchen, and stands expectantly by the food bowl.

She knows not to say anything until I fill the kettle. Once I have plugged that in, she will start making odd noises until the food hits the bowl. Then all becomes silent, except for a vague purring and crunching.

I will open my tea cupboard, and consider the seventy-ish teas there.

If I have a migraine, it will be Doke Bai Mu Dan.

If I don’t, it will be one of the others.

After carefully measuring the tea by tipping it into the pot until it seems about right, I will flick open my tablet PC and whip through a few screen of emails, looking for anything interesting. Check my twitter feed. All the time, awaiting the click.

Once clicked, I’ll pour. Whilst it’s steeping, I’ll nip out the front and get the newspaper for Lady D (I can’t be bothered reading paper ones myself) and let in any cats that might have that requirement.

Then I pour.

If you think I use the best china, you’re wrong. I use a mug of about the size of an imperial pint glass. I remove the leaf strainer from the pot and balance it on the side, ready to use again if I decide on a re-steep.

It’s time to start work. I have a nine metre commute ahead of me: Out of the back door, across the deck and into the office.

I pick up the teapot in my left hand, pick up the scalding hot tea in its huge mug in my right. I take a deep sip of the tea, and I begin my day.

Skyla runs out of the screen door as I open it with my back.

Another sip at the halfway point.

As I get to the desk and take my seat, I take my third sip.

Ceremonially. Ritually. Happily.

 

Robert Godden

Certified Tea Nutter. Blender. Author of "The Infusiast" and Tea "Stories"

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12 thoughts on “The Tea Ceremony

  1. Robert, if I had been drinking tea at the time of reading this, which luckily I wasn’t, I would have snorted it out my nose (a tragic waste) at the sample of Australian poetry provided, and am in fact quite honestly crying with laughter as I direct Tennant to read it.

    You can tell Lady D that I’m with her about 5am.

  2. You shouldn’t be peeking into our bedroom, y’a ol’ bugger. This is exactly what I do every morning. Not quite so many felines though. Not quite as early.
    And I do read the paper myself.
    And I don’t have to choose Bai Mu Dan for the reasons you mentioned.
    My mug’s the same size, and our office for Tea Trade work is a few steps, turn left.
    Love your writing, – I could really hear the accent of the radio guy in my head. You’re a funny lot you are down under.

          1. I’m not sure that I can. I have unfortunate associations with the term ‘Bluey’ as a result of multiple years as a personal carer for the aged/paraplegics etc.

            Leaving it there!

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