In my next life, should I have one, I’m willing to come back as tea. A nice, comforting China black, preferably. Keemuns — Hao Ya — Panyangs — even a Muscatel-fragranced Darjeeling, although I like milk and raw sugar in my tea, usually.
Tea is the perfect metaphor for beginner’s heart. It doesn’t ask anything of you, comforts and lifts, is there whenever you need it. Unlike coffee, it doesn’t jazz you — just a gentle kind of awakening, like the effervescence of good conversation. And unlike alcohol, it can’t be abused. Can never really harm you…
Today, as I made my Panyang Congou, brewed it in a pot bought in another lifetime, poured it out into a cup given me more than 20 years ago, I thought of what I’ve learned from tea. Of the cultures that revere it, built empires on it, drink it w/ every meal.
I thought of drinking mint tea from tiny glasses rimmed in gold, sweetened almost to syrup, w/ women who spoke no English, but who had become dear friends. I remembered how we grew closer as we sipped the scalding hot tea, taking turns telling stories in French. And there were women who sat at my table for 8 years, weaving our lives together over pots of strong black tea, sweetened w/ rough-cut cubes of raw sugar, lightened w/ milk. There was the sweet ice tea of my two grandmothers, the thin jasmine tea of my childhood, the milky cambric tea my sons drank as young children…
Sometimes there were treats — cookies, cupcakes, the honey sweets of North Africa, the pies and cobblers of Oklahoma. For my children I would make vanilla bread with chocolate butter. Now, I buy chocolate cherry bread for my grandnieces and grandnephew. And they eat it as they drink from their tiny cups of cambric tea.
Each of these was perfect for the time, the setting, the friends and family with whom I shared them. I want to be more like this ~ able to meet my friends, my family, the world, where they are. Offering what they need. With love, warmth and a bit of elegance. Cookies would be nice, too.