It’s transition time at the university. As a new semester begins my Capable Assistant and I are pushing to get new students into the online program I manage.
And face-to-face classes are starting as well. There are syllabi to prepare and advisees to meet. There are other transitions too, both at home and at church. Long, busy, stressful days.
But nevertheless I was surprised to find myself standing in the suite outside my office, absentmindedly drinking day old tea.
Let me acknowledge first that my relationship with tea is complicated. I was weaned on sweet tea down south, tea sweet enough to pour on your pancakes, even if it wasn’t thick enough. As a kid I could feel my mother’s sweet tea coursing in my veins.
But age, diabetes, and living in Michigan 25 years had pretty much cured me. Or cursed me, depending on your point of view. And the tea you get in a restaurant up here is so weak it barely registers on the tongue.
Everyone knows you can’t dissolve sugar in ice water, even if the waitress did wave a tea bag over it. So I’ve learned to drink my tea without sugar.
But life improved when my wife and I started drinking hot tea a few years ago, loose leaf tea of a much higher quality than the Luzisanne tea bags of my youth.
Brewed loose leaf tea is a European thing—something we picked up in Sweden and perfected in Ireland. Our adult kids have, for the most part, joined in. Even led us.
So each month Katie and I travel to the TeaHaus in Ann Arbor, where Lisa and her staff let us smell and taste exotic teas before we bring them home to enjoy.
We share a pot of Darjeeling every morning before I go to work, reading and talking together. It is an essential ritual. And often when I get to work my much appreciated assistant Terri and I brew another pot as we plan how to solve the problems of our very small world.
So I was surprised to find myself pouring day old Sikkim Timi into a Styrofoam cup. Terri was there and I think she gasped.
A. A. Milne said “A Proper Tea is much nicer than a Very Nearly Tea, which is one you forget about afterwards.” This was not even Nearly Tea. It was a Great Desecration, and I hope I can forget it immediately. Or at least never repeat it.
And in Styrofoam, no less. Lisa probably won’t let us back in the store.
Because a Proper Tea is not only memorable, it is restful. The whole process slows you down and invites conversation. The making of tea is the unmaking of stress. One must take these matters seriously.
Tea may “amuse the idle,” but it also “relaxes the studious,” as Samuel Johnson once observed.
Mine is a heritage literally steeped in tea. And whether it is served hot or cold, I’m pretty sure it is not meant to be served a day old. If you don’t have time to make a new pot, you probably need to take the time.
Simple things are to be savored, after all.
But they can rarely be saved.
See also relearning to linger