One lovely Mother’s Day the girls and I treated our mums to afternoon tea at a beautiful Victorian tea house. The atmosphere was gracious, the manners dainty, and all I could think was that it seemed an awful lot of money for weak hot water and tiny little bits of food. I went along, hoping I could sip, smile, and fake my way through it. I had a large meal before-hand; I wasn’t taking any chances on losing my cool and devouring an entire gilt plate full of watercress sandwiches.
Watercress….I ask you. (Insert eye roll here.)
What I did not realize was that back in the tea house kitchen, an art was being performed. Fresh water was being brought to a perfect boil and poured into a warmed teapot with choice loose tea leaves to brew exactly three and one half minutes. The tea had been chosen for its quality, flavor, and freshness and was handled with skill. With pomp and circumstance, high tea was served in the dining room.
I took a cautious sip.
OH my. What is this amazing tastiness? It was truly an eye opening event for me, and I couldn’t blame it on the jam scones.
There is most certainly a difference in a cup of tea that is made properly and with a great deal of respect. It must be made slowly and sipped slowly to appreciate the true flavor of it. Unlike coffee or cocoa, which can be gulped by people at random temperatures at any level of strength, tea is delicate and capricious. You can’t rush tea.
You must be very careful about what you want to add to it. Tea does not like to compete in the cup, and heaven forbid anything wooden, paper or plastic gets involved. I know that lemon or honey can be played about with, but never cream or creamers. I myself am a “one lump” of sugar and skim milk kind of gal. I know that every bona fide tea drinker has his or her own version of the perfect cup of tea, and without fail they have respect for others of their ilk.
It really must be “just so”.
When you have your tea just exactly the way you love it, there may as well not be anything else in the world for the next fifteen minutes of the day. It can completely reboot your system. With this kind of contentment, the day’s irritations are covered with a layer of grace.
And so I have learned my lesson from those more gracious and patient than myself. As a student of the “ways of tea” as my joking hubby calls it, I find a world of intrigue, a history that precedes all other hot drinks, and respite for my frazzled nerves. I actually think tea accessories are as fun as any jewelry: infusers, containers, whisks, drip catchers and “flowering” tea which is amazing to watch “bloom” in a glass pot.
Like the heroes of legend, at the right time the knowledge was revealed to me (ie: before my guests returned). This time I will be their hero! Dare I say it? The course of the hostessing world as we know it has tipped for the better – simply because I have discovered the delight of a cup of tea.