If I pour your cup, that is friendship.
If I add the milk, that is manners.
If I stop there, claiming ignorance of taste,
That is tea.
But if I measure the sugar to satisfy your expectant tongue then that is love.
I’m not much into rituals. I’m much too impatient for something that requires me to take added measures, more time, more expense, and possibly more waste- regardless of the result.
So I miss out on richness.
Except for tea.
You can’t rush tea. You have to heat the water. If I use loose leaf tea, I have to measure the leaves and place them in the tea ball. Then it has to steep. Then be sweetened. And then, if you’re a wussy-pants like me, it has to cool. After all of that, you can’t just gulp it down. It must be sipped, slowly, to take in the subtleties of the flavor.
I love how the steam warms my nose as I linger over the cup, inhaling the scent.
Why do I bother, when there are so many other rituals that would add richness to my life equally or even more so, that I have no patience for?
I don’t know.
But I like my tea, and I like my time with my tea.
I once invited a friend to join me for a cup during a few moments between obligations that we both were attending to. After she declined, I realized how grateful I was that she wasn’t with me. Another presence would have distracted me from my moment. I can share tea with someone whom I don’t need to fill the space with conversation, someone with whose presence I am enough.
Maybe rituals contain an element of intimacy? An intimacy I am reluctant to share with just anyone? Perhaps a bit, but I also think I am just impatient.
If you ever come over for tea, please don’t expect me to do more than lay out your options and let you tend to the preparations on your own. Measuring milk and sugar for someone else is far too intimate and presumptuous an activity for me to take part in.
But if, for some reason I do measure and pour and prepare for you. . . well, just know that you have entered a sanctum into which very few have been allowed passage.