The Japanese have whole ceremonies dedicated to the art of preparing and serving tea. They believe that it is a sacred art form and have both formal and informal versions. Many other countries have something similar—for example, an afternoon or high tea. While I am not quite as formal as all that, I do love the ritual of making and drinking tea. I have my own ritual, now that I think about it. It starts with filling the kettle with water. Then there is the click and whoosh of the gas stove as it kicks on, the blue flames licking at the bottom of the kettle. I love perusing through all the mugs in my collection—some gifts, some souvenirs, some just magically acquired, but all with a distinct memory attached—to choose the one I feel best represents me in that moment. Next, I peruse the many available varieties of tea that I have in my kitchen. I like to keep a mixture of loose leaf and bagged tea in the house at all times, in an assortment that contains both caffeinated and herbal options to choose from. I tend to pick something caffeinated in the morning, something sweet in the afternoon, and something soothing at night.
I will select my tea and gather anything else I need—spoon; a sweetener such as honey; milk if necessary; and, depending on the type of tea, my tea infuser. While the water is heating up, I prepare my cup. I wait for the sound for the sound of the kettle whistling before removing it from the heat. I love pouring the water into my cup. I watch as the tea slowly infuses the water, changing its color and flavor. The brand and type of tea determine the length of time it is submerged in the water. I like the sound my spoon makes as it rhythmically hits the sides of the cup. I can do these things on autopilot; it is so familiar to me. But I do each thing consciously and mindfully. It is as close to a meditation or prayer as I get.
Once the tea has been prepared, I will bring it to one of my favorite spots in the house to be savored. That usually means that I bring the cup with me into the living room. Then I will curl up in one of the armchairs with my tea and something to read. I have small end tables next to both armchairs specifically to hold my cup while I sit. I breathe it in the way some people select a wine. My very favorite part is my first sip. The payoff to all of my meticulous preparations. I remind myself that even if I have a busy day ahead of me, tea time is my time to let responsibilities go and just savor the moment.