The Japanese tea ceremony is the epitome of beauty and refinement. .The utensils — the tea bowl , the whisk , the kettle , the caddy , the ladle –are scrupulously clean and elegant in their simplicity. And each step in the highly stylized ceremony is carried out in strict adherence to the prescribed norms and with an exquisite economy of motion . Much , much more than the drinking of tea , the ceremony is designed to appeal not only the senses but to the inner man.
My wife and I have our own private tea ceremony though it is nothing like the Japanese tea ceremony. The only thing that it has in common with it is that it too is a ritual and that it gives us pleasure.
Each morning I am the first to come down to the kitchen and start the process of making tea. Carefully , I measure out two and a half cups of water from the Britta and pour into the kettle which I set on the fire. As the water heats up , I get the milk and the tea bags ready . I measure out two-thirds of a cup of milk into the pourer which I then cover with a plastic wrap and then put in the microwave . Next I take two tea bags and put them in the teapot which I’d readied earlier . We have , after much experimentation , settled on Harris Orange Pekoe but intend, at some point in the future ,to use loose tea.When I hear the teakettle whistle I turn off the gas and pour the hot water over the teabags in the teapot. A quick stir and then I put on the lid and cover the teapot with the tea cosy. I then set the timer for five minutes.
My wife has come down by this time and we sit at the kitchen table looking out the window at the sun which is just beginning to rise over the roofline . When the timer goes off , we turn it off and microwave the milk for 1 minute. Now it is time to pour the tea and add the milk and sweetener ( one Splenda for me , nothing for her). Then all is quiet as we sip our tea in companionable silence and contemplate the sunrise.
Previously , when we made our tea directly in cups , we never had occasion to use a tea cosy. We were surprised to find out how effective the tea cosy is in keeping the tea hot. Even though the time for steeping the tea is so exact and even though we try to do everything in exactly the same way each morning , the tea varies slightly from day to day . Most days it is just right but sometimes it is not hot enough or strong enough or perhaps we find we have added too much milk. We are getting better at it though.
At this time of the year , with Daylight Saving Time not yet having kicked in , it still dark outside . We sit quietly feeling a little virtuous that we are up and about while the rest of the world is still abed.Sometimes the lights go on in neighboring houses and we see people beginning to stir and get ready for the day. We , long since retired , have no such concerns . The whole day stretches out before us but in the meantime we can enjoy the dawn . Sometimes , dark clouds in the east look like a range of mountains and we imagine we are in a valley. Other times we see birds heading south for winter or congregating on a neighboring roof. What are they chattering about ? Sometimes there is a flock of Canada geese on the move , flying in their distinctive Vee formation and we are reminded of their incredible teamwork and the vast distances they cover. How many miles do they fly at a stretch ? I wonder . How many days will they take to get to wherever they are going ? These thoughts are fleeting and unhurried. Mostly, we are in the moment , not thinking of what happened yesterday or what the unfolding day will bring.
They say there are only twelve perfect moments in a person’s life. These times each morning sitting quietly together , looking out the kitchen window, sipping our morning tea may not be perfect but they are close . Mighty close.