Monday, July 08, 2013

A Cup of Memories

First acquainted with Katrina Ávila Munichiello's writing via her tea blog, Tea Pages. Happy that the second book gifted by P is the writer's 'A Tea Reader : Living Lfe One Cup At A Time'. It states that it's "An anthology of readings for tea lovers old and new" and a "collection of true stories about special memories experienced over a cup of tea." That is so true. Often, it boils down to the memories, isn't it? (Pun fully intended.)

I love that the short stories are grouped under Five Steeps and themed. The First Steep speaks of Tea Reveries. The Second Steep contains Tea Connections. The Third Steep links Tea Rituals. The Fourth Steep touches on Tea Careers before rounding up with The Fifth Steep, appropriately, Tea Travels.

Every writer can wax lyrical about tea per se. But the best story, to me, isn't about tea. It's about the connections of tea, and what the beverage means to each one, in a good or bad way, especially poignant when juxtaposed in the stories of Stephanie Wright's 'I Don't Drink Tea', and Dorothy Ziemann's 'A Cup of Comfort'.

Stephanie Wright doesn't drink tea. She drinks coffee. However, she does adore tea in an odd way, and adores oolong and Darjeeling, and owns three special cups in which she takes her tea. Yet tea, the drink and the ritual of making it, is a bit of a pain and yet salve for her.

Should you come upon me one day in the process of setting kettle to hob, you can safely assume rebellion is on the horizon. I'd run for cover were I you. Do not be kind and ask what troubles me. Do not offer to sit with me in my despair. If a china cup with violets or roses sits in readiness on the counter, if sugar and cream wait with tiny silver plate tongs and spoon, back away slowly and don't look for the ground wire. There isn't one. 
In fact, I'll probably wish I were you in that moment, for a pot of tea can only signify that a watershed moment in my life has been reached. Some have that tea as a matter of daily course, of routine, of comfort or relaxation. Tea has always been for me a fortification, a metaphorical battening down of the hatches as I prepare for momentous decisions and the rendering of judgments.

Dorothy Ziemann loves a good brew of tea. Her father doesn't. He loves coffee. But after being diagnosed with lung cancer, at one chemo session, he asked for a cup of tea. She ran to get him decaf Lipton tea bags and bought mugs, had tea with him. Shortly after, he passed away.

I made two cups of decaffeinated Lipton tea in the microwave and handed one to my father. He took a sip and sighed with a peaceful look on his face. "Dorothy," he said, "I never knew tea was so soothing. I've really missed out, haven't I?" We talked and talked over that cup of tea. 
I was used to drinking loose leaf tea brewed properly in a teapot. I was something of a "tea snob" and wouldn't normally drink tea bag tea, let alone tea bags obtained from a grocery store. But that tea I shared with my father on that dreary day in a chemotherapy office was the best tea I can remember drinking in my life. It tasted like ambrosia. I know I will never taste anything as sweet ever again.

That's the whole point. All that discussion about taste profiles, flavors and whatever and whatever, is pointless without context. At the end of the day, it's not really about the tea. It's what is held in one's heart.


tuti said...

poignant. about tea and memories of the heart.

imp said...