The Art of Zen and Tea Making

As a writer, there are days where you feel like you should write something ponderous and important that reveals something new and useful about life and human nature. We yearn to be contributors to life, to make an impact on this vast universe through our words and insight.

Some days it works.

Other days — days like today — words feel limp and hollow, devoid of substance and worth in the face of so much worldly chaos. For those days, there’s but one thing to do: Keep Calm and Put the Kettle On.

A friend of mine asked me recently, “What do you like so much about tea?” My first answer was a bit of an embarrassing admission. My love affair with tea began at a very young age because it was a particularly English thing to do. I suppose I was and am guilty of Brit-appropriation at its most obvious. To the British, tea is a ritual; a lovely refined occasion full of delicious treats, stylish hats, beautiful china, and gleaming sterling silver. While it doesn’t need to be the stereotypical English High or Afternoon tea, with its petit-fours and chicken curry croissants, this routine of calmness becomes a moment that you take just for yourself or with a friend, enjoying fellowship and contentment for its own sake.

Then, you take your first sip. Whether it’s a soothing, mild green, intense, savory black, or spicy rooibos or chai, you feel the hot liquid touch your lips like a lovers kiss. It glides down your throat, coating you in warm comfort and tranquility. You let the steam caress your face before you take your second sip, indulging in every glorious moment as you would a day of perfect weather. For me, it is an experience of pleasure in its most potent form. It is also an absolute necessity for those times when I need to be soothed and reassured during Life’s more harrowing moments.

Eventually, I came to associate drinking tea with things that I loved, like reading a particularly engaging mystery novel, watching The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot, or listening to the rain on my windows. So, when I needed to de-stress, it became a simple exercise in logic: I am stressed, therefore tea. After acquiring my panacea, I would immediately feel calmer, more in control, more sure of myself because I now automatically associate tea with moments of tranquil enjoyment in my life. It’s probably why I drink so damn much of it at work.

I might even say I choose tea in place of something stronger. To clarify, when I’m truly and deeply distressed, I reach for this sort of cerebral calm, as opposed to the hardcore obliteration and numbing sensation that comes from a night of serious and purposeful drinking. It is my conscious choice to go for the loose leaf rather than the robust burgundy, because I make a deliberate effort to approach the problem logically, reasonably, articulately, and with a decidedly English stiff upper lip.

I suppose you could say it’s my constant in an ever-changing world. BBC’s Sherlock gets delayed until 2012* when you were initially informed that you’d be able to satiate your unhealthy addiction as early as ‘autumn 2011’? Put the kettle on.

Catwoman’s stunt double runs over and destroys an incredibly expensive IMAX camera on the set of an already much maligned Dark Knight Rises? Put the kettle on.

Societal lawlessness and thuggery running rampant and the world’s economy yo-yoing like it’s controlled by Tom Smothers? Keep calm and put the bloody kettle on.

Hang in there, England, and keep trending #OperationCupofTea. I’ll be taking Tea, Earl Grey, hot in solidarity with you. Cheers.

*May 6th of this year cannot come soon enough.

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