“Tea is like balm for the soul,” Emma Thompson’s character said in the recent film, Saving Mr. Banks. If this is true (and I do believe it is) why do not we as Americans soothe our souls more often by partaking in the practice of tea? Certainly the British identify with the ritual of taking afternoon tea, but many Americans are so busy trying to survive in a fast-paced society that seems to require blood, sweat and tears to succeed, that they forget to breathe, let alone make a pot of tea.
When I lived in New York City and was pursuing acting, I felt such a pressure to constantly be doing something productive- always taking that next step towards achieving my goals. The city hummed with ambition and high-expectation. I literally had to stop and preach to myself, “It’s OKAY to REST!” I may not remember all of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, but the one that always stuck with me was the importance of “sharpening the saw.” If we take the time to refresh our bodies and minds, then we will be much more effective in everything that we undertake. What better way to sharpen the saw then by drinking a spot of tea?
Hot tea must be sipped slowly or it will burn your tongue. This gives you permission to take your time, allows your body to relax, and opens up your mind for contemplation. Lin Yutang wrote in The Importance of Living, “There is something in the nature of tea that leads us into a world of quiet contemplation of life.” How can we avoid repeating mistakes if we do not reflect on the past? Likewise, how can we move forward wisely if we do not take time to evaluate our purpose in the scope of the universe?
Tea is a simple pleasure that acts as a gateway to us identifying and appreciating other simple pleasures in life. Or as Muriel Barbery said it better, “When tea becomes ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things.” I like to embrace this little luxury by setting up a pretty tea tray, complete with flowers, a candle, a proper china teacup and a scone. With a tray like this you can easily bring it to bed with a good book, set it next to a bubble bath, or enjoy it out in the garden. Ah, my stress is falling away even at the suggestion of these delightful scenarios.
Hopefully you too are inspired to whip up a concoction of loose-leaf lucidity and sympathize with writer and theologian, C.S. Lewis, who said, “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”
What are some of your favorite tea related quotes? Do you have a special teacup or a particular type of tea that you use to unwind?