|photo by Tara Crowley|
Over the weekend I enjoyed a small pot of black tea (loose leaf) in one of my lovely teacups. It was such a soothing and delightful break in my day, it made me wonder why I don't do it more often. Turns out it is the perfect refreshment between lunch and dinner, and the caffeine and sugar gives one a boost to counter the mid-afternoon blahs. Of course, people around the world have known this forever. I'm a little slow on the up-take.
My interlude got me thinking about two memorable tea events in my life (this is how seldom I do it up right): A zen tea ceremony at Naropa University, and high tea at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC, for my 50th birthday. Both were quite the occasion, singular events steeped (no pun intended) in tradition. My English tea was served as 'high tea,' which is to say it was served at a high table with savory and sweet finger foods. Served in a grand Victorian style room with palms and a beautifully laid table, I was aware that I was partaking in an ages old ritual. The Zen tea ceremony is also ages old, very prescribed behavior which is aimed at focusing participants on mindfulness and meditation. The host of such a ceremony folds the napkins a particular way, slowly and ceremoniously, stirs the thick pasty tea methodically. All induced a trance like state for me. The tea bowl is passed amongst the participants who drink from it communally.
The two ceremonies couldn't be more different. The elaborate elegance of the English versus the simple austerity of the Zen. Both have their charm. The tea vessels illustrate this well: the delicate hand-painted bone china and the irregular earthenware bowl. The ying and yang.
Feels like that these days: the simple comfort of drinking tea in the afternoon versus the die-ins at Macy's and Apple stores. Life is both those things. It's all that. And a bag of chips.