I made a terrible cup of tea yesterday. It was bitter and dry, like red wine that’s been left out overnight.
Being a man with a propensity for precision, I measured out approximately 10 g of tea leaves. To that, I added roughly 300 mL of boiling water, measured out as about 300 g. The tea was left to steep for four minutes. I set the timer for five minutes accidentally.
The tea leaves were left to float freely, confined only by the inner edges of the glass teapot. I think the teapot can hold nearly 2 L of water, which is far more than I ever need. My dad, however, managed to fill it and empty it at least twice a day while he was visiting. With only 300 mL of water, the leaves were swimming in the shallow end.
When the timer went off, it took me a little while to find a strainer to catch any leaves that felt like lemmings. I poured the tea into a double-walled cup and took it to my desk.
While blowing gently across the top of the tea, with lips pursed like a flautist’s, a sweet aroma filled my nostrils. After a few gentle puffs of air, I took my first sip. It wasn’t a sip so much as a suppressed and trepidatious slurp. The tea tasted fine. I remember thinking, “This is pretty good.”
As the tea cooled down, I was able to sip more proficiently, leading me to discover that the tea was, in fact, quite bitter and dry. Backlit by a reading lamp, I could see how cloudy it was. It looked like what an unfiltered amber hefenweizen would. Untrusting of my unrefined palette, I took another sip, and then another, and then a few more. Each successive sip teased me with a new — pleasant or unpleasant, I’m not sure — flavour. I didn’t get through more than about a third of the cup before deciding that it really didn’t taste very good.
Having too many things to do, like chores and some work I’ve been putting off, I decided to search YouTube for videos on how to make Chinese tea properly. I was thorough in my research, which was not limited to videos. I read a few articles, too.
Through my research, I learned about Gong Fu Cha, a Chinese method for making tea. It means, “tea with great skill/effort.” I think that’s just lovely. The process is so much more involved and ritualized than our bastardized Western way. With Gong Fu Cha, there is a workflow, a rhythm, a dance, that takes place. The tea is enjoyed as an experience. In our Western way, we have optimized the exercise, only helping to reinforce a mindless habit.
This got me thinking: why don’t we take time out of our day to have a nice cup of tea? How come it’s only the minimalists who make YouTube videos and the influencers on Instagram who prioritize these pleasant and restorative rituals? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to come home, put the kettle on, and prepare a table for a tea drinking experience? I think it’d be a great addition to any mindfulness practice. It might just help make me a little less bitter and dry.