Being partially from the south, tea has always had a strong hold on the social dimensions of my life. From hot, to iced, to sweet, the infusion was complete. As hot tea edged out sweet iced tea in my daily habits, something started catching my attention. Once you move into hot tea land, the options for steeping become much more varied and flavorful. And then there is the equipment involved. All of the little items that make hot tea so very special: teapots, tea cups, strainers, caddies and cozies, packages and tea bags….can quickly seduce anyone who values the comforting act of making tea.
As a historian, tea has suddenly taken hold of my attention and will not let go. I am fascinated by tea’s very presence and ultimate infusion in our society. For thousands of years, tea has occupied an honored status of sacred ritual for a good half of the globe. As it continued to move west, it brought an influential seduction; A ritual no less sacred, just more accessible.
Even as I am suddenly aware of tea’s influence on our western society, the details of minutia demand attention. When examining tea’s presence in our society, what do you see? I’m beginning to see the graceful and delicate beauty of a teapot. I am seeing the chip on the spout that signifies heavy use tempered by hidden strength. I am noticing the demitasse and the full cup….the matching saucers and the missing pieces. When I sit down to a formal tea, each nuanced, tactile sensation comes together to perform a perfect symphony of tabletop utopia.
It is exactly those moments, those tea tableau moments that I wish to explore here. I am learning something new each day. The journey is introducing me to fantastical stories, exquisite art and craftsmanship which have begun to alter my view of something that had previously existed in the background for me. I believe it is also a key to appreciating some of the peripheral members of our society – those who labored in the kitchens – and who we took for granted. Tea is a method they used to give us comfort, courage, relaxation, and of course, sympathy. Oh the stories that have been shared over a cup of tea. I am no expert on this subject, but I am curious and slightly obsessed – hence the need for a blog to share what I discover along the way. Won’t you join me for a spot of tea?