Wednesday, 8 December 2010

“So all this time, we were doing it wrong?”

“Yoko, Yoko, you’re supposed to first put the tea bags in, and then the hot water.” John took the role of the tea maker, for being English. So I gave up doing it.

It was nice to be up in the middle of the night, when there was no sound in the house, and sip the tea John would make. One night, however, John said: “I was talking to Aunt Mimi this afternoon and she says you are supposed to put the hot water in first. Then the tea bag. I could swear she taught me to put the tea bag in first, but ...”

“So all this time, we were doing it wrong?”

“Yeah ...”

We both cracked up...

(source: Op Ed by Yoko Ono in the New York Times 8 December 2010)

Saw 'The Tea Maker' (title of Yoko's piece) out of the corner of my eye as I was skimming the New York Times, and was so glad I stopped to read this. There are a few things that strike me as I read it. First of all, the proper tea etiquette part.

John was absolutely sure of the order of teabags and water, and made a big deal of the fact. Assuming it was black tea, it really doesn't matter whether the water or the teabags go in first (I don't think), but he was sure he'd seen his aunt doing it a certain way and that was the only way.

I see this sort of thing among tea people often. It has to be done this way or that. One website describes exactly how to brew tea, while another offers contradictory information about the same topic.

As I'm writing this, I'm imagining someone pouring boiling hot water onto green tea leaves, and I'm shaking my head and repeating what I've read from multiple sources-that you'll destroy the tea leaves and ruin the green tea's taste. So please don't think that I'm advocating simply ignoring tried and true wisdom about the particular way to brew specific types of tea. I'm not suggesting that at all.

I'm saying that one of the reasons learning about tea is so daunting is that some tea people are simply pedantic about the only way to do things. More than one time, I've heard people tell me they went into a tea shop and were overwhelmed by all the requisite gear and instructions to make a simple cup of tea.

The other thing I liked about what Yoko said was it got me thinking about people close to me who've died or who are very far away. The tiniest moments I remember. The words that were said may or not be able to be accurately reproduced, but the feeling of connection while we maneuvered round one another in the kitchen is what I carry with me.

So as I sip my tea, I'm thinking about all that John left us before he was taken. I'm also thinking about those people who were once close to me. It sounds so trite to say you have to enjoy what you have when you have it, but that's exactly where my thoughts are taking me.

Oh, and water and THEN tea. Really.


  1. Did you find out your Proust's madeleine?

  2. Like Citizen Kane's 'Rosebud'? I've thought about this Ice, and I really don't have one.

    I loved the weirdest things when I was a child. The way dust particles sparkled in sunlight pouring in the window.

    But no possessions that I can remember.

  3. Am I innocent or guilty? I'm the author of one of these guides on brewing tea, but I conclude the first paragraph with the note: Brewing is largely a matter of personal taste.

    I agree with your overall perspective...and I think it's sad when people get pedantic about tea, because this attitude ultimately alienates people from the world of loose tea. Forget the intimidation of not knowing what to do, the thought: "I don't want to be like one of those people." might be the bigger culprit.