tempested_bird: (Tea)
[personal profile] tempested_bird
My grandmother and I began to speak of intensely personal things over breakfast this morning. After we finished eating, I walked into the kitchen.

"Can you pour me some water?"
"Actually, grandma, I was about to put on the tea kettle."
"Ah, yes."

The Tea Ritual is an intensely important aspect of my life and has been for as long as I can remember. I've spent a good portion of my life experimenting with how to properly brew different kinds of teas, learning where certain teas come from, how differing teas interact with one another and with water temperatures. Most importantly I have spent a lifetime sharing tea with people who are important to me.

To that end, the most vital result of the Tea Ritual is the interaction and connection that results in the sharing of it. Of course, I do adore the taste of tea itself, so appreciation of tea does play a big part in such an interaction. I have always felt that drinking tea is an art. There is an art to brewing and appreciating it that I enjoy engaging with; I like the reading and the research that goes into learning about how tea is cultivated and prepared. I like meeting with Tea Masters and learning from them brewing techniques or talking to my fellow tea enthusiasts and trading ideas and techniques with them. I feel like one can learn a lot from a person by what kinds of tea they like.

I have my personal Tea Ritual for myself, and brewing tea is a meditation in its own right. The act of wholly devoting my attention and myself to the process of making a pot or gaiwan of tea is something that helps to ground all of my nervous energy. Even the more traditional methods and forms of tea brewing are symbolic for a person washing away all of their mental static and taking the time to enjoy and engage with the pure sensation of drinking. It is actually one of my methods of focus and grounding to help manage my OCD.

While my personal Tea Ritual is about silence and contemplation, the Tea Ritual that happens with another person present is something else. With someone else present, it is about acknowledging connection and being present together. This began with my grandmother. After my father died, my grandmother came to the US to help my mother raise me. Even before that, she was the one who took care of me whenever we were in Korea. Since I was young, if something bothered me intensely she brewed some tea, sat me down across the low lacquer table (which I still have), and we talked. We would talk about what is on our minds, she would tell me stories about our family, about what it was like for her growing up during the Japanese occupation of Korea, our futures, she would teach me about traditional medicine. She taught me how to properly brew the East Asian teas while I taught her the art of western tea. At that table, everything that needs to be said can be said and, more importantly, it will be heard.

In many parts of Asia, it was (and in many cases still is) considered extremely rude to invite someone into your home and NOT offer them tea. Tea was often served first at the beginning of business meetings, which allowed two people to get to know one another, give them a moment to assess the mental state of the other, to take the time to consider their answers before speaking or conducting the actual business at hand.

This is something I have taken with me throughout my whole life. When I invite people over to my home, I offer them tea. Whenever my close friends are distressed, we sit down and have Tea. And we talk. I feel more connected to the folks who engage in this with me, and it makes me feel like I'm passing along something significant from my family and culture. At the end of long trips that I take with friends, I take them out to Tea. It's a good place to shove off all the weariness that can come from travel. It's a good place to reminisce about the good and the bad stuff. It's a good way for me to remind people that I love them. After major projects or events, I often do the same. I need it, and I can tell that sometimes other people need that space, too. There have been many times throughout my life where I've run out of the house at 1 am or later because someone asked me, "do you want to get tea?"

My grandmother and I had Tea this morning, and it was good. It put us both back on the errands we wanted to run and the chores we wanted to do by two hours or so, but in the end, the time that is spent together is more important than a few chores. She's not going to be around forever, and this is something we haven't done in a long time. She needed it. I needed it. Besides, I completely forgot it was Easter, so all the electronics shops I needed to hit to get the parts I needed were closed, and the downpour limited the amount of yard work we could accomplish today anyway. It crossed my mind that she is 79 this year, which means we may not have that many years left of doing this together. A big part of me just isn't ready to accept this yet. Her company is something I treasure immensely, and taking care of her is 80% of the reason why I still live at home. She knows it is selfish of her to want me to stay while she is still alive, but at the same time, for her I would endure a lot worse. And in a lot of ways, she is really my strongest connection to home. With my family gone off the deep end the way they have this past decade, most of us are pretty estranged from one another. It has forced me to really redefine my relationship with Korea on my own terms this past decade.

Date: 2010-04-05 02:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ocha-no-hanashi.livejournal.com
I could send you some mighty good Japanese sencha tea if you want.

Date: 2010-04-08 09:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tempested-bird.livejournal.com
That would be utterly fabulous if you did, and I would be eternally grateful.

Date: 2010-04-09 01:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ocha-no-hanashi.livejournal.com
If you want, PM me a mailing address. :)

kotykj@gmail.com

Date: 2010-04-05 03:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] yeloson.livejournal.com
That sounds like it was a great Sunday.

Date: 2010-04-08 09:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tempested-bird.livejournal.com
It truly was. This past decade, getting to live with her has been on and off because she's mostly been in Nevada helping my aunt raise her kids. So having her around is always a nice thing for me.

Date: 2010-04-05 03:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] denisia.livejournal.com
I loved reading this.

And I wish we'd been able to go out for Tea in NYC, now!

Date: 2010-04-08 09:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tempested-bird.livejournal.com
There is always the next time!

Date: 2010-04-05 04:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jadecat9.livejournal.com
This was a lovely post.
I felt the same way about my grandmother & grandparents, but we didn't have your lovely Tea Ritual.

I love tea.
Ty for posting this. It made me smile.

Date: 2010-04-08 09:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tempested-bird.livejournal.com
I'm glad you enjoyed reading it. =)

I'm glad that there are others who really get to appreciate the privilege of having good, loving grandparents who can teach and guide them.

Tea is a great thing, indeed. We should do tea sometime.

Date: 2010-04-05 04:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] abenn.livejournal.com
I love this story, Astra. I enjoy the way you write about your life, your family and your friends, and the glimpses into your inner thoughts.

I have a friend from church with whom I would go out to Tea, sometimes after church, sometimes after our Practitioner classes. It was a space where, for example, I could ask ignorant questions about race issues or talk about my fading belief in God, and we could discuss these things safely. She and I have both, more or less, left that church for different reasons, but I hope we will see each other for Tea sometime in the next few months.

Once or twice I have had this friend, and sometimes others, over for Tea using my mother's teapot, which is one of my most cherished possessions. I was taught the ritual of how to properly use my mother's pot by a British friend several years ago, so now I always go through the proper steps. I confess to preferring the taste of English-stlye blends of Indian teas over Asian ones, so my mother's Chinese pot has had quite a variety of teas brewed in it. If I recall correctly, I've served you tea from this pot at least once.

And I would love to have Tea with you sometime, although I doubt that we would talk any differently over a cup of tea than we would otherwise. So maybe we should make it Tea and Indian Food. Sometime soon. :-)

Date: 2010-04-08 09:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tempested-bird.livejournal.com
Aw, thanks. I'm glad you're enjoying my occasional urge to self-disclose. Hehe.

That's really cool that you had a friend from your church with whom you could create that kind of safe discussion space. I've always thought that being able to establish that sort of space with a few people in your life is paramount to keeping a hold of your sanity - and learning.

I do remember being served tea from your mother's tea pot once or twice. I'm honoured that I've had that privilege.

I do like all sorts of teas myself, but I do have a particular love for the Indian blends and the Russian blend of Chinese teas. But in the last few years especially, I've come into a newer and fresher appreciation of east Asian teas.

Tea and Indian food sounds fantastic. I'm actually pretty open schedule-wise through the month of April with exception of my day job. We should definitely make this happen.

Date: 2010-04-06 12:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kittyblackrose.livejournal.com
<3 I was thinking of you today!

Any recommendations for tea when I visit Opus Oils?

Date: 2010-04-08 09:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tempested-bird.livejournal.com
=D

Well, for Opus Oils, that depends on your preference for flavours.

My favourites are (in this order):
Abstinthe - black tea with pear, violet, vanilla, blue malva, and anise
Divine - black tea with lychee and goji berries (OMFG SO GOOD)
Island Girl - black tea with mango, coconut, coco nibs, and vanilla bits
Unearthly Beauty - rooibos, hibiscus, boysenberry black tea, raspberry bits, current, and rose petals
Tiger - black tea with lilac, blackberry, black currant, and orange (this produces a nice light tea with a bright flowery aftertaste. so good)

I also like Roller Girl, but that one is *really* tricky to brew just right. If you do it wrong, it tastes like butt. Burlesque is also good, but it's not fabulous the way the other ones are. They have a new orange white tea one that I haven't gotten the chance to try yet. I can't have the Jitterbug tea because of the peach.

So really it's all based on your taste. The ones I have listed as favourites are so incredibly, fantastically good.

Date: 2010-04-09 04:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kittyblackrose.livejournal.com
Oh those all sound amazing!!

I always enjoy reading about your life, so thanks for posting <3 I can't wait to see you Tuesday!

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