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Tea Appreciation for Troubled Times

by Cynthia Fazekas

Simple Pleasures

TeaSmart this month is a little bit late, and perhaps it is fortuitous that it was delayed. So much has happened this past week or so. Times Square bombing attempt, unrest and financial turmoil in Greece, a stock market loop the loop, terrible flooding in Tennessee and the horrific oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico just to name a few things that have transpired in a short amount of time. There is so much outrage, sadness and fear - when better to take time with a cup of fresh, budding tealeaves and refocus?

A cup of tea will not fix these things of course, but it can enhance our ability to deal with them; to deal with the world and all its shortcomings. These occurrences are large and negative and can bring feelings of despair and hopelessness. Tea provides an opportunity to focus on a tiny but beautiful ray of sunshine on a cloudy day. Here is how you do it:

Start with an assortment of premium teas that suit your preferences. Choose a tea to brew but smelling the dry leaf. Breathe in their fresh aroma. Ponder the fragrance for a moment or two, then more on to the next. What is most appealing to you? What seems to speak to your soul? Let your senses guide you to a tea choice.

Now choose a brewing vessel. This can be as simple as a pretty cup and strainer or as elaborate as a full gear tea ceremony. Look within yourself. What will bring you comfort? Is it color? Texture? What will enhance this tea time?

Once you have chosen your brewing vessel and method, start the brewing process. Focus deliberately on the measuring of the leaf, drawing of the water, breathe and feel your shoulders relax. Listen to the sounds of the water heating. How do they change as the temperature increases? Think of how the tea will taste. Try as much as possible to block out other thoughts, focusing on the present moment.

When the water is ready quietly observe the flow of water from the kettle to the teapot or cup. Think of it as a fluid prism for all the colorful flavors the tea will provide. Set a timer to ensure a perfect steep. Aromas will rise from the brewing leaves. Stay nearby to inhale and appreciate them. Continue to breathe slowly, focusing on the first sip to come.

Your timer alerts you that the leaves are ready to be relieved of their duties. Remove them as appropriate for your brew method and take a moment to look at them and cautiously smell the warm aromatic steam.

Pour a cupful if using a teapot and appreciate the color of the brewed tea. Allow the tea to cool to a comfortable temperature, patiently contemplating the awaiting depth of a finely crafted cup of tea. You should be breathing deeply and gently.

When the cup is cool enough to comfortable hold in your can, take your first sip. Allow a little air to enter your mouth. Let the sip move around in your mouth to al of your taste buds. Enjoy. Ponder the flavors and complex notes. Breathe and think of nothing else. Each sip the same yet different. What do you perceive in each?

My favorite teas for this exercise in appreciation are Sencha Premier and Jade (Tung Ting) Oolong 18 for their many layers of flavor, divine complexity, but choose what best soothes you. High quality fresh tea leaves are all that is required. Silver Needle perhaps? Jasmine Pearls?

This is the experience we as tea vendors must bring to our patrons. This is a little promise from Camellia sinensis that the world still has good things to offer and that the smallest, simplest pleasures are indeed the best of all. They take nothing from us and yet bring so much. Guide your clients through such tea enjoyment and appreciation. It will provide respite from terrible news weeks and other modern trials and tribulations. They will be grateful for it!