I believe in the essential goodness of a well prepared cup of tea. A good cup of tea is not something to be trifled with. A good cup of tea involves boiling water- not warm or even hot, but boiling- a sturdy mug and black tea leaves. In a teapot a good cup of tea means pouring hot water in first, swirling it around and dumping it out, so that the teapot is warm when the boiling water is added. A proper cup of tea requires that the teapot is then left close to the flame while it steeps. In my house there is no debate about milk or no milk because there is always milk, the debate instead centers on when to add it, before or after it is poured from the pot. I am emphatically in the after camp, but my aunt claims that that is the result of my being a senseless American, a fact I can only blame on dear old mom and dad who made me into the tea drinker I am today.
My parents came to this country in the 1970’s from Ireland. Like so many before them they abandoned their home, family, clean air, and the comfort of knowing your neighbors for the shining beacon across the pond; New York City. There were a few things, however, they refused to give up for themselves or for their children. These include in no particular order: the one Holy Roman Apostolic Church, rashers and sausages, entering your children into Irish dancing lessons against their will, jovial yet heart breaking Irish folk songs, and of course, a properly cultivated cup of tea.
It was common when I was younger for my parent to send me or one of my siblings to the corner for milk or to put water on to boil, but it wasn’t until I was older that I was taught to prepare a pot of tea. My father is the high priest of tea in my home, and it is imperative that each member of the family receive tea at their desired strength. The perfect steeping time seemed to me a divine revelation as if the tea’s readiness was communicated to him through a kind of inborn internal clock.
My uncle is a priest and I have watched him countless times consecrate the host and I have felt the divine, the love that becomes invested in a tiny wafer, but I have also watched his brother watch over the metal teapot that he leaves near the flame in that holiest of holies, our family kitchen. I have watched my father invest his time and concentration in a simple cup of tea and I have felt as much love as I did from any of the sacraments I have received. I believe in the healing powers of a hot cup tea, I believe that there are few things more perfect.
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