On my walks each morning, I look for changes in the leaves. On the ground, there are ones with crinkled edges, snapping into bits in my hand. Those still clinging to trees and low-lying shrubs have dark circles of blight, flaunting their badges of senescence. These pocked-leaves curtsy as I walk by.
I wake up in the dim light of morning, and each day seems to start out the same - rituals enfolded into neat seams. The brushing of teeth to plaintive feline cries for food, the trudging downstairs accompanied by gallumphing of many paws. Predictable little details that vary minutely day to day. A beam of sunlight dapples aslant on the bedcovers one morning; the next day, I see mere slivers of sun creeping into the bedroom .
The morning tea before work is habitually Keemun, my most muscular of the day. I brew it strong to coax out its briskness, its round cacao flavor. The tea wakes up my palate, blunted by sleep and a too-sweet breakfast. I pour the tea into my Thermos for the short drive to work.
I sip the tea while snug in the car. A slight bitterness of taste may jolt me with disappointment. On another day, Keemun's dark, full notes play themselves delightfully on my palate and I wonder then if it was that extra flick of tea leaves settling in the infuser that gives my tea its piquant nature.
Over time, I have learned the amount of tea leaves that would yield a cup of tea pleasing to my taste, and I have often abided by that knowledge (even if it means dissenting with written instructions). But I'm not always constant, and so I veer from well-trod methods. Those few extra seconds of brewing, while I watch the deepening red of the liquor, will yield a cup unlike any from the past.
On a recent morning, hurly-burly with tardiness, I made off with lukewarm and bitter tea. Stanching an impulse to empty it out the car window, I sipped and grimaced. I took in drafts of cold air, teasing out the sweeter notes of Keemun, hardly lost in my haste.