Saturday, November 7, 2009


I've been thinking about rituals, those cornerstones of everyday life. Perhaps the recent passing of that great anthropologist, Claude Levi-Strauss, started me on this trajectory. Unlike those which he studied, the little rituals that inhabit my day are pretty banal, westernized, and cossetted. They're not little-understood practices performed in far-flung places in need of rigorous deconstruction by social scientists. There's no need to coax from my time-worn habits a universal principle. More personal in their intentions, my rituals provide a comforting ballast to the unpredictable inherent in each day.

Preparing tea in the morning is one of these rituals. I got up late this weekend, waking to unseasonable warmth, the balmiest of weather. I opened the windows and heard the rustle of a breeze and the crunch of dry leaves on pavement. A ladybug appeared, its spindly legs twitchy, sidling across the window screen. Swadled in a wool sweater - my autumnal wear thrown on through force of habit- I watched the cats bound onto the window ledge. Rustles and scents from the outside world attracted their attention and their nostrils flared avidly, pressed to the screen.

While the kettle rumbled, I culled oats and spices together for a batch of granola. The familiar movements of delving into the pantry for little spice jars and reaching on high for the largest of the nesting bowls seemed somehow necessary. It was as if I could not start my already late morning in earnest without performing these rites.

The kettle's roiling came to a halt as I tried to stave off hunger by finishing off a quarter of a cantaloupe. Now I was ready for my morning tea. I pulled out one new to me, Rishi's Organic Ancient Yellow Sprouts, a yellow tea from Yunnan Province. Yellow teas are quite rare, unique in taste, their nature poised somewhere between those of white teas and green teas.

The dry leaves were long and grayish-green with ragged edges. I placed a tablespoon of the crinkly leaves into the glass infuser filled with hot water and watched them unfurl into recognizable leaf-like forms, delicately veined. The liquor was decisively golden and the first taste, a delight: a honey-smooth flavor evoking a springtime orchard when mild floral aromas have yet to blossom into the cloying overripess of the late fruiting season.

The taste of my tea held no astringency nor grassiness. Without being bland, it is even-natured, slipping with ease into the balminess of my day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have certain rituals I follow too, and tea is part of the structure of my day. Right now I have a morning pot of a sample of Puerh and an afternoon pot of a "control" which is from a predictable tuo cha.