There’s something so perfect about a good cup of tea. In the morning, whether the sun is patterning shadows on the walls or the rain is streaming down the windows, I tread downstairs and fill the kettle. I pull my stainless steel double-walled teapot down from the cupboard above the stove. I keep a collection of rather precious teapots up there; this one is big, utilitarian and everyday, and it keeps my tea warm the longest. I open up the drawer where I keep my tins and boxes and bags of tea. Wafts of aroma greet me – rich tannins, velvety vanillas, sharp fruity greens. In the mornings I invariably choose a black tea imported from Nepal. I pinch a few long, featherlight flakes of loose tea and drop them into the mesh strainer in my teapot as the kettle begins to spew and whistle. Earthy steam greets my nostrils as I slowly pour the water over the tea, savouring the thought of it steeping.
I select a hand thrown ceramic mug – my favourite, all shades of iridescent blue, brown and shimmering black – from my collection. The mug – the way it looks, the way it feels when it’s cupped between my two hands, the sheer volume of tea it holds – is, in my mind, an integral part of the experience. A spoonful of sugar and now dark black tea; I fill my mug and add a generous dollop of cool milk. Sweet and creamy; a comfort that has a way of stopping time, of erasing past and future and isolating the moment. Silence in the cacophony, stillness amid the rush. A breath, a sip, and now on with the day.
It is necessary to have a variety of teas on hand, as every occasion demands a different flavour. Easing into the morning requires sugar and milk and caffeine. If there are cinnamon buns; however, the tea must be black and strong to balance out the tooth-aching sweetness, the finger-licking stickiness, and the cinnamon.
Tea has a way of bringing people together. Steaming mugs invite openness and make for excellent props for complicated conversations – a place to rest the hands, a place to gaze while choosing one’s words. There is a tenderness in brewing a cuppa for someone in need – indeed, perhaps it is the surest way of nurturing another.