Sunday, August 22, 2010
Learning to drink tea
The Art of Tea
This is Ava, my four year old granddaughter; she is drinking tea at our annual toddler tea. We began the tradition at age two. Now, a two year old tea party is similar to a Cat in A Hat party. That is another post.
Tea has brought meaning and reflection to me. As a child in the South, I loved watching my mother’s friends come for tea. Their large brimmed hats laden with flowers and jewels made them look beautiful to my five year old eyes. I watched as they sipped from my mother’s china cups. The table was adorned with fresh flowers and a starched white tablecloth. Matching napkins trimmed with delicate lace lay on their laps. It was a magical moment as I heard their laughter and chatter. I dreamed of having friends with pretty hats and gloves just like Mama.
I have drunk tea with friends who visit just to disclose their heartache. Many a cup of tea tasted salty because of the weeping we shared. Other times, I have served tea to giggling ladies who had stories to share about the travels we had together. Photos, stories, and tea magnified our travels. I have shared a warm mug of tea with my sweet husband. No fancy napkins were needed. We just embraced our cups with love for each other. .
Memories of drinking tea with my Kazakh friends bring joy to my heart. Their tradition is priceless. They take time for tea four to six times a day. They share their admiration and praise for the gathered guest.. I cherished holding their blue and white cups with no handles. Just as the tea warmed my hands, their hospitality embraced my spirit. Tea in Kazakhstan is not only a tradition but a process. The host fills each cup carefully asking if guest desire sugar, tea, or more hot water. She then passes the cup to the visitor at the farthest end of the table. It is in this ritual that each guest is honored by the other guest. The process continues until cups have been handled with care. Toasts are given to each guest recalling their gifts and contributions. This immediately establishes a positive ambiance. Soon, all are sipping and laughing about the day’s journey.
It is this history that spurs me to host toddler teas. I want my granddaughters to know the importance of tea. We have pretend teas on almost every visit. Even Ellis at eighteen months drinks imaginary tea with us. She will be introduced to her formal tea gathering next summer. She will be two and ready for a tea mate. My inheritance to the girls is to recognize that filling a cup with tea brings warmth and friendship on the simplest of days.