Chicken Soup for the Tea Lover’s Soul

“Stop and Smell the Tea Leaves”

BY JO RAE JOHNSON

My life has often felt like a roller coaster ride, way too fast, too many curves and a lot of sharp drops. Eyes tear and the scenery blurs when you’re flying through life. Hanging on becomes your primary focus.

Having tea, on the other hand, is more like the carousel. The rhythmic movement of the horses as they go up and down, reminds me of the rituals of enjoying a cup of tea. You cannot rush the preparation; most tea blends must brew a minimum of three minutes, an eternity in today’s world. Serving tea in a teacup on a tray, with perhaps a cookie or two, allows me time to savor not only the tea but also everything else that surrounds me. As in the slow turning of the carousel, having tea forces me to sip life rather than gulp it, see the view, pull up a chair and share a conversation.

My Aunt Carolyn is the first person I recall offering me a cup of tea. The sweetness was the first thing to catch my attention as it lingered on my tongue. I learned there are as many varieties of teas as there are flowers in the garden. In the brewing process, the flavor is released as the hot water comes into contact with each bud and leaf. This slow opening, referred to as the “agony of the leaves,” allows the special flavors of each blend of tea to release its magic into eve
Presentation was the next delight. Just like enjoying a pretty dress for a special occasion, there is something about a beautiful, feminine teacup that calls my name. ry pot. Removing the leaves too early will result in a weak and bland taste. Leaving them too long makes the tea bitter and harsh. Patience is learned as one waits for the proper brewing time, another reminder of why the tea ritual is food for the soul.
I fell in love with tea that day and with all things tea related. Experimenting with different blends of tea and starting a collection of tea accessories became a pastime. Teacups are one of my favorite things to acquire. In the beginning, I chose cups based on a pretty color, popular pattern, or to match my current décor. In the last few years, I became more of a teacup connoisseur and began my Shelley collection. No longer made and known as one of the most collectable teacups in bone china, Shelley china appears fragile but is amazingly strong, much like many of the women I know. The Shelley dainty teacups have a scalloped edge, almost like a ruffle on a dress. Shelleys are considered the finest in English bone china and many of the most popular patterns are floral. Chintz is one of my personal favorites.

In researching my new passion, I discovered Shelley was made from China clay, China stone and calcified beef bone mixed together. Water, when added to the mix, became the slip. Kneading, to reach the required consistency and to remove any air bubbles, transformed the slip to clay. It was then ready for the potter’s hand to mold.
Just like the beginnings of the teacup, I’ve had a less than perfect start. The trials I have withstood have not been pleasant, but one by one impurities in my life are being eliminated. I wish I could tell you I’m as translucent as a Shelley teacup but God is still working on me. As in the agony of the leaves, the hot water I’ve experienced has released a sweeter aroma, but not without some pain.

There’s a reason you don’t see drive-through tearooms or paper teacups. Sharing a cup of tea is a great reminder to stop and smell the tea leaves. The kettle is on and I’ve got plenty of teacups if you’re interested.
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