I put the kettle on. As I listen to the familiar rustling sound of the
water kettle, I remember how one time, while waiting in quiet for the water
to boil, I asked a tea-friend of mine, if there was something
going on with the kettle, because the sound was different from usual. “No,”
he replied, “we got the water from another spring this time.” Water taken
from a different spring had a different chemical composition and reacted
differently than usual to the clay kettle. This minimalist moment of
amazement and understanding of what difference water can make brought
I have to go with tap water for now, as it is a regular day and I am at
home. I visit my tea friends, who get their water from the springs in Nõmme
forest, on luckier days. Nevertheless, tea accompanies me most of the days.
I consider it sort of a companion and I do not count the cups. I usually
start my day with jasmine gold. That is how I tenderly call my green
jasmine tea, which I have drunk almost every morning soon 10 years now. I
name it jasmine gold for its yellowish-green colour and honey taste. I feel
as something is amiss when I do not drink it. Although, some mornings,
usually the deep and dark winter ones, are somehow harsher and then I need
red tea, black for Europeans, and I go for a mix named English Breakfast.
There is a connection, as it is said that green tea cools and red/black
warms the body up. I have noticed how I drink black tea
mostly during the colder months of the year.
I pour the boiled water in the usual cup: large white porcelain cup with a
blue rye-flower pattern. My sister gave it to me as a present for
graduating from high school 10 years ago. In the beginning, I drank from it
only on Sundays and only jasmine gold. Now I use it daily and practise Zen
– if it breaks, it breaks. The water is still too hot for green tea, so I
let it cool down and think of how besides tea keeping me company, I have
also found comfort in it. When I am down, troubled or anxious, I turn to
tea: my jasmine gold, different types of pu-erhs and hand-picked herbal
teas. This way, tea and non-tea drinks have actively taken part in the
healing process. If teas from tea trees have abled me to meditate for long
hours, alone or with tea friend, then herbal teas speak to me from a
different level. Herbal teas are connected directly to my cultural
background, as I have picked herbal teas since my childhood: my
grandmother, mother and me pick herbs that I still know to recognise and
use, often while going through a bad cold, menstruation-related pain or
when I feel generally tired.
I grab the metal jar that keeps my tea cool and dry and think how tea from
tea trees, especially pu-erh, has given me many silent lessons. Pu-erh with
its cellar-floor-dirt taste feels like a wise elder who shares their peace
and wisdom to whoever knows to listen. I have never felt that pu-erh, even
the one that has been simmering for six hours on the kitchen stove, would
trick me or make me feel bad like some other insight-providing substances
would. That does not mean that one should not know to take care of oneself,
like drinking this six-hour-stimmed pu-erh on an empty stomach.
Thanks to my tea friends and tea I have learned to recognise the difference
in between different sort of teas, even in between pu-erhs, and refined my
taste. I have felt the high pitch of fresh green teas and the low growls of
pu-erh. I have felt teas that awake different parts of my spirit and body,
that take me to very visceral, visual or emotional trips. I have left long
tea ceremonies with new knowledge and peace of mind. The spirit of tea is
patient and forgiving but it is up to the drinker to know what they are
drinking – if a high pitch and upwards green ‘Dragon Well’ or
down-to-the-root ‘12 Gentlemen’s’ pu-erh – and learn to listen to it.
Today I drink alone, jasmine gold being my only company, but tea has given
me many good friends that I am thankful for. I have had many meaningful
moments during long drinking sessions which have deepened and enriched
these friendships. I have shared experiences with tea friends and we share
a common language. We describe the effects of the tea to each other, share
the need for freshly boiled water and they also understand my obsession for clean water kettles at my other friends’ homes and in public spaces.
Time is up, a couple of minutes is just enough. I sit down with freshly
made jasmine gold – either for breakfast, back in front of the computer to
continue work or maybe just to gaze out of the window. I will keep on
pouring, because often it is a simple companion, often a part of my social
rite and often a deeply meaningful experience.
Author: Nele L.
This tea story was a submission to our “Tee elab!” ("Tea lives!") tea writing contest.