The little white teapot's charm

Last updated 09:30 04/10/2012

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"When I drink tea, I forget the world’s noises." - Chinese saying.

It was a little white teapot, unadorned, plain, with a steel lid and a wire infuser inside it. A little white teapot – just for the one. It was given me on my birthday by a dear friend, a sisterly figure. Sometimes I wonder what prompted her to buy it for me. It’s funny when you suddenly receive a gift which turns out to be an item you really needed but weren’t aware of the need. Gifts like these are more than presents – they are life’s message to you. In my case I guess life was telling me to slow down and stop to smell the roses on the way.

I’ve been a tea drinker for as long as I can remember. My father, God bless his soul, initiated me into the hallowed cult when I was but a child. He was an early riser and took it upon himself to rouse other members of the household with a morning cuppa, amid vehement groans and complaints. It was a job he took very seriously 365 days a year. I still remember him putting the cup down on my bedside table and gently but firmly commanding me to rise and shine and study or practise music or do something equally unappealing and loathsome to me at that time.

The tea had to be just right. Premium Darjeeling. Precisely one teaspoon for every cup and one for the pot. The teapot had to be washed in boiling water before and the tea had to be brewed to perfection precisely for 3 minutes – neither more nor less. It was generally accompanied by Marie brand thin arrowroot biscuits.

As the family gradually awoke and rustled into the living room one by one, bleary eyed and drowsy, my father was ready with "refills", around which we all sat, chatting away idly on everything under the sun. From the mundane, like daily groceries and speculation as to whether the housemaid would come in that day; to the more esoteric and profound - like the general "condition of the country", which was, in my father’s opinion, always "very bad".

As time went by, the mad rush of modern-day urban living, demanding careers and different schedules made this tea drinking ritual briefer and briefer. Until my father left the world. And I left home to come to far-away New Zealand. Then it stopped altogether for me. Tea drinking now meant dunking the ubiquitous tea bag in a cup of boiling water out of a tap and gulping it down before I rushed to work. Or carrying the cup back to my desk and gulping from it while peering at the computer and typing away feverishly at the keyboard in pursuit of something inconsequential as most of us are wont to do every day.

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Then one rainy and cold winter weekend in Wellington, when I was feeling exhausted and uninspired, the little white teapot, the protagonist of this story, who had been sitting forlorn and forgotten in my kitchen cupboard all this while, jumped out of its unassuming cardboard casing and beckoned to me. And then spoke. "Use me, use me," it urged. "Fill me up and drink your fatigue away." And so I did.

The electric kettle whistled, a sealed pack of Darjeeling tea that had been sitting on my pantry shelf for months was opened and the tea was made just as my father would have made it. As I poured the the amber-gold fluid into my flowered cup, a great calm descended upon me. And as I took the first sip, something stirred in me. Then as the warm tea trickled down my throat, my exhaustion waned and my heart beat faster. By the time the tea had made its way into my stomach, the world suddenly looked brighter, and when it settled in the bowels of my being, it was as though my soul was renewed. And voila! My mind was illuminated by a million creative thoughts. After that I made myself a refill, true to tradition. Then the sun came up and I walked into the sunshine.

Since that day I make myself a cup of tea every day out of the little white teapot, plain, unadorned, just for the one. I sip at it languorously, as I look out of the glass panes of the balcony of my ninth-floor apartment and watch the world go by. 'Tis a heavenly feeling. A meditation to beat all meditations (no wonder the Japanese have it as a formal, elaborate ritual). And behind me, my little white teapot smiles from its perch atop my kitchen bench.

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