try: the elegance of a tea ritual

Posted on January 29th, 2010

Just now I ate flaxseed tortilla chips with three anchovies drizzled – or is it draped? – over the top. And a cucumber. Which confirms the rumours: I’m an eccentric eater.

But one thing I’m rather conservative about, or at least consistent with, is my tea. Twice a day I make a pot of green “Queen Peony” tea in this teapot and drink it from this cup (cast your eyes below). P1000149

I bought the pot in New York 15 years ago; I love rubbing the little booby things. And I love that the frog makes no sense.

The cup and saucer, I found at the dump about 20 years ago (in Canberra, a company has scavenging rights at the main dump and on-sells cool stuff they find amidst the nappies and paddlepop wrapper; my housemate worked there and I got a discount!). And I’ve been obsessed with green tea for years (honestly, it gives a far more dignified jolt of energy than coffee, and it’s so good for balancing your digestion).

I find comfort in this ritual. I talked about this yesterday. I’m a bit obsessed by the value of ritual at the moment. I used to think I hated it. My mum always said I needed to tame my manic mind and restless legs with ritual and I’d tell her that sounded boring. But now I can see that it creates moments of special pause in your day. A retreat from haphazardness. And when you own it as your own, you can like yourself a bit for the quirkiness of it all.

Muriel Barbery picks up on this in her friggen amazingly astute and philosophically delicate novel The Elegance of the Hedgehog. You can order it You Know Where. The main character sits down to tea:

“I know that tea is no minor beverage. When tea becomes ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things. Where is beauty to be found? In great things that, like everything else are doomed to die, or in small things that aspire to nothing, yet know how to set a jewel of infinity in a single moment?

The tea ritual: such a precise repetition of the same gestures and the same tastes; accession to simple, authentic and refined sensations, a licence granted to all, at little cost, to become aristocrats of taste, because tea is the beverage of the wealthy and of the poor…. Yes, the world may aspire to vacuousness, insignificance surrounds us. Then let us drink a cup of tea. Silence descends…”

Ok, that’s enough typing for now.

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  • Clare Lancaster

    I know exactly where you’re coming from – I used to think routine and structure was so boring, but as I get older I’m starting to see it as calming.

    It’s nice to create little rituals and routines around the things that bring you happiness. Love this post.



    Sarah Reply:

    our mothers were onto something. x


  • Laura

    Elegance of the Hedgehog is one of my favourite books :)

    I prefer green tea to coffee too, and I have to admit that I am a bit of a green tea snob. Only loose leaf, organic teas do it for me. The cheap teabags have that bitter aftertaste.

    Sarah, your teapot is adorable.



    Sarah Reply:

    It’s SUCH a good book. I noticed it’s made it to the bestseller list here for independents.


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