Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I Want To Make Tea and Laugh (Yoko remembers John)

I'm sitting and sipping my Tie Guanyin.

I should be transcribing interviews for a story due next week. Instead, I'm reading "Tea Maker" in the New York Times.

This is good tea -- in fact, one of the best variety of oolong tea. It is also expensive. I had bought it for $4.50 at lunch -- a luxury I really shouldn't have afforded myself. But then, the winds were brutal today. Any other blend wouldn't have done the trick. I needed the fortification of the "Iron Goddess" tea.

Yoko Ono wrote the piece. It is about John Lennon, of course. He would have been 70 this year. She wrote about her memory of him -- making tea for her in the middle of the night in their kitchen.

This is a good night for hot tea. This must be the fifth cup I had made out of the same bag of tea leaves. So I don't feel so guilty now. This works out to 90 cents a cup (and these days, it's hard to find even bottled water for a dollar). Tea is a great winter and holiday drink. It works just as well before, or after, the cocktails and shots... or simply on its own.

He made tea for her and they had a little tête-à-tête about whether the hot water goes in first or the tea bag. That was in 1980, before he died.

I always put the tea bag in first, and then pour the hot water in. It seems to make sense. I love watching the water seep through the tea leaves and the steam rising with the fragrance. The Tie Guanyin has an amazing fragrance. It is rich and thick with an aroma often described as fruity, but which to me is more "woody."

He had always put the tea bag in before the water. Then, one night, he told her that according to his aunt, the hot water should go in first. They had a good laugh. It was a simple moment. It probably wouldn't have been significant if he had lived. But that moment became a memory of him etched in her heart and mind after he died -- someone who made tea and laughed with her.

I don't recall ever laughing over tea. I'm usually reflective or pensive when I drink tea. For many people, tea is a serious business. The Chinese and Japanese regard the art of tea as intrinsic to high culture and perform elaborate rituals in tea ceremonies. (I really just like the pretty cups.) The English partake in afternoon tea with devotion that is almost religious. (I'm impartial to Earl Grey with scones.) The Arab culture regard the drinking of tea as the center of all social activities. (Anyone who has ever tried to buy a carpet from a souk would know.)

It was a simple act of making tea and laughing together. But it was what she remembered, because it said so much.

The art of making tea can be a complex and elaborate affair. But the act of making tea is simple. I want to make tea...and laugh.

1. Tea leaves and strainer OR tea bag
2. hot, boiling water
3. laughter

Take 1 and put into 2. Or, vice versa.
Add a generous dash of 3 to taste.

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