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Patience – a lesson we can learn from tea

 [ IMAGE: Nonpareil Organic Jasmine Pearls ] A recent dilemma has prompted me to spend some time thinking about patience and its role in our society.

The situation that incited these reflections was this: I am currently reading a wonderful book, Eucalyptus by Murray Bail. I love the language the author uses, the beauty he packages into sparseness, the odd-yet-strangely- familiar characters. It is great literature and intellectually very satisfying.

But I found myself strangely restless, thinking about putting the book down and get on to something “more exciting”. The thing is, there shouldn’t be anything more exciting than enjoying something beautiful and stimulating but still, my mind kept wandering off. I grew rather irritated about this sentiment and decided to take a closer look at the cause for my inner conflict. What I found was a lack of patience – caused by over-stimulation and the constant promises of “bigger, better, faster” through the media that surrounds us everywhere these days. We are permanently afraid to miss out on something, so we have become mere collectors of things, impressions or emotions with never enough time to enjoy and cherish them.
My personal impatience with Eucalyptus is based to a large part on the nature of the last couple of great books I read (Matt Ruff’s wild Bad Monkeys and Carl Hiaasen’s hilarious Skinny Dip), both of which are full of excitement and the literary equivalent of a roller coaster ride. A fast and furious trip, though fantastically written. Eucalyptus, on the other hand, demands time, concentration and patience. Its rewards are deep and manifold but not in as easy a reach as most other books.

So what does all this have to do with tea…
… you may ask. Well, I believe there really is much we can learn from tea in this regard. A tea is said to be patient when it stands up to many infusions. Generally, these patient teas have a lot of depth and subtle beauty to them. They don’t “show off” in the early infusions like, say a Lapsang Souchong would with all its thrills of overwhelming flavour. Patient teas actually require the tea drinker to bring some time, to be patient as well, to grant the tea the deserved attention to detail. The reward to be gained can be substantial, but it can’t be reached by any shortcuts. For example, many better shou pu-erhs produce the most delicious cup in later infusions, after some of the more distracting flavours have been eliminated in the early infusions. To get to the later steepings, there is no other way as to be patient and go through the initial infusions, knowing of the treasure waiting.
Tea preparation also has an inherent aspect of slowing down, of exerting patience. Carefully preparing the pot, measuring the tea leaves, heating the water to the desired temperature, washing the leaves, going through multiple infusions: all highly enjoyable tasks once you commit yourself to them. Proper tea preparation is much more involved than pouring boiling water over a teabag, but again, the rewards are far greater than the hassle (if you regard it as such).

Today, rituals are more important than ever, allowing us to escape the busy and stressful lifestyle into a safe environment of calm pleasure for a certain amount of time each day or week. Tea rituals are perfect for that. Many of our customers tell us stories about how they have created their own daily tea ritual and how it has transformed their lives, from the regular social “tea parties” of a group of university students to an increasingly sophisticated gong fu ceremony of a devoted tea connoisseur.

Let tea teach you this lesson, you won’t regret it. The insights I’ve gained allow me to finally sit down with Eucalyptus and read the beautiful prose without a rush. I now ignore the longings for more action or the fear of missing something else, and I am able to be patient and receptive. I savour some sentences as I would savour a good cup of tea. And feel equally satisfied.

4 Responses to Patience – a lesson we can learn from tea »»


  1. Comment by Sally L-S | 2008/02/29 at 16:57:15

    Just to say how much I am enjoying your latest reflections/insights/musings on the Tea Board. Am hoping to get in to Ya Ya again soon.
    An unexpected knee injury has slowed me down, but has brought with it longer and more frequent spells of tea drinking, completely without guilt! So nothing is all bad.

  2. Jo
    Comment by Jo | 2008/02/29 at 17:00:43

    Hi Sally,
    thanks for the kind words. I was starting to wonder whether anybody is reading my ramblings since comments have been rather rare/non-existing lately (if you discount that never ending stream of annoying spam comments).
    I’m glad that someone is enjoying what I write/think about.

  3. Comment by kelly | 2008/03/06 at 13:23:29

    I read your ramblings too! And enjoy them :) It’s just that I’ve signed up to the RSS feed so I usually read them in my email inbox and can’t comment (I only saw these comments because your ‘Pearls of Wisdom’ post referenced the photo which didn’t show up in RSS). Keep writing :)

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  1. […] Some of our readers have marveled over the curious dancing tea leaves in the picture of last weeks’ Patience post. As the caption of the larger version reveals to the observant viewer, it is a photo of one of our Nonpareil Organic Jasmine Pearls unfurling. […]

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