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The Aesthetics of Tea Drinking

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The Aesthetics of Tea Drinking

Quietly, you open the tea caddy, put some tealeaves into the teapot, add hot water, and then pour the brewed tea into the teacups. Quietly, I lift the cup and place it under my nose, take in the aroma and hold it there.  The whiff of the tea aroma comes in waves from a distance before entering my body.

The fragrance released when the tea caddy is opened tends to be subtle; it veils the things around with an intriguing hint of the celestial, teasing our senses but eluding clear identification. As the hot water gets in touch with the tealeaves, a captivating aroma arises. The aroma blossoms as tea is poured into the teacups, creating a front note that is pronounced but transient, and a more lasting note that gently settles to the bottom of the cup. With eyes closed and the cups held at the tip of our nose, we can feel the intense aroma transformed into a current that travels through our body, opening every cell as with the Midas’ touch. As each sip stays in our mouth, the aroma ascends towards the nasal cavity, literally taking our breath away.

Make no haste. Hold the tea in the mouth for a while before swallowing. Does it impart fragrance of the leaf shoot? Is it infused with vegetal, floral, fruity or caramel aroma? Let our tongue reveal the origin and the name of the beautiful brew, and assess the tenderness of the fresh leaves when they were plucked.

The second brew leads to a deeper communion. The flavour of the wonderful brew fills our mouth. This total contact enables us to understand the processing these tealeaves have undergone, such as enzymatic oxidizing, rolling and roasting. This calls for an admiration the way we would a beautiful lady with considerable life experience– we shall take great care to preserve the ripe fruity aroma resulting from skilful oxidation, and learn to appreciate the hint of astringent greenness caused by water retention on rainy days.

The third brew penetrates deeper and reaches out to every part of our body, generating warmth from under our sole. We get to know more about the properties of the tealeaves, the species of the tea trees, and the ecology of the tea plantation.

By the time of the last brew, the tea would have penetrated our body, infused our blood, and reached out to our heart and soul. It is this communion of the body and the beverage, and the soul and the aroma that will change our life forever.

| Author: Hooi Yoke Lien |