At some point, I lost my voice with tea. I lost the ability to listen to the way every single cup spoke to me; carried me through the nights of learning how to carve out my identity and live on as a single father. It taught me that patience is often rewarded with discovery and enlightenment. At some point, I stopped making it an important part of my daily ritual. In the past year, I've moved twice, and found myself in rooms and beds unknown, laughing in the company of strangers more than the familiar faces. I've warmed up to drinking coffee, even shitty coffee, and neglected the cakes of pu-erh which have always been proudly displayed in my home. I had even lost the appreciation for the swirling accumulation of sediment in the bottom of the mug.
Today, however, it hit me; those experiences in which we seem to control the flow of time, they are often the most cathartic. The ceremony of tea, whether it be authentic and true to tradition, or simply routine that takes over as soon as the water begins to boil is important, and becomes a vital part of the experience. Like prepping dough for pizza, there are steps and ingredients that are not always tangible, such as the passage of time and the process for kneading out the bubbles. So, tonight, I spent a few minutes taking in the aroma pouring off the shelves in the tea closet. It felt like sifting through old love letters, each of them carrying a particular heft and bound to the fibrous strands tying the past to the present. I took in the aroma of the heated gaiwan filled with dry leaf, and made time to appreciate the bouquet of the flush. Just like those old letters, I often remember the contents without having to unwrap them. I am transported to the nights of confusion and conversation, fumbling around with a new partner, unsure of what to expect, but tonight, this feels like home. It's not a new set of freckles on an unfamiliar shoulder.
At least pu-erh doesn't mind being neglected.