Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Strong Friends Drink Tea

Installment #2 of my blog project is called: Strong Friends Drink Tea. Here's how the story goes...

Ah, the mother ship...
My trip to the Celestial Seasonings Factory, while really interesting and delicious, was not what began my long love affair with tea. Tea has been a part of my life for a while now, but I'm realizing recently just how much it means to me and that there may be a more symbolic and deeper understanding I must discover. 

I really enjoy hot drinks in general. Even in the heat of the summer, I prefer hot coffee, treat myself to hot chocolate in the evenings, and hot cider is always a must in the fall months.  But at least twice a day I open my cupboard and look at my tea stash and decide what I'm in the mood for at that moment. Yerba Mate? English Breakfast? Ginger? And herbal blend with hibiscus and orange peel? Chai? The more choices the better! And I'm happy to say that my stash is always in abundance, not just because I buy a lot of tea, but because I share tea with the people I love. My Mother-in-Law puts tea in my stocking at Christmas time, M sends me tea with every package, my sister E sent me some beautifully scented loose leaf herbal tea made locally in her area, and B is always good for some Cranberry Apple Celestial Seasonings! I have such abundance in more than just tea! 

Now tea is really special to me for many reasons and I know that I'm not alone. About 2 years ago I read one of the most inspiring stories I have ever encountered. It's called Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. I won't divulge into the whole book, it's not really even about tea overall, but the deeper meaning behind the relationships formed in the book have everything to do with tea. The setting is the Balti Village of Pakistan, a remote village nestled in the Karakoram Mountain Range. There, tea is not just a beverage, but a way of life.  And here is the best way to explain the ritual: 

The first cup of tea that you share is a cup between strangers. 
The second cup that you share is enjoyed between two friends. 
And the third cup you drink together means that you have become family. 

I think this is such a beautiful way to view drinking tea. It proves to me that there is something much deeper to this ritual than just quenching your thirst. For a while now, I've been inspired by tea. Inspired to make art, inspired to take pictures, inspired to connect with friends and share stories with them! And understanding the importance of tea in other cultures only creates a further desire to share "tea moments." 

I'll tell you my own tea story.

My husband traveled to Taiwan on business a few years ago now. He bought me a beautiful authentic Taiwanese tea set in a wooden box. He brought back local Oolong tea and showed me how to wash the leaves and brew them to perfection based on his Taiwanese associate's specific instructions. This tea was so exciting to me. It was foreign and exotic and made me feel like I should slow down and enjoy the process. My love for this intriguing little plant grew. 

About a year later while I was working in Eastern Colorado, cleaning houses to support my travels with my husband, I met an unexpected friend. M was working with my husband because her father was employing them both at the time. M and I officially met for the first time at her house after a long day of hard labor for everyone. I was dressed in my usual nomadic travelers attire; hiking pants, a headband, and a comfortable t-shirt. M was in jeans and sneakers and a bright orange T-shirt. To this day, that orange shirt still represents her bright, sunny personality. We decided that trespassing the corn fields, wheat fields, sunflower fields, and cow pastures would be a perfect way to spend the afternoon. An opportunity for two girls from what might as well be opposite sides of the world could learn about one another and become friends. "But first" M asked "Do you want a cup of tea?" 

"Did I want a cup of tea?" Of course I did!! I asked her to wait right there because I had some special tea I wanted to share with her on this occasion of two strangers drinking their first cup. I went out to the car and brought in my battered up box of Oolong from Taiwan. We brewed it in a beautiful little pot given to M by her sister. M's house was so comforting. It had a unique quality of nothing I've ever experienced before. We sipped our Oolong and did our formal introductions. Who are the members of your family? Did you always grow up here? What was your major in college? Have you ever traveled? All the grounds were covered.  

Then we walked. We talked more and we took in the surroundings. M's home is one of my favorite places on the planet. The sky and the land meet right in the middle with a perfectly sharp, crisp line. The bottom is earthy with greens and browns. The top is cool blues, whites and grays. They remain perfectly separate until the sun sets and casts red, orange, and pink all over everything. The flatness gives an illusion of being able to walk for hours and not ever be too far from home. It's exposed and a little frightening for a girl who grew up around trees. But M looked so at peace there that I couldn't help but feel the same. 
We made shadows in the fields and went home for our second cup of tea...
This time we shared some herbal tea with a hint of lemon. And from that point on I knew we were forever friends. 

The morning I left this tiny town and my new friend to hit the road and travel new pastures, M and I had a final cup of tea early that morning before the sun came up. This time, some black loose leaf tea from her sister. It was strong and verged on bitter but not in the manner that one would find displeasing. It was a perfect representation of what had occurred over the past few days. First strangers, then friends, and now forever sisters. 

Strongly brewed "Oolong Tea" sisters.

I share this story because it inspires my next project. Tea may historically have many meanings. You may even think the Boston Tea Party and political rebellion. But tea, from the Camellia plant, is peaceful and beautiful and symbolic. And I think tea is something that is forever meant to be shared. 

Some tea inspired art work that I share today with you: 

I encourage all you tea drinkers to share tea with someone in your life. It may be by sending a tea bag in the mail. Or maybe you invite someone into your kitchen for a cup. Maybe you meet at a local Starbucks. Or maybe you find some artistic inspiration and create something magical. 

I propose a swap of kindness and tea for the sake of this project....

Wouldn't something tea related make someone really happy? So lets find 5 people who would really appreciate this and send them something tea related! Who knows, maybe one of you is about to receive some tea art from me :) 

spread the love and then share with me what you've done! Nothing makes me happier than to know that at any moment someone is showing kindness to someone else. 

Sharing tea is great way to show your companionship to someone else. Because what happens when you're drinking tea? You talk, you listen, you laugh, sometimes cry and you share moments. 

I love sharing moments. I plan on sharing a lot more "tea" moments right here :) More Tea Art to come!!

BPositve and B A Strong Friend



  1. Hi, I'm trashybetty from Swap-Bot! Love the blog! I'm now a follower! You can check me out @

  2. That's so nice...I love your story. What a great tea time moment with a new friend and special tea. Very inspired and your art is great! Hugs, TangoAlphaMike

  3. Thanks for sharing! Loved your story!

    tamtamlee from follow my blog 2 swap-bot

  4. Wow what an unusual hobby ie tea I was reading yor blog last night and sorry for this comment ,but many times I've shared tea with people and wish witin minutes they'd get out of my site !!!

  5. Maybe I do it wrong, but I've never really found any tea (except for normal you know, liptons or something) that I like...where am I going wrong? mamatoallie on swapbot

  6. Hi guys! Thanks for all the wonderful comments. I'm really grateful for this swap. I've gotten to see so many cool blogs. And there's just something about blogs that come from the heart? A piece of real emotion is this digital age!

    mamtoallie- I'm a bit of a tea freak and I think you're in the area? if you ever want to grab a cup let me know! Mud House has a good selection downtown!

  7. I have only started drinking tea the past year or so. It makes me slow down and enjoy my life a little bit more. Great to read your story.

    swapbot - stampkrl

  8. Thanks for sharing, so sweet.
    I love tea too, I often find some of the best chats come from tea moments :)

  9. WOW! What a wonderful story! I wish I had that outlook on tea & new found friendship like that! So far my new neighbor/friend & I are at hot chocolate & Chai tea. Hope to see you in a tea swap or two soon!

    leecytx from swap-bot

  10. Tea plays a very special part in my life because of my grandmother who was from England. Growing up we would have 4 o'clock tea and she taught me the proper english way of serving and enjoying it. What I enjoyed most and still do to this day is the memories that every tea leaf holds of her :) Incredible story, I enjoy reading your blog very much :)

    Stefenfetchit via Swap-bot FMB#2