Tea Stained Lives

The first cup of tea is always the hardest.

After setting up the shining kettle and pulling out those small, dry-frozen packets of tea from the freezer, the wait for the boiling pot can only be subsidized through minor distractions of other foods. A watched pot boils alright, albeit slower in my mind’s eye than usual. Listening to the bubbling that is liquid water turning to gaseous water at the very bottom of the kettle, and erupting forwards out through the spout in a hand-burning, high energy containing steam, the process fascinates me even through the wait.

After the water is finally ready, pouring the hot water into the teapot slowly is rather important. You don’t want another boba incident, where my mom spilled half a pot worth of boiling water onto my hand, or that incident where you weren’t paying attention to where you were pouring and nearly end up drowning your precious, precious APUSH notes. No, there is impatience, but it must last through this.

Even after the tea is steeping, you still have to wait more. Drinking it directly is essentially the same as drinking down a big gulp of boiling water artificially colored by a false agent. There’s no point in getting a cup of this putrid liquid; you have to wait for those wonderful deoxidants to be released from those dried leaves.

Still, after all of this, the first cup is still hard to take down. Even as I settle into the routine of life, that cup is still bland and tasteless, and serves more to warm my body than my soul. Not warm, no, but scald my very heart and guts with a kind of fury, embracing a hunger for more.

It’s after this that you slowly fall into a pattern of pouring one drink after another into that nicely decorated Starbucks holiday mug that you TOTALLY jacked from your parents. It’s in that unconcious pour of a cup after yet another that starts creates stains.

My wonderful light-blue mug, decorated lightly with fat white snowflakes and an oversized handle, has gotten a paint job on the inside. Each cup of late night tea, of APUSH focusing tea, of bored and hungry tea, leaves another gentle coat onto the cup.

Eventually, as the evening fades into the twilight, transitioning into the blackness of night, the ritual slows to a stop. No more does the kettle buzz, and no more does the bubble of tea excite anymore. It’s only a matter of finishing whatever is left in that pile of homework; nothing else matters.

And in that narrow minded focus, the tea slowly cools.

Perhaps you could model the cooling rate with a differential function, and integrate to find the temperature after 90 minutes of neglect. Perhaps you could write a chemical reaction for the deposition of the chemicals upon the sides of the cup. Perhaps you could track the specific heat of the water, and what kind of conduction or induction allows the transfer of heat away.
Maybe you could write an analogy for how the tea’s cooling has represented your own mental slowing, as the night drags on. Maybe you would see an analogy in this tea for revolutionary times of virtual representation, of free-trade agreements and of imperialism for resources. Maybe you would look at the Chinese culture behind the imported green tea, or maybe you would ponder what it is about the tea that seems to be so romanticized to you.

But in the end it doesn’t matter. What does is that this tea has stained into your life, your soul, your very being. Cycle after cycle, time after time again, your return to tea has been a return to familiarity, a call back to a home that isn’t a physical place, but a certain state of mind.

And you know that in this state of mind, the tea slowly changes you. In whatever kind of subtle layering, the tea washes over you and rinses anew your soul. Slowly, cup by cup, you see the world through a new lens, and the world sees you differently.

Inspired by Alice.

Listening to Hawthorne Tree Forever (山楂树之恋)

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