by Jane Hastelow
“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the earth revolves–slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.” -Thich Nhat Hanh
While we may not have tea-drinking rituals and traditions in North America as they do in some parts of the world, there are definitely things that impact the pleasure of having a cuppa. At least, there are in my world. And although this might sound like a contradiction, it’s not all about the tea. I mean, good quality tea is important and we all have our favourites, but for me (and I’m sure I’m not alone here), the right receptacle has a significant impact on the overall experience. Let me elaborate.
I endeavour to begin each day with a tea latte. This is not because I “need a tea” in the way some people need a coffee to start their day - it’s not about caffeine. It’s more of a self-care ritual - a way to start my day with something special. I make a concentrated loose leaf tea (usually Lady Baker’s London Fog or Cream Earl Grey), and pour it into my heated, frothed almond milk, and I cozy up on the couch, or back in bed, or on the deck, and I linger over the foamy deliciousness before I get on with my day. The right mug is an important part of this ritual for me. First of all, shape and size matter. I’m not going to the trouble of making a latte if it’s going to be in a teeny tiny cup - this is the time and place for a Rae Dunn type mug. There’s something about the smooth rounded substantiveness of these mugs that makes them feel perfect for my morning latte.
And it's not just shape and size - what’s on the outside of the mug matters too - colour, design, and in the case of Rae Dunn, the word or phrase printed on the mug has to “match” the occasion (and to be clear, every day is an occasion). So, I wouldn’t, for example, have an Earl Grey latte on the weekend in my “boss” mug, just as I wouldn’t have one on a work day in my “ “out of office” mug. Seeing the word on the mug as I’m savouring the drink helps set me up for the day somehow. I also prefer to have my Willow’s Dream lavender latte only on weekends (because lavender adds its calm to the weekend vibes), and in a special mug that says “dream” on it that I rarely use for anything else these days. Because, yes, that’s how particular I am about my tea drinking.
While lattes are typically part of my morning ritual, I also enjoy a cup of tea at other times of the day, and depending on my mood, and the weather, and all manner of other factors, that could be an herbal tea, a decaf orange pekoe, or a green tea. Let’s start with the herbal - this would call for a very different sort of vessel entirely. The best option here would be a glass mug, so you can appreciate the colour and translucence of the tea. It also adds to the light and refreshing vibe of an herbal tea.
That could work for a green tea as well, but my preference for that one is a more delicate cup, porcelain or china perhaps, with a floral pattern and a thinner lip. And if I’m in the mood for the classic orange pekoe with milk, a large, bold, wide-at-the-top mug filled to the brim is the way to go.
There are some legitimate exceptions to my rules - certain special occasions, for example. When we have a celebratory afternoon tea, we get out my mum’s china tea set and we fill the teapot with a classic English Breakfast and serve it in the tiny, delicate china cups and saucers along with scones and jam, and it is just perfect. The other exception is locally made pottery mugs. Depending on their design, shape, and texture, they can work for just about any kind of tea.
The fact is, some of us connect emotionally to our tea-drinking; it can help begin our day with mindful positivity, it can lift our mood during a difficult day, and it can help us end the day peacefully and with gratitude. And the profoundness of all of this can be greatly enhanced by the correct cup.
Tea is best when enjoyed in pleasant surroundings, whether indoors or out, where the atmosphere is tranquil, the setting harmonious.” – John Blofeld
Jane Hastelow is an educator, former travelling road-schooler, and tea drinker originally from England but brought up in Beautiful Prince Edward Island.
You can find her past blog for Lady Baker's Tea, Put The Kettle On, here.