I coax my lips to the edge of a steamy cup of tea these days more often than a cup of coffee. Milk and sugar, elements I do not take with my coffee, swirl in my tea. One may stare into a properly steeped cup of black tea and see an earthy cloud. A gaze or two slows the blood, relaxes the soul.
I was not always a tea drinker, and certainly the stereotype for one doesn’t cover my demographic — a twenty-something American male — but I was recently in Ireland, and it might be said that I was turned. In the past, coffee always seemed to me a better choice. It cuts your taste buds with its acidity, shocking a person into morning routine. Tea, however, simply lingers around on the walls of a mouth. In the morning, coffee is taken on the run, but not tea. Tea has to be enjoyed, savored. One must make time for tea. A teabag must be given time to steep before osmosis provides a drinkable cup.
I learned from the Irish to linger over a cup of tea, enjoying the company of anybody who might be in proximity to me. I spent the summer in Ireland this year. Before I arrived, I had no idea that the Irish drink more tea per capita than any other country in the world. Tea is serious business on the Emerald Isle – and yet it’s not serious. Seriousness is not something the Irish are known for anyway. Teatime, I noticed, plays a hand in keeping life just a bit lighter. Tea breaks up the rigors of a day. Every couple of hours teatime rolls around once more, and stress and focus are allowed to lapse while a teapot is passed around.
I sipped on a cup of tea as I sat on the couch this morning watching the inauguration. Newspapers lately have been full of articles about what Barack Obama should do over the next couple of weeks and months as he settles in as the world’s most powerful man. Folks have offered temperance and humility as advice. Some have voiced their politics on war and conflict, and how Obama should or shouldn’t bring them to an end. Many have asked him to look to his faith in God. Many have asked him not to spend so much time on God because there is separation of church and state.
In my advice, I will set my sights a bit lower. I humbly ask Barack Obama to spend time each day taking tea. It’s good for conversation and it’s good for stress. Crises and conundrums can wait for a cup of tea. Through seven hundred years of British rule, the Irish soldiered on one cup of tea at a time. It might give Obama the same substance of fortitude as he navigates the waters of a world in turmoil.