For the longest time, I have always preferred to drink my tea alone. While I love to hold little tea gatherings with my friends, I don’t usually remember the tea-drinking part of it usually because I get too distracted by so many other things. My best tea times have mostly been spent at home, when I’m alone and I sip my tea slowly while I hear the birds chirp. It is only then I am aware of all my senses and emotions at work – the beauty of solitude at its best.
But last week, I realised that having tea with others is just as precious. It was in a very quiet cafe in a very noisy shopping centre where I met a friend and we both ordered tea.And in the middle of our conversation, the both of us started to cry quietly. I remember the saltiness of my tears mixing with the bittersweetness of the green tea, while the sweet, earthy fumes from my companion’s apple tea tickled my nose. And when all our tears were mopped up with packets of tissue, the unassuming waiter thoughtfully topped up our pots with hot water without saying a word, knowing that we needed that silence before we began refilling our cups and continuing our conversation.
I usually feel quite embarrassed about crying in public – but this particular experience is something I treasure. I’ve always believed my love for tea stems from emotional memories and this is just one more for the road. While many people have had refreshingly honest, empathetic conversations over coffee or orange juice or wine – in my case, it was tea. And tea is the drink that I associate with quiet comfort, understated understanding and that je ne sais quoi feeling that while life will bring its fair share of bitter sadness, there will always be sweet moments and people to savour.