In Praise of Leaf Tea

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October 21, 2018 by lucieromarin

One of my life’s blessings has been my collection of grandparents, who have been, for me, a community of good memories and the kind of example one keeps in the heart. Recently, one of my grandmothers taught me how to make tea. I mean that she taught me how to make real tea – the kind you might serve to the Queen or the Pope or to Marilla Cuthbert, or with which you might banish sorrow and heartache and restore life and energy to a limp body and soul.

I am a convert. I’ve been drinking drainwater for the past twenty years, when the true art was so close to hand! I do not know why leaf tea tastes so much better than tea that has been sat in a teabag, but it does. It is a like a haiku, all understated elegance and simplicity, whereas the teabag tea is more like the motivational Quote of the Day which is certainly well-intentioned and classy in its origins, but, seen alongside the haiku, is a little brash.

Yes, leaf tea means you need to use a strainer, or a pot, (and if you’re really serious, warm the pot and then keep it warm with your own hand-knitted cosy, and for pity’s sake drink the brew from bone china) and it takes and extra minute or so to make. But at the end of that slight effort, you have a Missa Cantata in a teacup instead of that vernacular Low Mass that you always thought was the best religious exercise possible. Yes, they are both basically the same thing, and both have their place in the Church/your pantry…but they are different, too.

My praise is not only for the brew itself, but for what it teaches me about the rightness of slowing down, taking time, entering into daily ritual and letting ritual enter my day. Suddenly, I realise that I do have time to sit, to think, to pray. Choosing bone china over a giant mug where I have the choice is practice for choosing the gold chalice and the hand-sewn Gothic chasuble over a chalice of a lesser metal and a modern polyester number. The choices mean something, and they grow to echo one another.

It’s even better when the tea is blessed, of course. It’s not just in the power of the blessing (though that is potent enough!), but in the meaning that the leaves carry – each time I tip a little spoonful into the pot, I am reminded of that great Mother at whose Assumption into Heaven these leaves were prayed over. The Feast has not been and gone from my life, and neither has She.

I wish these blessings would become a part of ordinary Catholicism again. Would there be so many ex-Catholic witches in the world using their own blessed herbs if there had been any community other than theirs which offered ritual self-care as a genuine spiritual practice? Why deny ourselves the opportunity to turn afternoon tea into a sacramental? Would my paeans of praise here seem more genuinely representative of traditional Catholic faith if there was more than one parish per continent where this blessing was available?


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