文 By: 許玉蓮 Hooi Yoke Lien
I enjoy having tea with you – you are meticulous in such an effortlessly contagious manner. Before an outing, you would prepare the tealeaves and remind me to bring the tea ware. The first thing we do upon arrival is to get these in place.
Having identified the perfect spot, I would lay a piece of tea cloth to define the brewing area. You make it a point to straighten the four corners and smooth out each crease on the cloth; nothing is to be compromised. The palm-sized tea cloth is instantly transformed into a shrine where the holy act of brewing will take place. We retrieve the wrapped teapot from the carrying bag. With layers of wrapping removed, the teapot finally makes its grand appearance. The pieces of wrapping cloth are then folded and returned to the carrying bag.
We like to take time at the shops looking for bottled mineral water. Only after the source is ascertained then we will make our choice. If we cannot find anything suitable, we will move on to the next shop.
Splattering has no place here -- no boiling water is forced out of the spout because you never overfill the kettle.
We will always bring a piece of white paper. When slightly bent, it serves as a tea scoop which funnels the right amount of tealeaves neatly into the teapot. No mess. Any extra tealeaves will be returned to the pack and sealed. Meanwhile, the sunlight penetrating through the windows enables us to take a good look at the tealeaves.
And then, you are ready for brewing. You look like a dignified warrior on his way to fight the Holy War, regardless of the fact that you have done this a myriad of times. There are no audiences, and the place is small and the tea ware simple; but these do not bother you. The gentle way you handle the tealeaves, the insistence on getting the exact amount, the thoughtfulness given to hygiene and tidiness, and the seriousness in setting the timer with your mobile phone are indicative of intentness – for neither fame nor fortune, but for the sake of brewing a good pot. To me, this single-mindedness is infectious.
I wait in great anticipation. I tell myself, something highly unusual, and beautiful, is going to take place between us.
When you pour boiling water into the teapot, the crisp and airy aroma rises into the air, before entering my nostrils, and then filling my body. I think this is beauty in the real sense.