Unexpected Lessons of Savoring God's Goof Gifts
By Lorna Reeves
For hundreds of years and for many cultures, teatime has been a time for mindful moments alone and for fellowshipping in community. Tea existed as a beverage for centuries before the practice of having afternoon tea came to be in England during the time of Queen Victoria. As the story goes, the Duchess of Bedford became hungry one afternoon and requested that hot tea and a few finger foods be brought to her chambers. She enjoyed the snack so much that she made it a regular ritual and began inviting friends to join her. Word then spread about this marvelous mid-afternoon pick-me-up, and teatime’s popularity soared, especially once Queen Victoria embraced the trend. Afternoon tea became an elegant practice that brought people together around the nicely set table to enjoy dainty food and many pots of hot tea, giving guests time to share and listen, laugh, and maybe even cry together. Whether enjoyed in the company of several people, just with one other person, or in solitude, teatime can be a time God can use for His good purposes to feed our souls.
As 2020 began, I had resolved to slow down and to be more intentional myself about keeping up with friends and family, even planning to host a few afternoon teas. And then as authorities worldwide began cautioning all of us to stay at home and to avoid gathering in groups in order to limit the spread of the unwelcome coronavirus, I found myself being more reflective and mindful as I sipped tea at home alone. I began to take time to taste tea instead of just drinking it and to savor food rather than just eating it, especially as friends who contracted COVID-19 told me that one of the strangest symptoms they experienced was the loss of taste and that they wouldn’t take that sense for granted going forward.
Over the years, I had been guilty of quickly eating a meal so I could move on to the next thing on my to-do list, not really stopping to savor the food, even though there was nothing wrong with my own sense of taste. I am also quite guilty of doing that with tea—drinking it like it’s my job, which it basically is, since I’m the editor of TeaTime magazine—but not fully appreciating its taste. I have access to many of the best teas on the market, but at times, I find myself taking them almost for granted, drinking them out of habit, or because I enjoy the hot liquid or the feel of the china teacup, or the heft of the mug in my hand. I often think to myself after I’ve downed a pot or a mugful of tea, “What did that even taste like?”
In the 10-plus years I have been in the tea industry, I have attended many trade shows and tea festivals, where I have tasted a lot of teas. I have taken classes to learn about the different types of tea—white, green, yellow, oolong, black, and dark. Although they all come from the Camellia sinensis bush, it’s the processing that dictates what type of tea will result. Things like the altitude at which the plant grows, the minerals in the soil, other plants growing nearby, the weather, and other factors influence the taste of the resulting tea. I learned by tasting teas, rather than just drinking them, to detect and appreciate the flavor profiles of ones from different regions. When you taste teas, you must be mindful of what you’re doing. It is important to keep the sip of tea in your mouth long enough for the liquid to come in contact with all surfaces before swallowing, paying attention to the flavors, and then even after swallowing, to notice the lingering taste of the tea (called the “finish” in tea jargon). Some teas—fine oolongs in particular—are intended to be steeped multiple times, as they often yield different flavors withsubsequent infusions. But only a mindful taster will pick up on those lovely nuances. Someone who is just interested in drinking tea or who is in a hurry might very well miss out on the beauty of the new taste notes of the unfurling tea leaves.
A few years ago, TeaTime published an article by Bruce Richardson about tea and health, and the last few sentences resonated with me then and really came back to the forefront of my mind over the last 18 months:
“Make teatime a part of your daily ritual. The act of making tea quiets a busy mind as the kettle makes us wait for the water to boil, the tea in the pot makes us wait for the full steep, and the tea in the cup makes us wait for the liquid to cool. It’s during these short periods of waiting that our hearts beat more slowly, and our minds become calmer.”
I have found that as a Christ follower, I can use that time of preparing the tea and eventually drinking it to tune my mind to the things of the Lord. However, my bent is to wish for the water to hurry up and get to the correct water temperature for the tea I’m going to steep—not all teas take boiling water, by the way—and to want the 2 to 5 minutes of infusing the leaves to elapse quickly and then to become impatient for the tea to cool so I can drink it. Do you sense a pattern here? I found myself missing out on the preparation needed for really being able to taste tea fully and properly. But when I took the time to relax and embrace the preparation process, I suddenly found myself appreciating the aroma of the tea that was too hot to drink and then the subtle flavors as the tea gradually cooled. It was during those times of waiting that I could contemplate the beauty of the natural world around me as I gazed out a window and marveled at God’s creativity. At other times, my mind pondered a passage from the Bible I had read earlier in the day that the Lord brought to mind, or I tuned to the words of a hymn my husband, Brent, was playing on the piano in the other room, as he prepared for his role in Dawson’s Sunday services. Quite often, I would utter a prayer for a loved one or would give thanks for God’s love, protection, or provision. Those became mindful moments of quiet contemplation, tasting tea, yes, but more importantly, tasting and seeing that the Lord is good.
I recently interviewed Anita Kannelis, a wedding planner here in Birmingham, who also has a small online tea business called Tea & Time, for an article for TeaTime’s May/June 2021 issue. She talked about how, though she was a Christian, she fell into a deep depression after her father died suddenly. During that time, she was reading a book in which the author advocated having something soothing like tea in a quiet space.
So, Anita started having hot apple cider and, eventually, switched from drinking apple cider to tea. She told me she absolutely loved that time by herself and even started making scones and lemon bars to enjoy during her teatime. “That’s what brought me out of depression,” she explained, “It wasn’t the tea itself; it was the process of meditation and prayer while having tea.”
Whether our teatimes are personal mindful moments of sipping tea in communion with God alone or whether we make them a time of intentional fellowship with or ministry to others, they can invite us to slow down and linger in God’s presence so He can accomplish His purposes in us and through us as we commit ourselves to honor Him. It is then that we can truly taste and see that He is indeed good.
Lorna Reeves is editor of TeaTime, a publication of Hoffman Media, where she has worked for 30 years. She and her husband, Brent Reeves, who is Dawson’s organist/pianist, have an adult daughter and an adult son and will soon be adding a daughter-in-law to the family. Lorna sings in the Sanctuary Choir and co-teaches a women’s Life Group.