Monday, April 2, 2007

The Refined Art of Tea

You simply have to love anything that has lasted for centuries and includes the word refined. I mean really, how many refined activities can you point to in today's society. So...when I learned that a local Tea Shop was going to host a Saturday Tea Tasting, I was all in! Tea's Me Cafe is a local tea house on 22nd street in Indianapolis. I learned about them through a friend who knows beyond a shadow of a doubt - I'm a Starbuck's enthusiast. I gave up coffee for Lent, and thus the story begins.....about an evening of refined Tea Tasting.

My girlfriend was visiting from Michigan and I hadn't seen her in months. We spend a fair amount of time talking via email and phone, but I was reminded about the power of being in person. I was thrilled that she was here, excited we would share this experience together - since she knows her tea, and I was anxious to show her my new "work in progress" blessing of a home. I on the other hand have been wanting a Venti, Sugar-Free Hazelnut, non-fat latte w/2 Splenda for - um.....3 weeks, 2 days, 16 hours and 32 minutes. And instead, I was going out for tea.

We took the kids to the Indianapolis Children's Museum that afternoon, ran sprints outside and ate junk food in the car. Nothing, I mean nothing about the day had been refined. So, when the clock said 6:00 I knew it was time to change, and at 6:30 when I ate bean dip I knew I was not getting in the refined momentum, then at 7:00 when I had planned to leave I was ironing.....well, I could tell that trouble was a lurking. I had been on an emotional roller coaster when for a moment I thought we weren't going to have enough tickets, and I'm struggling with the reality of early evening fatigue. The sight of my kitchen could have drained the life out of me too, but at about 7:30 (right when the festivities were due to begin....) we departed. The cost analysis of giving away $50+ for tickets we didn't use was too much to bare. Out of character I put on R and B Thump and Bump as we drove to the tea house - two married jean wearing mommy's joining an SBL friend. (Single But Looking - or at least I try to tell her to keep on looking and looking until we have a ring and a date - but I digress.)

Who wears jeans to a tea tasting? I wondered if I was out of order - but they were CBJ's (cute booty jeans as Ms. PhD calls them) and we were fully accented and accessorized - and what could be worse; being dressed wrong or being 30 minutes late? When we arrived the owner was already speaking and the fashionably late aura was not my strong suit. Yet, my friend was confident and cool and we slid into our first tea experience at a sold out event where it was impossible not to be seen. If you had a desire for white gloves, hats, quiet conversation - all of those myths should now be exposed.

Seated at the table were 3 women who I could only imagine were together and timely. I tried to sip the first tea - get into the experience and walaaaaa - I see it, PLASTIC CUTLERY. I am immediately at ease - I may be late, have on jeans, and be out of the know.....but on a beautifully set table I see plastic and I am ripe with the many contrasts. The refined experience is almost out of reach. I believe we had a herbal and green tea to start....followed by a full bodied black tea. Within moments, however, we diagnose that humor is a much needed addition to our table and lady like chatter is out of the window.

Soooooooooooo, what is your name and what do you do? The name piece is easy and we answer enthusiastically until that issue of jobs comes up. For a moment I wish I had an easy answer, but I don't. I'm a non-profit consultant in the areas of organizational and resource development, a mother of 3 and I recently relocated. I find a need to explain what I do because most people don't understand and I have 2 degrees to justify. Low and behold - the unknown ladies are involved in non-profit work and education and a match has been made. Collectively, we have a non-profit consultant, a life coach, a PhD student preparing for comps, a teacher with passion and insight, a museum and education guru, and a museum exec with sassy one-liners. That museum thing scared me until she talks about going to the Jazz Kitchen and I hear in her voice that she too has a story to tell. We are ripe with contrasts, but SCORE - we have a match. Regardless of culture, we have embraced the truth about tea; it is the woman who makes the experience.

If the tea had been bad, we would have still managed to have a good time. Thank goodness - the tea was overall pretty great. The light green water was lost on me, but I tried to clean up my act when the owner asked what I thought. "Well - it's not a match for me. " Why he asks...."Well, I was underwhelmed by the taste. Not enough taste for me." I learn that green tea has lots of health benefits, that you can't over seep it, and that if you put enough natural sweetener in anything, you can get a refreshing pick me up. Nonetheless, the stuff looked like loose grass seed and I simply wasn't feeling it. Tea coupled with dainty desserts - you have a comedy routine in store.

We are out for the first time in months, together, sugar addicted - and we keep getting light peach pastries instead of German chocolate, pound or red velvet cake with a side of peach cobbler. Does refined have to be nasty? Can we have refined tea with real sweets? I mean, the first time I asked for splenda at the tea house I had already learned my lesson - there are evidently better, healthier or at the very least more refined options. The music, jazz music, set such a beautiful stage for the experience - I hated to contribute to the detriment of the refined art. Yet, when I realized that our table had more personality in store....why not unearth it.

My friend is a life coach and author. Explain what a life coach is in 10 minutes or less - and someone believes you are somehow a fruitcake therapist. My friend begins to share with our new table mates the difference between a real life coach and the many people who masquerade in the field. My friend is big into accountability and at that point we are all on board for quick life lessons. Marriage, dating, motherhood, the art of tea, transition - we all want to be coached through it. I am distracted though, I want someone to coach me through reusing the same fork for 3 different desserts. I get stuck on the details. I know I was late, I wore jeans, I am used to fixing food for 4 people before I ever taste my own .... but I was anticipating fine art. The melodious lessons that come from the owner may be the only thing that qualifies as refined - as I learn that Africa is a new entry into tea production I'm intrigued. I learn about leaves, seeping, the time difference for a fuller body tea and all of that is pretty interesting - even though I think the local Country Kitchen restaurant should replace the dainty desserts. Fuller bodies deserve fuller experiences - I'm angry at the nasty desserts. That peach layered sour cream thing in clear gelatin is downright scary. I too am fuller bodied, and I need something else to accent my tea for sure.

The life lessons fly:

- Every married woman should know how to work a pole (Yes, this was from 2 Christian women)
- Marry a GEEK, polish is a good thing, and geeks rule the world ( I have a lot of advice for singles)
- You can tell a lot about a woman from her handbag (The Author is carrying her life in the bag)
- Lingerie is appropriate tea conversation - and is featured a local museums too (The quiet ones, you gotta watch them.)
- Private vs. Public School which really equates to the quality of teacher wherever you find 'em
- The Power of Vocabulary (The PhD one makes me laugh because her studies compile more $12 words than should be allowed - and my 4 year old can bring her to her knees. Auntie, he'll say - where is your husband, as he tries to identify his whereabouts or take the job himself. We are all educated women having a real good time. )

We begin laughing hysterically about men, bosoms, lingerie, spanxs, education, politics and I have a few belly laughs that we can talk about anything. I would be safe knowing we'll never see each other again - but I hope we do. Who needs refined? Other tables stare - but I am now told we are seated with a Corporate Partner for the tea house - it is fitting that she should have so much fun. The looks from the other guest make me think I should direct them to the museum for their refined experience, we are here to have fun. With all of the health benefits, tradition, pretty cups and kettles..... what has to happen to make tea profitable is that it has to attract the unrefined too. I am thinking of business opportunities for the owner as I laugh - he should have extended hours to prolong this experience.

Don't get me wrong. I can talk about European trips and the etiquette of a lady with the best of them, but it is not a priority on the one night I'm not with my children. They surely come up, but I am delighted to experience being a woman again. Not once did I have to warn anyone about the temperature of the teapot, the lit candle, the breakable glass or to be kind to their neighbor. Although we don't know each other one might have thought we'd had a little Long Island Iced Tea....when joy was simply our drug of choice. We talk about getting together again for the great music, tremendous conversation, laughter and even tea. After learning you can decaf your own tea I become committed to savoring the first 40 seconds of any tea cup more than ever - full bodied is what I desire. I smell leaves, I watch the color explode, I dissect the taste on my palate, and I am sure of what I like. Refined does not equate with being learned at tea - I believe you either have it or you do not. Fuller bodied = Richer Life.

The evening comes to a close and I think about the possibilities. I have some overly simple idea of the American Dream being fulfilled by women who connect over tea and know as much about the art as they do about an effective strip tease for your husband. I think it is great that our unrefined conversation was so much fun. I regret I didn't get the card of the musician and I warn the ladies that I will write about them. I think journals should be at least as entertaining as blogs and I assure them that I'll be kind. I won't talk about the snorts, bra adjustments, figure envy, and the dating status of those at the table - that would be inappropriate. I know in my mind I'll write about the power of possibilities when good people unite over the refined art of tea.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was at that tea event, the Africa tea was great! I like real dessert also, but the chocolate cake at the end was good stuff.