My friend seated with her feet curled up, took another sip from her floral china mug and turned toward me. “This is what I love.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“A beautiful fire, safety in the presence of a dear friend, and holding a cup of hot tea.”

I agreed. Warmth came in many directions–heat from the fireplace, a trusted friend, and the comfort brought by the taste and aroma of an herbal hot tea.

Sipping a cup of tea does that-gives warmth and comfort. Unlike drinking coffee on the run from a disposable cup or from an expensive tumbler with a lid, sipping tea promotes peace and stillness, even in a conversation.

I’ve traveled through the world of tea, learned much, and met surprises along the way. My first association began as a child drinking mild tea when recuperating from illness. Decades later, I discovered the joy of tea parties- elaborate and calorie-rich events where women enjoyed elegance, fancy food, and time together without rushing.

My tea journey led me to educating women on the history of tea, writing devotions, and the joys of sharing tea together, whether using a fragile china place setting, or a chunky mug. When I visited China, another aspect opened. I picked leaves on the camellia sinensis shrub on a tea farm and witnessed the tedious process of rolling and drying leaves-a lesson in hard work with great reward.

One of the fascinating facts about tea is its value. When tea was first introduced to Europe, it was expensive and kept in a locked container, a tea caddy. The mistress of the house held the key to these decorative and expensive containers. She didn’t leave the task of brewing tea to her housekeeper but supervised the process. The key was guarded and when the mistress opened the caddy, she unlocked value.

Eventually, tea became more affordable and there was less concern to keep it secure. Caddies were no longer used, and tea was kept in the kitchen pantry. 

Perhaps you are not a tea aficionado and your response to reading about or drinking tea is like mine as a child-a beverage offered when recuperating from illness. Or, aside from enjoying sweet tea in the south, you find hot tea tasteless compared to a caramel latte. Maybe you pass the tea varieties on a supermarket shelf and move to coffees. Can we move to consider tea as more than a beverage but an opportunity to learn and find unexpected treasures?

In one simple paragraph in tea’s long history, we learn the mistress guarded tea, held the key, and unlocked value.

What can we guard, hold, and unlock?

As we begin 2020, many set goals and make resolutions for change. Some choose a word or phrase to guide their thinking, decisions, and actions.

Like tea that is sipped, not quickly consumed, our lesson from the mistress who kept the key in a safe place, might include guarding our hearts and minds as we think and speak. We often hear of tests for our words:

Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it helpful? Should I repeat it?

We might, as I did with my friend, unlock a safe place to share conversation about challenges and hurts. Today, I sat with another friend and we found a speck of humor in a hurtful experience. We can even extract treasures in difficult places and ours was understanding each other in a similar situation and knowing we are not alone.

Or we can take the example that as the mistress brewed tea with care and waited for it to steep to get maximum flavor, we can guard our time.  We hold keys to unlock the value of slowing down to get the most from our work and relationships; to retreat from busyness to savor meaningful activity or solitude.

Why a post about tea today? The Tea Council of the USA has proclaimed January as “Hot Tea Month”, an opportunity to celebrate the benefits of tea and encourage exploring varieties. There are many ways to celebrate, beyond the history, health benefits, and varieties. One can be the valuable parallels to life tea offers. Today we shared one.  How has it spoken to you?

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