In celebration of National Hot Tea Month, brew a cup of tea, and let’s look together at lessons tea offers for hopeful living.
According to legend, in 2737 BC, as Chinese emperor Shen-Nung waited for water to boil, tea leaves from a nearby bush inadvertently fell into the pot. Whether he was curious, thirsty, or a risk-taker, the emperor drank the aromatic brew. He found it delicious, and the beverage, hot tea, was born. Tea became popular in Chinese and Asian culture, but it wasn’t until the 1600s that tea was exported to Europe. Despite being a luxury beverage, its popularity grew.
Move forward to the mid-1800s when the customary evening meal in England took place around 8 or 9 pm. History tells us that Anna, Duchess of Bedford, complained of a “sinking feeling” mid-afternoon and asked servants to bring her tea and a light snack. It satisfied her hunger, and this became her routine. Tea for one is no fun, so she began inviting friends to join her, adding sandwiches, scones, and pastries. The social event, “Afternoon Tea”, evolved into a “tea-lightful” practice.
“On a given day of the week, the hostess would remain home to receive visitors and serve tea, sandwiches and cakes. Since there was usually at least one person holding an ‘At Home’ on any given day, women would have an opportunity to establish close social ties by seeing each other frequently at different houses throughout the week.”
In an experience similar to the Chinese emperor who stumbled upon a new beverage, Englishman Richard Belchynden creatively invented iced tea. On a hot day at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, steaming tea was not selling, so perhaps out of desperation to not lose money, he poured it over ice and iced tea eventually became the beverage of choice in the South.
Three examples from tea’s long and rich history, show us that the emperor experienced a serendipity, Belchynden used creativity, and Anna of Bedford responded to reality.
How can we relate?
Today, especially with social distancing, we’re not sitting outdoors while someone boils water for us, pleasantly surprised by an extraordinary new beverage. But can our perspective be one of looking for serendipities? How can we find pleasantries in our ordinary and challenging days despite discouraging news broadcasts and personal disappointments? Listening to children’s laughter, reading an engaging novel, or watching an old movie? We are not merchants at a world event and need a burst of creativity, but what about finding creative ways to reach out to people in our neighborhood? Could we place cheery notes on front doors or wrapped treats on a neighbor’s porch as a gesture of kindness and care?
With COVID-19, social distancing is a reality. Some may be reluctant to gather around a tea table and pass treats on a tiered tray, (though wouldn’t a tea party would be wonderful?) but we can gather and have tea and conversation over zoom or a brown bag lunch on a spacious deck, with social distance? What about staying connected by calling or texting someone you waved to a church? Can you share the title of a good book to read, a Bible verse to encourage, or an internet link to inspiration or humor?
Living in unsettled and unpredictable times has overstayed its welcome, so let’s see how we can apply tea lessons to hopeful living. How can you offer encouragement by creatively providing serendipities for the reality of someone’s day? Share your ideas in the comments and perhaps someone wants to adopt yours.
As my thank you for reading today, click here for a copy of one of the devotions from my book.. And one more invitation. If you want to read more about tea from my blog, click here for these past posts.