Hot Tea on a Cool Afternoon

It takes time for water to boil, but the wait is part of something larger that is, in itself, nourishing. I remember the cold winters spent chatting with colleagues, casually staring at a kettle atop a kerosene heater around which we were all gathered. In no time, or after a really long while (depending on the conversation) a plume of steam would shoot out of the spout and then the piping-hot water would be carefully poured in a slow, deliberate interval, using a circular pattern to ensure proper saturation of the loose-leaf tea sitting inside of a tea pot and nested inside of a filter. Rice crackers or sweets would be distributed–the gifts some staff member had brought back from a recent holiday or homemade pickles or snacks.

The smell and humidity of the steam take me back in an instant that lasts only as long as a flavor is able to tug a memory from the shelf of my memory–an instant. In that moment, I find a contentment and nostalgia that is difficult to describe.

So now I look around my kitchen for a suitable pairing to my genmaicha to no avail. Even if I had the right senbei or manju or sukemono, the company and the conversation hold just as much a place in the mood as the food and beverage. But that’s OK too. It’s nice sometimes to remember those pleasant times and good experiences and to just reflect.

And anyways, they probably wouldn’t want potato chips with their tea.