A simple pot of tea. 8

I remember, many years ago, when tea leaves were used to make tea. A teapot often came with a beautiful snug cover, called a tea cosy, just to keep the teapot warm. There was even a mini industry – where the local grandmothers would compete with each other to create the best and most beautiful tea cosies .

Tea making was an art, and many long discussions went around the process. Some people warmed the pot first, others put their tea in first – others the hot water. There were rules for the amount of time that tea must steep, before it was ready for pouring.

There were beautiful tea strainers made, it seemed, by master crafters. The tea maker would proudly produce the strainers for the pouring of the tea.

But the best thing about tea leaves, teapots and strainers – was the giving and the sharing. It was the wonderful sense of family and community, that was warmly apparent, when we sat down together around a pot of tea.

One of us, normally mum, would prepare the tea, and we would share it together. There would be great conversation. World issues would easily be resolved, problems would be fixed and homely advice would be shared. Or we would all hug our cups, and simply sink into a warm and comfortable silence, together.

Then came the ubiquitous tea bag. Designed for the individual, to prepare a single, lonely and swift cup of tea. Initially, families would work out how many bags to put into the pot, and still drink together. As time went by, we began to make a cup of tea for ourselves. Some people retained their need to give, and made tea for others. But they would often walk off in different directions to drink their tea.

Recently I bought tea leaves in error. They lay lonely in our cupboard, until I awoke one day to find that we had no tea bags. I searched high and low, and found a tea pot and a very ugly mass-produced tea strainer. Wisely, I put the tea into the tea strainer and poured the hot water over it, into my cup. I jiggled the strainer as I tried to get the tea to steep into my single cup of hot water. It worked eventually – and I had my lonely cup of tea.

maMahlaba laughed and said, “Mthimkulu, we normally put the tea in the pot, and then pour through the strainer into the cups.” I was aghast! I had even forgotten how to make a pot of tea! A simple traditional art, is dying. The unity of the tea pot was gone forever.

Within traditional African and Asian communities families eat together, drink together and share everything. The sense of togetherness is strong.

In the rural areas of Africa, large beer pot is shared and passed from person to person. A 2 litre cool drink is opened and shared in much the way that tea once was. Communal pots and dishing bowls are placed in the centre of the table.

Sadly, as the World becomes more individual, so to do our people become more insular and lonely. Generally, our societies have become “faster is better” places. Almost everything is packaged for one person, for speed, and for separateness.

We often drink our tea alone in our offices. Food, in many families, has become something you eat to live. The TV becomes the source of family wisdom at dinner, as we separately eat we negate our love and relationships. Our kids sit absorbed in their inner worlds, with their eyes stuck on the computer, or some mind-warping TV game. Sadly, many of us are as focussed on our PCs, as the young people are.

What are we creating for their future families? Will they be able to talk, and build relationships comfortably? Or will having a family be a duty to perform, and talking only happen when there is a specific need?

We think that we have improved the World, with all of these new ideas and inventions. We are saving time and becoming mor efficient! Yet we are the greatest losers, as we have lost so much of the warmth of family and team. We have caused ourselves to carry our stresses alone, and we suffer the consequences – in our health and happiness.

Methinks it is time. Time to share a pot of tea, time to sit down together and just be people. It may be confusing at first. We may not know what to talk about. It will take practice, and it will take time. Yet, we can get back to a time when people added value to us, and where we added to them.

So my friends, get the old tea pot out of the cupboard, buy yourselves some tea leaves, look for a tea strainer and get your family, or team life back! It will be worth it!

Brian V Moore
Team Building in South Africa
Johannesburg – South Africa
May 28, 2009.

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8 thoughts on “A simple pot of tea.

  • Sylvia F. Hammond

    Hi Brian, Thanks for sharing – we may not be around a table – but we’re definitely “around” our network. I too remember tea making – with an additional twist. My (adopted) grandmother would take the empty cup, swirl the remains of the tea with the small leaves left & then proceed to tell us what the tea leaves predicted. I have a tea cosy in the cupboard underneath all the tea towels – I’m off to get it out. Enjoy your weekend.

  • Brian V Moore Post author

    Hi Bronwyn,

    It was surprising how we had hidden that tea cosy!

    I had a few challenges with my network link. And did not believe that the first one had gone through, so i took more time and rewrote the response.

  • Brian V Moore Post author

    Hi Bronwyn,

    Often as writers, speakers and facilitators we share advice, from our life’s experiences, with other people.

    Today I took my own advice. I taught my son the old way of making tea. He was delighted and excited as he prepared the tea pot. He poured milk into the jug, washed the cups, boiled the water, added the tea to the pot and impatiently waited as the tea flavours slowly became one with the water. He asked me why the tea leaves did not dissolve and I shared with him the simple magic of the tea strainer. A strange implement that he had never seen before!

    He then set up the dining room table, where his little brother waited, expectantly. He sniffed the tea pot and then ran off to call mum and granny. As he poured the tea, i could see the sense of fun in his brown eyes. This was great!

    It was the perfect way to start the day, and my boys will never forget the 15 minutes that we spent together. The flavours, tastes, experience and conversation were wonderful.

    Lliam’s first cups of tea were great! And another little life-long connection was made in our family, through the teapot, that a teabag never could.

    Bronwyn, we always find time for clients and opportunities, by simply writing a time in our diaries. Surely we can book a 15 minute block in those controlling books – for our families. Or at work – for our teams. We could solve the World’s problems – from home and certainly build more opportunity at work!

    Have a lekker day! And thanks so much for your input.


  • Brian V Moore Post author

    Hi Bronwyn,
    This morning I took my own advice and taught my 8 year old son how to make tea – the old-fashioned way! He was delighted, as we took the tiny cups and the big pot of tea to the dining room table.

    Our tiny two year old – featured in annother blog called Lessons from Little Leaders – was excited and demanded his tea, too. Granny emerged from the room, as mom and dad spent 15 minutes just chatting and being with family.

    We can always find a space in our diaries for clients, and opportunities. Perhaps we need to book that first 30 minutes of our day with our kids, in a relaxed sharing kind of way!

    When we take this into our team at work, the time taken for a shared cup of tea, could chase all of those challenges away. IN more ways than we think possible!

  • Bronwyn Newman

    How wonderful it was reading your blog. I personally, do remember the tea leaves and the family enjoying the wonderfully brewed tea as the smell filled the air. It was joyous and time stood still. But, we must remember back in the day mom stayed home dad worked and got home earlier than now and life seemed to me as a child less stressful. Now we have job strain, job loss, inflation, recession, etc… how do we learn to keep the spirit of life, to bond, to share – alive, when all we live for now is keeping our jobs and paying bills. I do try to spend and share my evening with my husband and children, time is limited but i believe 10 min of sharing time is far better than thinking time is shared shopping together.