Undoubtedly, one of the most important facets of life is building and maintaining our relationships with other people. Whether they are people we have known and loved for decades, or people we have only just met, our relationships with others and how we maintain them define who we are as individuals. It is often said that healthy relationships result in happy people and this could not be more true. As we move through life, it is our relationships with those around us that become more important than any other thing. Unfortunately, as is frequently mentioned and discussed on this blog, the technological advances of the modern age in which we now find ourselves have caused us to lose some portion of the intimacy we once had in even our most basic relationships. Texting and other forms of communication have allowed us to forget the value and the joy that comes along with being able to interact with people face to face. This, as you may have guessed, is where tea comes in. Inviting people into our homes to drink tea with us is one of the oldest, most traditional social customs designed to build deeper and more fulfilling connections with those around us. Drinking tea with others accomplishes deeper and more meaningful in a number of ways, and each of these ways will be examined further in this article. The first way that tea helps to build deeper relationships is that it provides a mutual experience that can be enjoyed and discussed. The second way is that it consists of a physical act of kindness and hospitality. The third and final way inviting people over for tea deepens connections is that it gives us the time and place we need to learn more about the other person and connect with them on a deeper level.
Normally, one of the most significant roadblocks in developing relationships with other people in the modern age of high technology is finding suitable mutual experiences on which to build those relationships. Discussing experiences with others as they are happening is one of the most tried and true methods that human beings use to socialize with each other. However, with more and more communication taking place through the use of digital technology, we can often miss out on this basic experience. Inviting those we know into our homes for tea provides us with an opportunity to enjoy and share an experience with the people we invite. Tea is one of those all too rare and exciting experiences that is simple enough to be enjoyed without having to exert the mental faculties, but all the while being dynamic and engaging enough to be a topic of bright and vibrant conversation. While drinking tea with others, questions may arise such as, “what top note is that? Is that an almond aroma coming off of the tea leaves? Is the mouthfeel dry to you?” These questions become the bread and butter of conversation around the teapot. Discussions on tea are particularly helpful during gaps between other topics of discussion that may otherwise be filled with awkward silence as both parties struggle to come up with something to say. In essence, small talk on the topic of tea is the precursor to deeper, more meaningful conversation later on.
Furthermore, apart from being a conversational aid, serving tea to guests is also a symbolic gesture of hospitality. Throughout history, treating guests in one’s home to the best food and drink one has available has not only been considered kind, but has indeed been considered the right thing to do in polite society. Serving tea to guests has been a practice especially popularized by British culture, but can be observed frequently around the world. In North America, the practice is somewhat less common, having been replaced by serving coffee to guests instead of tea. The act of making tea for your guests is not just routine, it is ceremony. Measuring out the leaves in front of those you are going to serve, gently pouring the water over the leaves into the teapot, and pouring out the golden liquid into your best cups for your guests to enjoy is a ritualistic experience. It is a ceremony rich in sensations and deep in its history. It is symbolic of you, the host or hostess, taking the time out of your day to be with your guest in that moment. Not only does it show that you are willing to give your guest the best you have in terms of quality of tea, but it shows that you are willing to take the time to simply be there for them and with them in the present moment.
Moreover from being a physical manifestation of our desire to care for others, inviting those we know into our homes provides us with the forum we need to grow closer with that person. In today’s environment of constant beeps and buzzes, it can be almost impossible to have a rich conversation. It surprises me nearly every time I go out to eat just how many groups and couples sit around the restaurant tables and spend their dinners typing and scrolling on their phones. They miss out on the now profound and hard to come by opportunity to enjoy present company face to face and without distraction. When we have the opportunity to separate ourselves from the world of beeping and buzzing and constant connectivity, we are granted the increasingly rare opportunity to speak freely and without distraction with those with us. It gives us more flexibility in terms of what is being discussed and it gives us a greater understanding of how what is being discussed relates to our relationship as a whole. For example, when we separate ourselves from common distractions, we allow ourselves to focus fully on the person in front of us and we can learn more about them while building a deeper understanding of them on a more personal level.
In the modern age in which we now find ourselves, real and personal connections seem to be growing more scarce with each passing day. Texting, emailing, and a constant barrage of tweets have seemingly taken the place of face to face communication. Inviting those we know into our homes for tea helps us to rebuild those lost connections. It helps us to express our desire to care for those we love, it gives us a common experience to share and bond with others, and it gives us the forum we need for face to face discussions. In today’s world, we can all benefit from getting closer together over a pot of tea, forgetting our differences, putting our phones on airplane mode, and sharing in a common, enriching experience.