There are brief moments throughout our lives when we are offered a rare but indulgent glimpse into our own past. Thinking of our past, not only as individuals but as a society provides us with a great amount of comfort. It offers us what little else can; memories of a time gone by and a refuge from the trappings of the modern world formed by our past experiences set in the stone of our memory. The past is our sacred escape from a world seemingly riddled with constant and rapid change. In a world such as this; filled with the highest levels of technological advancements and the fastest possible pace of living, we find our hearts and minds drifting towards the past to provide us with a state of catharsis. The past is our temple of peace and tranquility. Unchanging and friendly, wavering only when our memory wavers.
The desire to move towards the past and have the mind wander through it is one of the basic experiences of nearly every member of modern society. Called nostalgia, the desire to think back on times gone by is arguably one of the most powerful of human emotions. In fact, nostalgia is so powerful that it has driven entire industries for decades. Vinyl, fountain pens, wristwatches, analogue photography and typewriters are only a few examples of products that have extended themselves successfully into the modern age because of people’s inherent desire for things of the past. Nostalgia goes past even our own lifespans. We can see a perfect example of this in the area of vinyl music. Many of the consumers supporting the currently booming vinyl industry aren’t old enough to remember when vinyl was once the most popular way of listening to music in the home. In fact, many consumers of vinyl music aren’t even old enough to buy their own car. This points to the power of nostalgia and proves as to why television shows set in the past such as Mad Men and Downton Abbey are so popular. It is also points to the fact that nostalgia is so powerful that people are often willing to sacrifice on convenience in order to experience it. There is little doubt that digital music is many times more convenient than vinyl music, however vinyl music offers an experience that digital music simply can’t; an experience of the past.
In many ways, loose leaf tea is also an industry of nostalgia. Tea bags or other quick-serve forms of tea may be more convenient (and in the case of our tea bags might offer the same great taste as loose leaf tea) but loose leaf offers a hands-on experience in which the tea drinker can control all of the variables of their beverage. Growing up with the teaware of my great grandparents, I was constantly reminded that tea is a tradition far older than my own experiences with it. Measuring out the leaves, heating the water, waiting for the tea to fully infuse; all of these things are ancient traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation.
Whenever I brew tea I am reminded not only of my own ancestors, but of the pioneers of tea. Those early tea drinkers that made tea what it is today developed the methods and techniques that are used by most modern tea drinkers. With a few exceptions, most modern drinkers of loose leaf tea follow the same guidelines formed by these early tea masters. When we make a cup of our favourite teas, whether it is the traditional English Breakfast, or the more contemporary fruit blend, we should take a moment to reflect on tea’s ancient history.
Loose leaf tea might not be the most convenient method of tea preparation, but it is without a doubt one of the most enchanting. When we take the time to engulf ourselves in the experience of preparing fine loose leaf tea we are paying homage to all those tea drinkers that have gone before us.
Nostalgia is a powerful emotion and is present in many of our habits and daily rituals. Tea is no exception. Next time you pour yourself a cup of the ancient brew, think back on the past and take refuge in the tea gardens and tea rooms of the ancient masters.