My sister Sam was turning 30 and one of the gifts I wanted to buy for her was this glass teapot she has coveted for sometime from a glorious tea cafe that serves every imaginable tea. It is a little ritual to have tea there. The leaves are placed in the infuser, the infuser in the glass pot with piping hot water, the glass pot is placed on a burner with a lit tealight candle inserted in it. As it simmers you get to watch and smell the aroma of the leaves as they infuse colour into the water. Then you pour and drink it accompanied by pancakes and other pastries if you like.
It had just gone 5pm as I ran to the entrance of the tea cafe. The door was shut with the closed sign up but I signaled to him with my hands ‘closed?’, the face of the Tea Master behind the counter breaks into a big grin and he signals me to come in.
‘I want to buy a teapot, are you open?’
He says ‘yes’ and I reply ‘I knew you’d say that,’ which I’d later feel bad about because he was just being a nice positive guy and not just about the money. He heads over to the shelves where the for sale items are boxed, he can’t find the burner to the glass pot so he enlists someone visibly on their way home (he had on his backpack) to whom I say I am so sorry and he says no problem, a genuine one, not the eye roll kind.
At this point I am sitting at the long wooden table which would normally be full during operating hours with people reading their books of newspapers or in conversation all the while inhaling the smell of herbs, spices and pancakes. He hands over all the parts and says I can give each piece a thorough look to ensure there are no chips and blemishes.
I hold it up in the light and I spot a mark, he takes it, still smiling and says ‘oh it’s just some dirt,’ while wiping it with a tea towel ‘I don’t know how I
should put it to make it sound nice,’ he smiled his great wide smile. The guy whose exit I’d derailed minutes ago says a ‘a mark’ and we all laugh as he leaves.
The Tea Master tells me sometimes people return the teapots even if it has been visibly used and then complain about something and they get a full refund. I wonder why he’s telling me this but his whole demeanour just relaxes me so I listen, I apologise again for keeping him and he says not to worry, that he always tries to help out with last-minute things and that he lives close by.
He continues on the refund issue, ‘It’s easier to do that than have an argument, why do we need to argue?’ a principle he says he tries to apply to his personal life as well.
He talks about why he loves his job, his decision to not measure himself by his salary ‘of course it’s nice to have money from time to time, this can elevate you to the next level but it’s all good, I’m doing okay, I’m happy, I don’t consider work, work because I like the people I work with, we meet each other’s families for dinner outside of work.’ In fact that very night they had one scheduled.
‘You’re being so positive, a rare thing because we like complaining,’ I say to him
‘Why complain about something we can’t do anything about,’ he said. Something my own husband is always saying to me and I sometimes find frustrating because some days I just need to complain. I chalk it up to a being guy thing, they want to solve an issues you bring up whereas often I think women sometimes just feel better getting talking about it.
‘If something inside you is saying this feels wrong that means somewhere inside you it’s signalling that it’s not part of human nature, it shouldn’t be done, you either accept it or do something about it,’ he continues.
He talks about our how our forefathers lived side by side working on each other’s land, ‘if your neighbour worked with you on your land, you’d not go the next day and offer money but rather you’d work your neighbour’s land.’
‘A more civilised time,’ I say and he nods.
‘The universe sent me a woman who is on the same frequency as me,’ he says smiling even wider than I thought was possible. He married her December 21st,
‘ah so you’re still in honeymoon phase,’ to which he replies he’s known her for six years.
I think well there is still the 7-year-itch and I did forget to ask if they’d lived together before but you know what, it felt good, so good just to hear a guy genuinely feel the love.
He goes on to explain that on his wedding day, the elders in his family did not get the irony when he said in his speech ‘I look forward to fighting with you, storming out of a room angrily…’ You can see in his eyes that he was transported to that day but then he looks up at me and says ‘It doesn’t have to be that way. We’ve never done that.’
I walk away with Sam’s teapot. I’m smiling, feeling positive and mostly thinking of my husband remembering that I want to be the best woman I can be for myself but also for him and all the other people I share my life and love with.
As much as I believe we’ve been socially engineered to expect flowers, fluffy toys, chocolates and engagement rings on Valentine’s day, after this encounter perhaps what I also have to admit is that some of my cynicism has also been engineered.
p.s. In writing this post I realised there’s no tea equivalent of a barista. So I googled it and came across RonnieRon’s response on ask.com from whom I got the Tea Master phrase so thanks!