The Perfect Tea

Apparently, I’ve been brewing a cup of tea the wrong way for decades.

A YouTube video showed me the error of my ways, but also got me thinking about whether perfect matters, and indeed, whether it’s overrated or even necessary for happiness. And further more, is it ego driving perfection or a necessity to always live above and beyond “good enough?”

Certainly one expects perfection in, say, open-heart surgery, or assembling a rocket ship to go into space safely. And in times past, I have been that person who wanted just the right seat at a restaurant, with food cooked and served just right, plus other idiosyncrasies. Eventually I learned such expectations were not only a waste of time but usually unnecessary indulgences.

So with a low expectation I watched this video, arrogantly titled “How you’ve been making tea WRONG your entire life.” I learned how to make “perfect” tea long ago, yet admittedly watched with an “already doing it right” attitude. BBC produced the video, and if any country knows a thing or two about brewing tea, it’s the Brits.

Well… sometimes if seasoned correctly, and with a nice cheese sauce, crow’s not too bad.

Turns out I scored three out of four on the “perfect steps” score but fell short on the final, critical brewing time. FIVE minutes they claim perfection takes? Been doing three minutes before these two Brits in the video were even born. That doesn’t automatically qualify me as being right (but adds geezer points, probably).

Being open-minded about such things (and serious about good-tasting black tea), I took the bait and ran some tests using a high-quality tea (Serendipitea) and my everyday tea (Trader Joe’s Irish Breakfast), brewing two cups of each, one at my sure-I’m-right three-minutes brewing, and one at the video know-it-all’s five minutes.

Lo and behold (cousins of everyone who thought themselves right but quickly informed otherwise by these two troublemakers) the five-minute tea tasted better! More full-bodied, more nuanced, more… teaness. Yes, more noticeable in the higher quality tea, but even Trader Joe’s everyday-affordable-tea-cuz-who-can-afford-the-good-stuff-every-day improved.

There are times this won’t work (as in, restaurants that continue to serve cheap Lipton tea, which I affectionately (not) call “powder and twigs tea”), but with good-to-great tea leaves, five minutes makes a better cuppa.

I propose the mystery is thus finally solved of why one of Alice in Wonderland’s more delightful characters is called the Mad Hatter. Clearly at some point he learned three is wrong, five is right, and the extra two minutes drove him mad with anticipation.

I commiserate with M.H. now, having tasted perfection and thus committed to losing an extra 12+ hours of my life each year waiting on the tea to brew… properly. Such madness is the cost of perfection.

Seven Soon

Aging into one’s elder years is an interesting trip. I’ve been experiencing new stops along the way: remembrance, regret, internal focuses more than external experiences, and a renewed sense of wonder at the power of words and images.

I picked up Patti Smith’s latest book, A Book of Days and it, along with recent readings and streaming media, caused a shifting of sands beneath my mental focus and pre-imagined plans, making things… interesting.

The last few years spent wandering America in two different RV vans, were times of wonderful nature immersion, road meanderings, and simply being out of the norm long enough to shift thinking on what’s really important as opposed to just what’s necessary to get through another day.

I’m nearing the first day’s sunrise of my seventh decade hanging around this planet. Lately, I seem to dream a lot in stories wrapped up in past lessons learned and not learned, plus regrets along the way long covered up by rationale-tinted stain. These memory wanderings are causing bubbles to perforate what I previously thought were plans for what I wanted to do. Desires versus needs seems to be the latest (in a long series) of tussles over influences on my decades ahead, not to mention an acute awareness of potential for the unexpected, black swan, or simply fate’s milestone.

Patti’s quote in the photo grabbed my attention and perhaps offers a reluctant, yet wise, approach on what to do. Armchair adventures have never appealed to me much, yet I can’t deny the increasing risk now, on several levels, from heading out on the road again as a solo vanlife nomad for long trips. Nor can I deny the growing time-sensitive awareness to no longer delay deeper creative pursuits (at the sacrifice of physical experiences), which may be the truer voice and brighter guiding star for me. It now seems clear it’s time to write more deeply, sketch more frequently, and read more widely from more significant works than before.

Instead of worn Italian cowboy boots, will I be content to slip on my German clog-like Haflingers, warm up the tea, and “adventure” through writing and books, with occasional wandering off to sketch scenes that move me? Will adopting these three as my proverbial three-legged stool be enough? In time I’ll find out, yet clearly all three can still be part of travels, just styled differently than before. 

New Year’s Day Meh: From the Journal

Brief entry based on my journal writing early morning on January 1.

Funny humans… always setting milestone days to achieve some sudden change like rebooting a life, pledging habit-shift intentions, and other follies of coming up short at present mindedness, living-in-the-moment-ism, and just enjoying the journey with a daily focus.

How we live lives in ways that by the end of the year our life chart looks like an ever-variable wave-like sea of bell curves… instead of a gently sloping upward trending line across the 365.

Yet, the brief adrenalin rush of getting a free reboot to try again by starting anew seems a much beloved addiction for each New Year’s Day.

Sigh. Pass the black-eyed peas, please.

When Tech Support Tells You Wrong

I am embarassed.

Apparently, my resetting of a bunch of previously published posts to private a week ago, then back to public yesterday, triggered a flood of new post emails to those who subscribe here or follow otherwise.

Apologies on steroids for this WordPress blunder. I have tongue-thrashed the help desk, although that won’t soothe your bruised inboxes from the deluge! Even unleashed the bad form police to chase after the perpetrators of this #firstworldproblems crime.

Anyway, just wanted to apologize for the mess. Technology! Can’t live without it, and it’s a harsh bedmate not really to be trusted all the time!

Fools Can Be Fun

There’s a community art experience that happens in Ann Arbor every year about this time. On April 1, a fool’s national holiday, FoolMoon takes over Ann Arbor for an evening of lights and downtown strolling and foolery. Then on Sunday, April 3, the FestiFools annual parade of fantastical, colorful puppets takes over State street near the UofM campus. Link to the group’s annual efforts, which first started in 2007.

Enjoy the gallery below of the puppets in the parade. And although you can’t see the smiles on the faces of children watching, you can imagine the wonder of it all.