My name is Erin, and I recently joined the TeaDrops team. In the time I have been here, I've absolutely fallen in love with our wonderful community--you are all absolutely fantastic--and I feel as though I already know quite a few of you. Writing to you is akin to writing to longtime friends. Today, I have something to share with you--it will be a heart-to-heart, shall we say? So, please, I invite you to fix yourself a cup of tea and read on.
This past weekend, we shared another poignant #SundaySteeping.
“Share a cup of tea with a stranger and break down barriers that keep us in the illusion of you and me, of other and self, of separateness. We all share this earth, we all share the same air, we all share the same desire for happiness. Tea brings us closer to others. Tea brings us closer to ourselves.” - Lady Bonin
While I always enjoy Sundays for the wisdom we have the opportunity to impart to our community via these posts, this one in particular is one that I will never forget. Its message was something that certainly came to life and lifted my spirits as I attended a memorial service for my grandmother that same weekend.
My grandparents were Buddhist—as is the entire maternal side of my family—and the priest who led my grandmother’s service also happened to be a dear family friend. Now retired, he still performs all the duties and customs for my family, an act of generosity and close friendship.
As with any memorial service, it is always an incredibly personal and difficult event but there was one moment that stood out that I want to share with all of you here:
When the priest was a younger man, he would travel to the Buddhist churches all over the California Bay Area. He was assigned for a time at a church in Gilroy, where my grandparents were living and active in their spiritual community.
The priest was tasked with speaking to the young people of the church and in doing so he was instructed to perform all communication in Japanese. Following his mother’s and the customary model of Japan, he would speak his “best” Japanese, the “general dialect” of places like Tokyo and Osaka.
However, my grandparents’ prefecture in Japan is located in the deep South of the country where the dialect carries a heavy drawl that is unlike the delicate and prettily rhythmic dialect of Japan’s more metropolitan cities. Indeed, unbeknownst to the priest, it was this Wakayama tongue that was spoken by the members of the congregation that day.
The young priest started his speech and as he progressed, he noticed my grandmother—then a young woman—and my grandfather standing in the back of the room. Throughout the entire presentation, the priest would notice my grandfather laughing softly and shaking his head.
Not long after, my grandparents invited the priest to have tea with them at their house, a practice I witnessed throughout my childhood and is one of my fondest memories of tea drinking.
“Over cups of tea,” the priest recounted for all of us assembled at the memorial, “Akira [my grandfather] explained that in Wakayama, they say things completely differently than how I was speaking. They believe in getting straight to the point of the matter.”
For the rest of the afternoon, they laughed and learned together about the differences of culture within culture, effective communication, and the incredible importance of semantics. For years that followed, a deep friendship was forged—always over cups of steaming, hot tea.
I had never heard this story before and I had never known this side of my grandfather before, always so soft-spoken in his older years. As I imagined my grandmother as a young wife and mother—always smiling and laughing—turning over teacups, laying out rice sweets, and bringing ever more steaming kettles of green tea to the table, a lifetime of memories of her serving tea and teaching me about it came flooding back against the backdrop of this precious lesson.
Tea holds a wealth of power over all of those who choose to drink it. It broke down barriers and brought two men together who stayed dear to each other for the rest of their lives and beyond. For me, as a grown woman sitting in the temple with my two children at my side, it revived memories of being a little girl playing with my grandmother’s tea sets as we shared green tea together; she would always sneak extra cakes to slip into my pocket and take home later.
Hours later, we were having lunch with the priest and I caught my two year old stealing glances at the little pot of green tea on the table and the miniature cup in front of him.
“What’s that?” he asked me, every bit as curious and clever as the meaning of his middle name—Akira, for my grandfather—suggests.
“It’s green tea. Would you like to try some?”
“You have to hold the cup very carefully because it’s fragile and you have to blow on your tea because it might be hot, okay?” I imagine my grandmother patiently instructing toddler-me on this, too.
As I held my hands over my son’s tiny ones, guiding the cup to his lips, our eyes met over his first cup of tea. In that moment, I experienced that same togetherness Lady Bonin mentions in our #SundaySteeping. In that moment, I felt my grandmother, my grandfather, my son, the priest, and I were all one, bound together in that communal and sacred tradition of sharing tea.
“…Tea brings us closer to others. Tea brings us closer to ourselves.”
To your health, happiness, and many cups of tea,
Erin, TeaDrops Business Development