On a melancholy October afternoon, my friend Steve invited me to join him for tea and a torte at his teahouse. He packed a basket with loose leaf green tea, a clay pot, and delicate glass cups and plates. On top, he placed a gluten-free apple torte he’d baked earlier that day.
We walked from his home through an open field surrounded by white oaks which struggled this year with the same insects that attacked my forest. Fall colors were muted, but sunshine broke through the clouds and lit a break in the trees to show blue Seneca Lake in the distance.
Steve went inside the teahouse to get chairs and a Coleman stove. He set them up in a sunny spot on the teahouse porch facing west.
“I began baking during covid lockdown like everyone else,” he said with a grin. “There are ground hazelnuts and bits of chocolate in the torte, too.
“And cinnamon,” I said as I inhaled the scent.
He kneeled on the wood floor in front of the basket, boiled water for tea, and arranged the teapot and cups. I exhaled to release the tension I’d felt since morning. Moving slowly and mindfully, Steve lifted a cotton cloth from the cake pan and removed the torte pan ring. He paused so we could admire the beauty of the cake before he poured tea, cut generous wedges, and passed me a plate. I savored the first exquisite bite.
Crows called in the distance as my dogs wandered the fields and splashed in the ponds. When the sun dropped low in the west, the afternoon cooled. Steve put the Coleman stove and chairs back inside the teahouse and packed his basket before we walked back to his house and blooming gardens.
Inner turmoil had settled in a few hours of sitting and sharing stories, tea, and torte. I remembered the centering power of tea ceremony in Taiwan and also in Buddhist temples in Hawaii. I remembered how simple it is to create a calming personal ritual when I slow down and pay attention to the beauty around me. It helps to have a gentle friend who understands the healing power of ritual and knows how to bake.
Have you experienced formal tea ritual? Have you created your own version of tea ritual alone or with a friend? I’d love to hear about it. For other posts about creating ritual, see How to Create a Sacred Grief Ritual Many Years After a Loss. For other posts about the beauty of the land in the New York Finger Lakes, see My Hector Home: Protecting the Forests of the Finger Lakes.