Finding Happy: In A Few Tea Leaves

Photo by Jason Leung on

I decided that this was the perfect time to go out into the world in hope of Finding Happy because it’s a snappy title. Also, I really want to live a happier life, and right now, I’m not entirely sure what that means or what makes me happy. The best way to figure that out, I assume, is to try new things or go back and look at what made me happy in my past life.

There’s some logic in there somewhere, so I’m grabbing hold of my frayed edges and jumping. Into what, you may be asking? Uh, an experimental concoction with the viscosity and consistency of a witch’s brew. Mm, yes, that sounds better than a meh and a shoulder shrug.

Ah, but damn it, Jim, I’m a writer, not a scientist! I don’t know how to conduct a real experiment with quantifiable findings. I’m winging it and hoping for a smile or a chuckle. Would one moment of happiness, joy, or giddy jubilation be too much to ask for? No, I think not, sir/madam/buddy of mine.

Right, well, there is one big problem that I should’ve foreseen because it’s glaringly obvious. It’s been with us for several months. I don’t want to say the words, the name, or dance around a ring of rosies. That’s not happy. It’s the exact opposite, and that defeats the purpose of this whole exercise in reckless optimism. So if I wink, nudge, and clear my throat, can we all come together in a moment of understanding? 

I don’t have to say the words and ruin a perfectly decent moment. Is that a safe assumption? Are we all on the same page? Can I move on? Great! I’m incredibly relieved because that thing, the thing I shall not mention, is a downer, and I want to go up. Way up! Happy, fun times here we come.

Except, it is a massive hump in the bumpy road to happiness. I can’t go out into the world and try new things. At least, it’s not how I envisioned this little experiment playing out. I had plans and ideas. I was going to put gas in my car and type places into my GPS. Would I go so far as to call it an adventure? Yes, because it sounds grander then anything else I could come up with.

Alas, my friend, I’m alone in my apartment, and I’m scratching my head. How can I find happiness in eight hundred square feet? Sure, my dog is incredibly cute, and my elderly cat is cuddly — when she’s not peeing on the carpet. They make me happy, but that cannot be it. It can’t be the singular measure of happiness in my humble abode.

Sure, animals trigger endorphins or happy, yay yay, feelings. That’s science or psychology or something like that. It’s a proven fact! But for the sake of my experiment, there has to be something else that makes me happy. Something with oomf. Think Piglet, think.

Grand adventures are, for the moment, on hold. I need to scale back my exceptions and simplify my vision. What makes me happy in the simplest of ways? Huh, well, I’m looking at one thing, but does it qualify? Does it make me happy? Does it make me content? Does it create a perfect moment that, for a short while, stops the chaos and brings a moment of peace?

Well, yes, I suppose it does, but it seems too modest to count for much. Then again, it is one of my favourite things. It’s ritualistic, even in its simplicity, and it makes me sigh in contentment. I suppose, if I’m really looking for happiness, why not start with the smallest of things, and this certainly counts.

The first thing I have to do is fill the kettle with water and put it on the stovetop. Great, done, now turn the knob and wait for the water to boil. Grab and tea bag and – Oh, the cup! I love this little cup. It’s a part of a set that belonged to my Gran.

It’s white porcelain with green and yellow flowers delicately painted on the side. The cup is small, it’s a teacup after all, and holding it feels too precious. I’m very clumsy. Using it feels kind of taboo. Like I went into a museum, grabbed a goblet from a display, and filled it with a fizzy beverage. It’s just not done! But one sip should be okay, and I’ll be careful. Promise?

Eep, I’m asking for trouble.  

My Gran passed away several years ago, but we were very, very, close. Whenever I went over to see her, she’d say “Hi Love,” and put the kettle on. I’d watch her long fingers, slowed down by arthritis, drop a tea bag into two cups and pour boiling water over each.

We’d sit together, sipping our tea, and talking about nothing and everything. I wanted to draw out that moment. I never wanted it to end so by the time I drank my tea, it was almost cold. She’d finish hers long before me, and pick up her knitting while I sipped on my drink. I’m not the crafty sort, lord knows she tried to teach me, but I loved watching her fingers work the needles. 

She would create gorgeous blankets, scarves, or hats out of nothing but needles and wool. It was a beautiful thing to watch, or she was a beautiful person. Either way, I couldn’t get enough.

Now, every morning I make myself some tea in one of her special cups, and I hear her say, “Hi Love.” 

I hear her voice. I smell her perfume. If I close my eyes, I can see her hands working those needles. For a moment, we’re sitting together and having a cuppa like we used to. That’s a special thing, you know. Having a moment alone with someone you love. It’s especially true when they’re gone, and all you have is that memory.

All of that from a cup of tea?

Photo by Carolyn V on

As far back as I can remember, tea has played a pivotal role in my life. I grew up in a very British family, so a day couldn’t start without a cuppa. Every morning, Mom would wake me up with a cup of tea that had six sugars, a drop of milk, and a splash of cold water from the tap to cool it off.

I’d lay in bed, eyes squeezed shut because I’ve never been a morning person. I would listen for the whistle from the kettle and the sound of a teaspoon clinking against the cup. It was time to get up, but I wouldn’t move a muscle until Mom came into my room and gave me the tea. 

I’d sit in bed, drinking it as slowly as I could. What’s better than a warm cup of tea in a warm bed? Nothing. It was perfect, and what made it even better? Mom had made it for me, knowing I’d stay in bed longer, so I could wake up slowly with a snuggly beverage. 

She also made me a cup of tea before bed because nothing slows down the day like another snuggly beverage. Everything was the same. The tea, sugar, the drop of milk and a splash of cold water from the tap. In the morning, it woke me up. At night, it put me to sleep. How? I don’t know, but it was soothing, calming, and it made me feel safe.

Oh, the sweet, sweet, dreams!

It’s my turn now, when I go over to visit, Mom says, “Yes please.” I put the water into the kettle and the teabags in the cups. I make the tea, and we drink it slowly. Enjoying the drink and the company.

It is the perfect moment in the perfect cup.

Before the purists get up in arms, I agree with you. Loose leaf tea is far superior in flavour and ritual. You’ll find no argument here. Picking out the right strainer or teapot is a vital step. Scooping out the right amount of leaves for the perfect sip is an art. Letting it steep and watching the water change colour is purely for enjoyment. It takes thought and patience. It’s a process, and we need to slow down to savour it.

Photo by Matt Seymour on

In a world where everything happens now or never? Slowing down to make a cup of tea is incredibly meditative and calming. Stepping out of the busy chaos to craft the perfect cup is an act of self-care. It’s a gift! It’s something we do for our sanity, as well as our tastes buds.

And that first sip! Wrapping two hands around a small cup. Bringing that cup up to the lips. The steam waft up, eyes closings, breathing in the sweet aroma. A sigh of contentment as the hot liquids flows past the lips, down the throat, and we finally get to taste the glorious product of our labour.

I enjoy the process of making loose leaf tea, but that tea bag is full of sense memories that can’t be duplicated. My Grans voice, coming back to life for a few minutes. Mom waking me up with a snuggly beverage. The moments now, the memories I’m creating, are held in that little bag. That bag is now, and will forever be, enchanted.

There’s a lot of magic in a little porcelain cup, a teabag, and the time it takes to bring it together. It’s a small thing, a simple moment, that makes me smile. It’s a moment of contentment. A moment of happiness? 

It’s not the epic adventure I’d envisioned, but yes. I feel happy when I hold my Gran’s old cup, sip my tea, and close my eyes. There’s a long line of happy memories. These moments, where I coexist with the people I love or have loved, are precious. Remembering that, those moments and people, is something I need to do more often on my journey to find my happy.


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