ALL THE TEA FEELS
by Melanie Lee
Tea drinker and writer, Melanie Lee, shares the spectrum of emotions that tea has brought forth in her life — and finally concludes that tea has the magic to help her understand her inner self better.
October 22, 2019
According to various scientific studies, tea is supposed to help us feel the following: energised from its caffeine; calm from its amino acid, L-theanine; and focused from its antioxidant, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). As an avid tea drinker, I have indeed felt these effects to varying degrees over the years. However, my journey with tea has actually brought about a much wider spectrum of emotions.
With tea, I feel safe. My first memory of tea involves my father conspiratorially telling me he was going to make me a “grown-up drink” when I was nine, and prepared a cup of black tea with two sugars along with the usual morning coffee for himself. Later, my mother would make this tea for me whenever I was having an upset stomach. These early associations between tea and nurturance has stayed with me over the years, and probably laid the foundation of my inclination towards this drink.
Tea also makes me feel more engaged with the world. Seeking tea out wherever I travel has often led to new friendships and learning insightful things about the countries I visit — whether it’s their history, culture or social quirks. Interestingly enough, it is tea that has helped me connect a little more closely to my own Singaporean Chinese culture, something I had never thought was possible as a third culture kid who grew up in London and Bangkok.
"These early associations between tea and nurturance has stayed with me over the years, and probably laid the foundation of my inclination towards this drink."
Tea gives me a pumped-up feeling of independence. After all, my most memorable moments of freedom involve tea: McDonald’s Iced Lemon tea (first time out with just friends and no parents), Passion fruit green bubble tea (first lunch at first job) and Teh Halia, which is ginger tea (first motorcycle road trip in Malaysia).
"So much of tea appreciation is about building community and serving others, no matter who they are."
Tea has enabled me to feel more generous. So much of tea appreciation is about building community and serving others, no matter who they are. I have received much unexpected kindness from the tea world over the years, and this has instilled a natural desire to want to pay-it-forward when it comes to spreading the comfort and companionship that tea brings.
Sometimes, drinking tea brings about a feeling of bitterness. I remember guzzling three-bagged-tea to help me study late into the night, ever fearful of failure. I remember crying into cups of tea when I did fail, not just in studies, but in all the other aspects of life, and looking at my small rippled reflection trembling within the drink. I remember half-drunk tea in porcelain cups left on a table after bloodcurdling arguments were abandoned and never resolved.
I once had a conversation with two fellow tea lovers who told me that people who gravitate towards tea are the ones who have had much chaos in their lives, and seek out the mellow to take the edge off all that drama. However, while trying to learn the Chinese tea ceremony with my late tea teacher, I found that brewing tea often brought forth a surge of varied emotions and thoughts rather than the supposedly ideal outcome of becoming more chill. My teacher would often sigh with exasperation and exclaim, “You’re thinking too much again!”
I used to berate myself for not achieving that aspirational zen even when I tried my best to sip on tea as daintily as possible. But these days, I have more or less come to accept that my “tea feels” would always be swirling within. It turns out that rather than being a magical cure-all elixir, tea has become a conduit in understanding my inner self better. I actually think the latter is a better deal.
Melanie Lee is a writer and tea drinker. She pairs her tea with books over @melteabooks on Instagram.