Recently I was digging around in the “tea closet” and noticed an iron tea kettle I had rescued from an out of the way second-hand shop. It looked like an ugly bit of old metal, but also right at home with the other tea pots and kettles on my shelf. I decided that a little elbow grease and some spit polish might bring back some of its original luster. At the end of my efforts, I was delighted to see a kettle that had a subtle well-loved shine to it. I admired the symmetry of the spout and handle of this kettle. It was special in its own way. I was eager to give it a second chance at its vocation, so I drew some fresh water from the tap and filled the kettle. Its instincts kicked in and I could hear the shrimp eyes start its gentle bubble, then give way to the rope of pearls that broke when the raging torrent took over. I glanced at the steam escaping from the spout and could have sworn it had the shape of a tea leaf. Obviously, I hadn’t drunk enough tea yet. I poured the water over my black tea leaves and again I thought I saw the steam shape a tea leaf.
I decided it was time that I just sit and take in the moment to admire the kettle and enjoy my tea. When I directed the kettle to pour more water, it took a direction that was unexpected. No water just steam poured out, twisting, and reshaping itself into a type of picture frame. Within were images of a broken stone fence shadowing four tea bushes. I could see the leaves were tinged in red as well as being cloaked in great red robes. I immediately knew this place. It is Wuyi Mountain in Fujian and the tea leaves would eventually become Oolong tea. It is said that the mother of a great Ming Dynasty emperor was cured of an illness by the tea made from these bushes. In gratitude and honor he sent the robes to protect the tea during the winter cold.
Just as I was questioning the kettles true purpose the picture changed to a simple Giwan sitting on a rustic table. The lid sat delicately on the edge to reveal a coppery tea inside. I was amazed that I was aware of its outstanding aroma. I had this memory of the fragrance, it was Keemum Red Tea! The only prestigious red (black) tea that has ever made the China’s Ten Famous List.
I set the kettle to work again in hopes that this sensory fantasy would continue. The water boiled and I poured a second brew. Just as I was about to place the kettle on a trivet steam escaped and sculpted itself. I found a familiar sight, outside a window was an expanse of terraces with tea bushes. The fields were dotted with people and baskets too. Since there were Spring flowers in the window box it must be the first flush that was being harvested. The kitchen table was set with china teacups filled with a light and delicate brown. A small pitcher of milk, a sugar bowl and scones sat in anticipation of a friend or two. That’s it, The Champagne of Tea, Darjeeling from India is awaiting afternoon tea!
I think the need for a calming cup of tea was needed. Although, I was torn between anticipation of what was next and the desire to digest what I was experiencing. Anticipation won out and the tea kettle steam created an image of a New York brownstone kitchen with a friendly looking lady wearing an apron. She was working over a mixing bowl filled with black tea and sweet spices. Then the aroma hit me, she was adding orange rinds! I was watching Ruth Campbell Bigelow create the first specialty black tea, Constant Comment. The tea I was presently drinking channeled itself into this flavorful tea. How lucky am I? Then I happened to notice a green frog sitting on Ruth’s’ shelf. The steam shifted and I was looking at a giant frog sitting on a bench holding a mug with a sign that said welcome to Bigelow Tea’s Beautiful Charleston Tea Garden! My name is “Waddy.” All of this in South Carolina on Wadmalaw Island. If the kettle goes on vacation so can I!
I had to remind myself to breath. I did just that with a deep cleansing breath, and then paused to gaze upon the iron tea kettle. Through my amazement I wondered what had just taken place. I decided dream or not the how and why of it need not be questioned. It is what it is. I believe this kettle is special and certainly knows a thing or two. It may only be because it boils water perfectly or it could be that it is has a magical effect on the company it keeps.