Does it always have to be sweet?

I was invited for tea by Song Laoshi*. In fact I was accompanying another friend of mine, Elvi. Tea always felt so close to heart, perhaps because it took me back home; the mornings that started with black tea and a couple of biscuits. When Song Laoshi offered tea in the traditional Chinese tea cups and set, I felt close to home, as tea is a daily drink in Nepal.

The tiny cups, custom made for tea was famous in China. Tea was ritual, more than just a drink. She poured it into the tiny little cups, which I thought suited me perfectly. I took the first sip, wanting to taste my homeland. I held the cup daintily and took the first sip.

‘They don’t take it with sugar!’ was what crossed my mind. It was not sweet. Does it always have to be sweet, I thought. I put the cup down. After taking tea with sugar for over 20 years of my life, I was surprised that it did not always have to be sweet. There could be other aspects I had never seen. And the tea did not taste bitter to Song Laoshi, I’m sure. Tastes were just an additional factor that colored our cultures, and we are so used to it that going sideways never occurs to us, while somewhere else it is the core style.

She kept on filling my glass, even when it was three fourth full. They liked to keep the guests supplied with all the food (or beverage), not much different from ours.

Weeks before I left, I offered tea, my style, to some of my teachers, with sugar of course. I’m sure, they must have concluded it to be too sweet!

(*Laoshi 老师 in Chinese means teacher).

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