“Tea Is Tea”


Once upon a time in a far off land there was a certain tea merchant whose fame spread so widely that more and more people called upon him at his tea shop. His tea was particularly exquisite because although he sold many varieties even the coarsest and most common leaves were skilfully blended with a rare type of leaf that was a family secret – as too was the blending process. So great did the demand become that the tea merchant purchased a camel and told his prospective customers “Wait for me and I will come with my selection of exotic teas. Just be sure that you have a kettle full of boiling water and a pot to fill and I will provide the rest.” For many years the tea merchant went out on his rounds selling tea and as his fame spread so did the distance he covered in his journeys. Some of his agents distributed small samples of some of his coarser teas and these served only to whet his potential customers’ appetites. 

    One day – as you will have anticipated – the tea merchant died and his people buried him according to their custom with the chest of tea by his side and over him they planted apple trees. In the course of time, an orchard grew  above where the tea merchant lay. Because of the fame of the tea merchant some people came to visit the grave in the orchard and thus came to taste the apples, but it was the sweetness of the apples that drew the majority, for the unique virtue of the tea merchant’s remains and the large quantity of tea leaves imparted a delicious flavour and bouquet to these apples. Indeed, the scent of the apple blossom drew bees and in due course a bee colony established itself and then apiarists set up a honey farm and many people delighted in the honey flavoured halva that was now on sale in the local market. So it was that most of the people who bought the apples or honey had never heard of the tea merchant – although it was visitors to his tomb who had first tasted them, of course and thus – as it were –  their fame now spoke for itself. 

    As for the tea merchant’s regular customers; they knew of course that he had died, that his supply of tea had ended and they had all made alternative arrangements. Many, indeed, bought apples or honey or halva. Some became bee keepers or workers in the orchard or sold apples or honey in the market. In this sense they kept the spirit of the old tea merchant alive and so refined and delicate had their pallets become that they appreciated many other flavours and tastes and so never really missed the tea now that it had disappeared from the world. 

    However there still remained some individuals who had never even tasted tea, but had followed the tea merchant’s instructions and kept the kettle boiling furiously away in readiness for the delivery of tea that would now never come. Some burned out the bottom of the kettle, some burned themselves, some simply kept wasting water and fuel on an operation that was no longer going to yield results. Some insisted that the tea merchant must have a successor who would doubtless appear at some point and that they must prepare for his arrival by keeping the water boiling. Some even believed that there was some kind of `contractual obligation’ that went beyond the grave so that having fulfilled their side of the bargain by boiling the water someone really was obliged to provide the tea. Others convinced themselves that in the absence of the tea merchant boiling water would, eventually produce tea by itself. Their reason for behaving in this way was quite sensible, of course and no one could dispute their logic which was this;

    “Tea is NOT apples or honey – tea is tea!” 


About Zoe Nightingale

I am a writer of short stories, novels, poetry and non fiction.
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