Serendipitea – a series of developments that leads, by chance, to the procurement of highly satisfactory teas and teaware.
Once, when I was in Stockholm, I paid a visit to the famous Chinese supermarket Kina Li, located on the island of Södermalm.
I was looking to add to my collection of gaiwans, and they didn’t disappoint me. They seemed to specialise in gaiwans.
In fact, I was so un-disappointed that I ended up buying 3!
My favourite was a slightly larger than average one, with a classic, “Blue Willow” pattern on it.
At 200ml, the extra capacity would come in handy if making tea for several people.
It was only when I got home and unpacked that a thought occurred to me.
A gaiwan often works best when used in tandem with a tea serving pitcher, known as a fairness (sometimes translated as “justice“) cup (gong dao bei), or a chahai (literally “tea ocean“). Tea is decanted from the gaiwan into the fairness cup before serving to ensure that the flavour of the tea is fairly and evenly distributed amongst all the guests.
What I realised as I admired the blue willow gaiwan on our kitchen table was that at 200ml it was slightly too big for the serving pitchers we already had, and that as well as looking for gaiwans at Kina Li I might have also considered looking for a slightly larger pitcher.
The typical fairness cup looks very similar to a cream jug. It may be the case that when tea culture began to spread Westwards the first cream jugs evolved from fairness cups that made the journey along with tea leaves.
So, I thought that my best bet to pair up the new gaiwan with a suitably sized tea pitcher would be to wander into town, and see what my favourite charity shops could tempt me with in the way of pre-loved cream jugs.
My daughter was at a bit of a loose end, and seeing as it was a nice day decided to tag along.
Our first port of call was “Myrorna“, the chain of second-hand shops run by the Swedish Salvation Army.
Once inside, we split up, and started trawling through the shelves. Almost immediately, however, she tapped me on the shoulder, saying “Have a look at what I’ve found!”
I could hardly believe my eyes! It simply could not have been better – a blue willow pattern pitcher of the right size, and it was even Chinese made!
We quickly bought it, and made our way home. Within minutes of coming through the door I had the kettle on to see how my new acquisition fared. Very well indeed was the answer.
It held heat well, and had a smooth, dribble free pouring action.
A good result, and no mistake. Sometimes, it seems like the universe really wants you to find something. Another classic case of serendipitea in action.