All good things must come to an end, and that is just as true for tea soaked holidays as it is anything else.
Our vacation had run its course, and it was high time we closed up our little wooden house, got it ready for its upcoming hibernation, and prepared to make the long trek home.
There comes a point where you know the tea you’re drinking will be your last there for that summer, and it always reminds me of the devastatingly emotional finale of Bruce Robinson’s brilliant film, “Withnail and I“.
In that scene, a heart wrenching farewell plays out over a shared and naughtily acquired bottle of ’53 Margaux.
That bottle was “the best of the century“, and I intended to say my goodbyes to this special place of ours with the best leaves I had with me, the Tie Guan Yin. I opted to keep it simple – 4 grams steeped Western style.
The others were still asleep – I like to have this final session before the mayhem of closing up starts. I heated water, measured out leaves, and allowed the pair to become better acquainted.
When the tea was ready, I went out onto the cliff, and for the final time this summer flopped down in a deckchair, and looked out to sea.
As good as the tea was, my mind was not fully on it, the pot, and the cup. It was constantly drifting off, already engaged with the logistics of departure.
For once the session seemed to fly by in no time at all, and suddenly I found myself washing, drying, and packing away my travelling teaware kit and what remained of my holiday, on-the-road stash.
I gently placed the used leaves together with the others from previous sessions at the base of a young oak. This simple daily task now seemed tainted with a sense of loss and melancholy.
The past weeks had quickly and easily fallen into a cosy rou-tea-n – an early morning sheng session, a shared pot of Ceylon over breakfast, Oolong in the afternoon after the daily shopping run, and then buckets of shou before, during, and after our evening meal.
The Kamjove pot had performed as well as expected for the gong-fuey bits, and for easy Western style stuff the tried and tested method of a medium sized paper filter bag in a 400 ml Ikea French press had been as reliable as ever.
We weren’t covering the kilometres between summer house and home base in one shot. Instead, we were going on a mini road trip, taking a few final vacation days to zig-zag across the country, so my travel teaware might still be needed at some point. I finished packing with this thought in mind, and kept things most likely to be used nearer the top of rucksack and suitcase.
We’re done, and for once bang on schedule. The house is all locked up, an we’re stood outside with our luggage, ready for the off, slightly stunned as always that this moment has come so suddenly. We waste a few more minutes drinking in a memory top-up view of the sea, the headland opposite, and the skerries beyond.
This place is like a temporal hub in our lives, a point in space-time where all the threads of our existence meet and mingle, where your past, present, and future blur, and as always it’s now, when the time has come to leave, that the sense of deep belonging and timelessness is most acute. It’s very close to overwhelming.
Venice has “The Bridge of Sighs“, here we have “The Turn of Tears“, the point where the path to and from our house takes a sudden 90 degree swing into or out of the forest, depending on whether you’re coming or going.
It’s the point where you have your first joyous or last tearful sight of the place, before your little plot of paradise disappears behind the trees.
I take one final, long, lingering look back, then with a heart as heavy as my rucksack, begin the long trudge through the forest to the car…