I am frequently asked how to make a cup of tea. Usually I hear comments like “it is so complicated”, “there are too many steps to making a cup of tea”, or “I am concerned I will ruin the cup of tea”. Drawing from artistic license; a big picture perspective can aid in making a cup of tea.
In the late 1800’s a new art movement took shape. Pointillism was an art style that departed from the Impressionist style of painting. Where in the impressionist painters were focused on light, and capturing the emotion, feeling, or essence of a subject, the post impressionist painters were focused elsewhere. Pointillism concentrates on clear, unmuted colors, the placement of colors next to each other, and the meticulous technique of painting tiny dots of color together to make up an image. Much like pixels today make up an image on a computer or phone screen, the tiny dots of paint used in Pointillism make up an image.
One of the originators of Pointillism was Georges Seurat (1859-1891). He was born in France and trained in traditional Renaissance and Impressionist painting. He veered away from the casualness and more emotive form of Impressionist painting and devised a more scientific approach to color blending, and implemented formal subject placement. Seurat believed that the placement of tiny dots of paint next to each other would be blended by the eye to create the color intended to be seen. One of his most famous pieces of work is Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (shown above). Looking closely at the painting, the tiny dots of paint are evident. Stepping back from the painting, a new perspective is gleaned. The micro dots of paint fade into a colorful image, creating a complete painting.
A Fresh Perspective In A Teacup
It is this macro, or enlarged perspective that can be beneficial in making a cup of tea. The science, the theories, the reasoning, the equipment and utensils used can be the basis for steeping a flavorful cup of tea. Ironically, it is these exact details that can weigh a person down, scare them, or be off putting and possibly render them immobile in making any cup of loose leaf tea.
I believe all theories, and scientific data is instrumental in the intellectual study of the beverage tea, and how to optimize steeping a superb cup of tea. However, when taking a step back from the details, when gaining a big picture perspective, or an overall view of the main goal, a cup of tea can sometimes become an art form as well as a scientific discipline.
For example, the scientific data suggests steeping white tea at cooler temperatures for a shorter length of time. A person’s taste sensation may differ and the tea may be more enjoyable when steeped for a shorter duration or steeped as a cold brew. There is room for what I refer to as the “art of steeping” as well as the scientific discipline of steeping tea. The main objective is to steep a tea and not be solely absorbed or concentrated on the scientific specifics, equipment, or other minutiae details that could impede steeping a cup of tea. Sometimes keeping the end in sight is better than being weighed down with all the details, choices and equipment related to making a cup of tea. There can be a happy marriage of science and art.
Tea As Art
Next time a cup of tea is desired, think of Georges Seurat and how he blended and blurred the lines between art, science, and color theory to make a masterpiece. Don’t be afraid to add creativity to steep your own unique infusion of tea. Enjoy the fluidness, the flexibility in steeping a wonderful cup of tea. Focus on the big picture perspective of steeping tea. A masterpiece is waiting in the teacup!
About The Author
Leslie Sundberg is a World Tea Academy Certified Tea Specialist, a World Tea Academy Apprentice Tea Sommelier, a Specialty Tea Institute Level IV trained Tea Specialist, and a Tea and Business Etiquette Specialist. On any given day, Leslie can be found teaching, speaking or sharing in the joys of a cup of tea. No matter what Leslie is doing or where she is, one thing remains constant: 4:00 in the afternoon is tea time!